Stretching Your Brain

Reviewed On
Available For
Mac, PC

The premise of the new batch of mental fitness games has been generally accepted by society. Basically your brain is not unlike your body in that if you keep using it and challenging it, it will stay fit and healthy, even as you age. On the other hand, if you become a mental couch potato, then you will basically lose your intelligence over time.

Games with mental challenges have become very popular in the handheld arena, with a whole series of them out for the Nintendo DS. But therein lies the problem.

A mental challenge game is probably going to be more relevant for older people who are starting to worry about wanting to keep their aging brains healthy. But not a ton of older people own a DS. Or at least a lot more younger people do. The other group of people who might enjoy and get a great benefit from a brain challenge game is the very young, children basically, whose brains are still developing. But parents probably don’t want to buy a Nintendo DS to give to their six year old.

So the developers over at Red Sprite Studios had the bright idea that a memory type of game might work well on the PC, and publisher Brighter Minds Media agreed.

While not portable, the PC does have the advantage of a huge install base, with a computer of some sort in almost every home. Given that the resulting Brainiversity game runs on systems with very low requirements, the possible user base is even larger. We tested this out on an older Pentium III laptop and it worked fine, though it was a bit smoother on a more modern system.

Brainiversity is basically a collection of memory type games, though they are done with some nice twists on old themes. For example, instead of drawing cards and trying to match them on a matrix, you instead meet a virtual cartoon person and later on have to remember their name and pick their face out of a crowd. This is a lot more like an activity you will need to perform in the real world. Remembering the names of your co-workers can be quite a chore at large companies. I still forget the name of our publisher – Bart or Nate or something I think.

In fact, all of the activities are geared to real world applications. In one game, you have to remember phone numbers. In another you need to recall your shopping list. These are all real world things, but presented in a fun way to keep you on your toes.

The game is hosted by a little light bulb named Edison who explains the rules of each game and also acts as your personal trainer and coach, with a bit of a motivational speaker thrown in. Given my bad relationship with Clippie, the Windows paper clip, I was a little wary of another talking icon at first, but Edison is actually pretty helpful.

Brainiversity has an exam mode which you are supposed to go through every day, though you can of course play as much as you want in practice mode. Going through an exam takes about ten minutes, so you can fit it into your routine even if you are extremely busy. Simply slide it in between brushing your teeth and breakfast in the morning.

The game tracks your scores in exam mode, and lets you know how well you are doing overall and what areas – mathematics, memory, language or analysis needs work.

The cool thing about exam mode is that the game can actually keep track of up to six different people, so an entire family can register and grow mentally, with each person going at their own pace. Brainiversity does a good job of keeping things challenging without going overboard or making it so simple that it becomes dull.

One nice thing that Brainiversity does is hide the fact that you are learning and keeping mentally fit. Adults especially seem resistant to schooling, but the challenges and puzzles of this game are fun to go through. You will probably look forward to your exam each day. Any game that can provide a rewarding experience that keeps your brain healthy, all the while hiding the fact that you are really learning something, is worthy of note in the family titles world.

Graphically, and also in terms of the audio, Brainiversity won’t be breaking the bank. Even Edison looks hand drawn here. But a game like Brainiversity does not need flashy graphics, so I give it a fairly good score because the graphics that it does have are functional for a game of this type. You can only make phone numbers look so good after all.

With a price on Amazon of just $20 (click on the link in the upper right corner of this review to buy the game) Brainiversity is an incredible value. You can’t really put a price on a game that keeps you and your family mentally healthy, but $20 seems pretty good to me.

Those smarties over at Brighter Minds are earning 4 GiN Gems for this impressive brain-stretching game. It makes learning, and staying mentally active, fun.

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