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Nintendo DS Review: Brain Buster Puzzle Pak

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Nintendo smartly created a genre of games known as Touch Generations that attract all generations, not just the hard core gamer. Such casual games focus on unwinding and brain exercise. Nintendo is definitely onto something as brain exercise games grow more popular as Baby Boomers want to keep their minds sharp with puzzles like Sudoku and Kakuro.

In addition to Sudoku and Kakuro, Brain Buster Puzzle Pak, by Agetec, helps players flex their mental muscle with numbers and logic games of Nurikabe, Light Up, and Slitherlink. Not only do players work their way through the puzzles, but also watch for monsters and aliens to zap and gain bonuses. The games also reward players with wallpaper for changing the background look.

Brain Buster Puzzle Pak provides guidance every step of the way: how to play the puzzle, how to get around the games and what the menu items do. Anyone new to Nintendo DS won’t have much trouble learning how to use Brain Buster Puzzle Pak. The menu did confuse several adults because it uses “Game” and “Session” as in “End game” or “End session.” Distinguishing the two isn’t as easy as it should be.

Another annoying feature, the “Return” button, takes you up one level or back one screen. When you reach the top level and tap “Return,” the game opening credit appears. The button shouldn’t be available on this screen. Who wants to see the opening credits again besides the company that developed it?

Playing Sudoku in this one was a better and more enjoyable experience than in another brain game pack, which took more effort. Sudoku contains a 9×9 grid with nine boxes. Each box must contain a number one through nine and those numbers cannot appear on the same row or column in the other boxes.

Mixing addition, logic and Sudoku, Kakuro involves placing numbers that add up to the number for that row or column and not reuse any of the same numbers. In trying to enter three digits that total 7, you can’t use 3+2+2 because two appears twice. It must be 4+3+1. Oh, and it doesn’t have to appear in that order as it depends on the other boxes. This is the only one that involves math.

In Nurikabe, players work to leave the right amount of space around a number. For instance, the number 1 should have no space around it. The number four should have four connecting squares around it. Light On resembles Nurikabe in that players rely on the numbers to decide where to place the light bulbs. Instead of building islands out of the numbers, the light bulbs must light up all the squares without stepping on each other.

The least favorite, Slitherlink, was very difficult for several adults to play in spite of the tutorial. Several capable adults struggled indicating the game is too challenging and a frustrating experience. The pack doesn’t require playing all five games to get the most out of it. You can control which games you play and the level of each.

Brain Buster Puzzle Pak creates a profile for each player and tracks scores for every game. As the player works the puzzle, a clock ticks down and lets you know your current rating. Ratings begin with Master working down to Expert and then Novice based on how much time passes. Some won’t like this giant clock and ratings slider, and there is no option to turn it off. It would have been better to announce the rating after the completing the puzzle.

Its graphics aren’t the sharpest or fanciest, and it’s neither the best nor the worse of brain packs. Experienced puzzle and brain game fans might find the pack isn’t challenging enough. Those new to these games will probably enjoy and appreciate Brain Buster Puzzle Pak most.

Brain Buster Puzzle Pak is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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About Meryl K Evans

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is the author of "Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook" and the co-author of "Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites." She has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos.
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