Perhaps it was Brain Age that started the trend, but it seems as though there is always a new mind exercising game being released. Now, the Nintendo 3DS has gotten into the act with Ubisoft’s Puzzler Mind Gym 3D. We will not be covering the effectiveness of the title in training one’s brain, but rather the enjoyment one gets out of said training (we don’t yet believe that you’re going to get yourself all ready to win a Nobel Prize by playing a brain-training title).
The game offers up more than 700 games in four main categories: visualization, memory, word, and numerical. You are led through the game by Professor Ian Robertson who really adds terribly little to the game, he’s just there to be a guide, but the game doesn’t really need one.
Before you’re actually allowed to test your brain in the game, you’re regularly required to warm-up the old noggin. Complete the warm-up activities and then you’re allowed to play in earnest. While you’re not required to use it, the Professor offers you up his 90 session program , They are referred to as “Daily Sessions” which presumably has something to do with the notion that you’re only supposed to do one a day. The upshot of that is that if do more than one Daily Session in a single day, you have to do the warm-ups again before you’re allowed to do another set of Challenges. You are allowed to skip around and say do challenge 67 before challenge two, but that’s the only variation from the routine you’re allowed (we would ask about whether there’s a problem here in that this seems to mean the game doesn’t build from one lesson to the next, but we promised not to cover its actual efficacy).
As for the challenges, the variety isn’t huge, but it isn’t quite the same exact thing every time. You will face tasks like remembering the shape, color, and position of objects; performing word searches; remembering what direction something is pointed; remembering what order numbers light up in; adding numbers really quickly; and similar puzzles. None takes all that much time, but they’re also not always fully explained and the explanations delivered are somewhat long-winded so when things are explained you’re still going to be tempted to skip the explanation. Then, if you don’t perform well enough in a warm-up you can’t proceed to the challenge, and if you don’t perform well enough in the challenge… well, your score won’t be very good.
The game does keep track of your score, so you’re going to want to perform well, and it’s frustrating when you don’t because you didn’t quite grasp the task. Replaying a Challenge is allowed, but it’s just to make you feel better as it won’t affect your score.
One of the more annoying things about the game is its utter insistence on your tapping things on the bottom screen. Yes, the DS (and 3DS) have the tapping thing as a big part of the system, but when not actively taking part in gameplay oh-so-many games allow you to use the D-pad and buttons to navigate the bottom screen… not Mind Gym, you need to have the stylus out if you’re going to use the title.
In the end (and I know it feels like we just began), Puzzler Mind Gym 3D is just another in a long line of brain training devices. I am not quite sure why anyone felt they had to go out and make a 3D mind-training game (and the 3D used here isn’t spectacular), but here one is. If you like mind-training stuff and your copy of Brain Age is worn down to the electrical board equivalent of a nub—or you’re just looking to expand your brain training choices—you could do worse than Puzzler Mind Gym 3D, but you could also do better.
There is nothing terrible about it, but nothing all that great either. Frankly, unless you train your brain quite specifically to play every day, you may just forget about it completely.