Publisher: Conspiracy Entertainment
Release Date: March 4, 2008
The DS has an absolute glut of intelligence and memory-testing games, so many that it's impossible to walk into a game store without nearly tripping over all of the cheap Brain Training and Big Brain Academy knockoffs. That's why, with all the competition out there, if you're going to release such a title, then you'd better bring something fresh, original, fun and unique. With a name like Best of Tests DS, you'd think that the topic of today's review would be ready to claim its place among the best; you would be wrong.
The hook behind Best of Tests is that it claims it will identify and help you improve your IQ through a series of intelligence and memory tests. I'm surprised the developers behind this game haven't been sued for false advertising because there's no IQ measure to speak of in the entire game. Once you complete a test, you are given a "Global Score," but there is no indication of what this means. I know it isn't IQ because my global score currently sits at 232, and if I were that smart, I would be teaching advanced physics at MIT and discovering time travel rather than sitting in my apartment playing a slapdash DS game and shoddy wondering why I didn't go to grad school instead of choosing this field.
As if that weren't bad enough, the game also forces you to work through the shortest, easiest puzzles before moving on to the next challenge. That means that you must start with the easy-short test, then move up to easy-medium and easy-long before you can even progress into the normal difficulty level. And when they say easy, they mean it, asking you questions like what is next in the series of "1, 2, 3, 4, …" and what the opposite of "open" is. If for some reason you do buy this game, prepare to have your intelligence insulted for at least the first couple of hours.
The title features an intelligence test mode and memory test mode, each of which follows the progression structure outlined above. The intelligence test quizzes you on your skills in math, vocabulary, pattern recognition and the like, while the memory tests flash images and numbers on the screen and ask you to rearrange items into the correct order, remember what you were previously shown, or find matching cards. To the game's credit, the questions do get pretty difficult in the later stages, and if you manage to complete all of the modes, you can run through them again with a timer, making the whole thing a little more challenging.
That's still not enough to save Best of Tests from the "skip it" pile, as the game does nothing to help you learn along the way. Anytime you get an answer incorrect, the test simply moves on. You never see the right answer, and no explanation is given for what you did wrong. There were a few queries where I was genuinely stumped and had hoped to learn something, but had my expectations dashed as the game simply kept firing more questions at me, never to help me understand where my logic train had derailed.
One final issue that makes Best of Tests more challenging than it ought to be is that since it was developed in France, all questions about currency are asked in Euros, and a good number of the vocabulary questions require you to have a fairly solid grip on the Queen's English; if you've never heard of a lorry, then there's a fair chance you're going to encounter difficulty on a few of the challenges.
As far as technical values are concerned, this game was done quick, dirty, and clearly on the cheap. The backgrounds are a simple white with a few numbers peppered in for good measure, and your only "mascot" interaction is with a nameless, voiceless mad scientist head who simply hovers there and gives you a smile and thumbs-up when you succeed and a disparaged glance when you fail. He's actually kind of a cute character; I just wish he had been given a name or a few lines of dialogue so I wouldn't have felt so alone in this game.
As far as the sound is concerned, I imagine that Best of Tests' soundtrack is what the Army uses for "harsh interrogations" at Guantanamo Bay and other secret military prisons. It's not music so much as it is "muzak," the kind of stuff you hear walking around a mall or waiting on hold for customer service. It's the style of tunes that make you subconsciously grind your molars as the level of aggression in your body slowly builds to a point that you just want to lash out and body-slam the next stranger you see for no better reason than making someone else experience the pain that you feel in that exact moment. In other words, you should probably just go ahead and mute this one.
One area that thankfully isn't a complete waste is the controls, which are entirely stylus-centric. Everything you do, from making menu choices to choosing your answers, is controlled by touch. Some would argue that they'd like to fill in blanks by writing letters or numbers, but we all know that the DS can sometimes have trouble with handwriting, and considering how awful mine is, I don't mind simply tapping my choices. Besides, in a game where nothing else is fun, why should you expect to have a worthwhile control scheme?
Somewhere around my third hour of playing through Best of Tests, it hit me that this isn't a game, but the SATs in handheld form. Why on earth would you want to play a game that not only has no objective, but won't even tell you which questions were wrong and what you should do in order to improve your scores? Of course, the scores in this title are completely meaningless, just like the points on "Who's Line is it Anyway?" because they aren't actually measuring anything.
So when you boil it down, you find that Best of Tests works just fine for what it is, but what exactly is that? This isn't a game, as there's no real reward for doing well other than unlocking more tests, and it's not really a brain-training device because it doesn't teach you anything. No, ultimately this is just an excuse for Conspiracy and Otaboo to take your $20 and then laugh at you as you struggle to come to grips with why you ever bought it in the first place. Don't give them the satisfaction; steer clear of this one and stick with the established franchises if you need a brain puzzle fix.
More articles about Best of Tests DS