In a relatively short amount of time, just about every genre has graced the Nintendo 3DS. Adventure games, fighting games, platformers, racing, shooters and sports are just some of the genres that have hit the handheld console. Even RPGs, retro compilations and pet simulators have made it in, but there is one genre missing: brain training. Although the genre helped sell the Nintendo DS to casual gamers, neither Nintendo nor a third party has taken the time to craft one for the 3DS. Seeing an opportunity, Ubisoft decided to be the first one to publish a brain training game. Interestingly enough, Ubisoft isn't doing so with Brain Challenge, the game series that was developed by its mobile partner, Gameloft. Instead, the publisher started a new property, Puzzler Mind Gym 3D. Those who hope that the game would be an immediate hit will be soundly disappointed.
Like a few of the older brain training games, Puzzler Mind Gym 3D follows the philosophies of a renowned expert in the field. In this case, the game gets the endorsement of famed neuroscientist Professor Ian Robertson, who has written many books on improving brain power. By taking on the exercises presented here, the goal is to constantly use the power of your mind before your skills erode.
In order to accomplish your goal of mind improvement, the game has you go through a 90-day mental workout routine. While the games differ, the routine steps always remain the same. You first go through four different warm-up exercises and get graded on your performance. Reach a certain level on each, and you'll be granted access to the daily challenge, where you have to take on four other games. Once that is completed, you open up a piece of brain advice or a fun fact about the mind before seeing how your results stack up for that day and the entire 90-day time period.
The exercises are split into four different categories, each with its own set of five associated minigames. Memory games, as expected, help you sharpen your memory skills in various ways by challenging your attention to detail and exercising your short-term memory. Numerical games ask you to engage in math-related puzzles and task you with solving equations without any written aids. Visual games test out things like pattern recognition and the ability to project in order to solve problems. Finally, Word games help you master your control of letter order and word association.
The good news is that the games are not that bad. Most of the games are par for the course but still remain fun. The number games prove to be challenging, and the same goes for the word games, especially those that ask for letter order and finding words in a convoluted grid. There are still a few clunkers in the list, such as the game where you have to find themed words as they fall from the sky, but overall, the selection is quite good.
Although the game is a latecomer to the genre, it is surprising how many things it does incorrectly or doesn't do at all. Unlike most games, every single activity is available from the beginning. Since the brain facts and advice are the only thing you can unlock, there isn't any motivation for a player to do well in the activities if there are no bonus games to unlock. There's also no separate section for the minigames, so if you want to practice, you have to find the associated day where it had appeared. Every day is accessible at any time, so if you somehow wanted to go from day one to day 25 to 89 to two, you're free to do so, even if you haven't played those days before. Finally, puzzles don't change per day in terms of the puzzle type and content. You can play the same challenge over and over again and inflate your overall score since nothing is ever randomized, making the evaluations useless unless you really try to make them accurate and never replay the same days.
The sound here is merely functional. The music acts as a decent audible background for your activities. It's neither too calm nor too exciting, and after a while, you tend to forget it exists. The effects accomplish the same thing, where you know they play but they don't do anything to make the proceedings memorable. All of this wouldn't be so bad if there were at least some voices to round out the package. Throughout each game, no voices are heard, whether it's the professor or even a generic voice actor expressing joy or disappointment.
The game isn't trying to be a graphical showcase for the system, but it can be best described as serviceable. Two things to note are the background and the professor. Instead of being caught in a sterile white room or similar backdrop, all of the activities and menus are set against a blue and white aura that's meant to look like parts of the brain. While it isn't exactly pretty, it is fascinating. As for the professor, he's animated, but the range of animations seems limited, especially when you notice no lip movement while he speaks. As a result, he seems rather lifeless when compared to the virtual hosts of other brain training games.
For a game touting 3-D, its use is pretty subtle. Throughout the top screen, the blue backdrop gets recessed, making every other object pop out a bit more. The sense of depth is nice, but there is never any reason to use it since there doesn't seem to be an advantage. In some games, it becomes a liability since they treat both screens as one tall screen, so the dimension shift can be disorienting. While performance isn't hurt by activating 3-D, it is recommended to turn it off when playing.
In the end, Puzzler Mind Gym 3D is simply decent. The idea of having a strict training regimen is nice, but with no real rewards beyond unlocking brain-related facts, only those dedicated to the training aspect will be motivated to finish it. The games vary a good deal, so there are at least a few entertaining activities hiding beneath the basic looks and sounds. With the 3DS system being backward compatible, you'll be better served by playing any of the Brain Age games over this. If you've gone through all of the similar games on the DS and still need your fix on the 3DS, then this is a decent pick up, but only at a much cheaper price.
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