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NDS Review - 'Challenge Me: Math Workout'

by Dustin Chadwell on July 1, 2009 @ 3:49 a.m. PDT

Challenge Me: Math Workout, with its extended gameplay and variety of features, gives you the chance to test yourself...

Genre: Edutainment
Publisher: Oxygen Interactive
Developer: Oxygen
Release Date: March 27, 2009

As a kid, I hated math.  Well, "hate" might be a strong word, but I definitely disliked it.  I was more of an art nerd growing up, and anything involving numbers, formulas and geometry weren't up my alley at all, and to a certain degree, my grades reflected that.  I didn't have the patience to learn it, and I didn't see the use for it further down the line. 

As an adult, I obviously regret that decision.  I now find the idea of math pretty fascinating, and anyone who's particularly skilled at it gets a tip of the hat from me.  I've tried to pick up on what I missed in school, and I've caught on to a few things here and there, but once again, I don't have a lot of time to relearn what I forgot or missed out on.  However, it's nice to see that there are a number of math programs available on the DS, and I can certainly see that as a useful tool for apathetic math students.

However, I'm not sure that Challenge Me: Math Workout is going to be that tool.  Initially, I enjoyed one of the two available modes, the Hidden Logic game, but after a few hours, I grew tired of the overly intuitive AI that I had to play against.  Without a few people around so that I could play the game against human opponents, the AI seemed to give itself an unfair advantage in what was basically a guessing game.

Likewise, the Formulate game also flustered me, as I had never played anything remotely like it before.  I understood the basics, but with a limited amount of time to come up with a workable formula and not feeling too familiar with the mechanics, I ended up even more frustrated than I was with Hidden Logic.  The end result was that I found Math Workout to be more of a chore than fun, which is pretty much the antithesis of what an edutainment title should be.  I'm sure there are those who will instantly pick up on these games and find them familiar and enjoyable, but I'm your average, run-of-the-mill guy, and it's definitely not for me.

Hidden Logic pits you against the computer or another player.  You and your opponent take turns guessing the number (0 to 11) on the reverse of the other player's cards.  In front of each player are two sets of cards, black and white, so you actually have two sets of numbers to uncover.  After taking a turn, each player draws another card from the stack.  The only rules are that the cards are organized in ascending numerical order, and a number won't be repeated within the same color set.  A correct guess nets 10 points, and the one with the most points wins.  The idea is that you're using logic to figure out where the numbers are and what's currently in play, but at the beginning, it's all guesswork.  You're slowly whittling away at the possible options until you know without a doubt what the next few cards are, but when you get to that point, the computer will have already trashed you in the game and be well on its way to winning.  Even if I'd manage to get a lucky start, I'd often find myself on the losing side, and after a bit, I was pretty aggravated with the AI's dumb luck. 

Feeling pretty miffed over the experience, I jumped over to the Formulate game to see what it was all about.  Formulate pits you against the computer again, but this time you're given four face-up cards with number values, and you're required to put together a working formula from the cards shown.  The catch is that each card also has a math symbol preceding it — addition, subtraction, multiplication or division sign — so you need to move the cards around to make a correct equation out of the mix.  It's a lot tougher than it sounds, especially since you're given a limited time frame, whereas the AI will put together most of the formulas without any trouble and well within the time limit.  However, with Formulate, I felt that I was losing because I wasn't smart enough to figure it out, not from the AI's dumb luck, like in Hidden Logic.  Formulate is a pretty fair game, and I'm sure that there are people out there who won't have any issues with it at all. 

Other than those two modes, there's nothing else to see in Challenge Me: Math Workout, aside from a couple of variations on the unfair Hidden Logic game, which isn't worth your time anyway.  It's a pretty stripped-down title, with no real visual presentation or progress tracking to speak of.  Once you're done messing around with the two main modes, there aren't many reasons to pick up this title again.  It's certainly a disappointing experience all around, and I can't see any reason to buy it.  There are better math teaching programs available on the DS, like Brain Age, and I don't feel that this title teaches you much of anything, other than getting you to use parts of your brain that may usually lie dormant.  Otherwise, you'd probably be better off avoiding this title and sticking to one of the other math games that are currently available on the DS.

Score: 4.0/10

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