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The Amazing Brain Train - WiiWare Review

Game Info
The Amazing Brain Train

WiiWare | Grubby Games / Ninja Bee | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 600 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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12th February 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

The Amazing Brain Train certainly isn't the first PC-based games to head to WiiWare. Over the past year or so, we've seen the likes of Flowerworks, Christmas Clix, and other releases vie for even more buzz on Nintendo's digital download service. As is the case with the aforementioned games, it certainly was a good decision to bring this title to the WiiWare platform. Question is, though, when competing against such games as Brain Challenge, can The Amazing Brain Train leave a lasting impression?

    The main 'Play' option contains three modes that players can become acquainted with: Quest Mode, Test Mode, and Practice Mode. In 'Quest Mode', a series of animals will impose upon you tasks to undertake, performing deliveries and escorts, as you travel along a map filled with train tracks. Completing tasks will unlock new train tracks for you to place on the board, and some new puzzles as well. You can always save your quest as is and come back to it later if you feel like you need a break. Those of a younger audience may very well like this aspect but parents and those of an older age group may tire of it after a while. The average player can perform these drop-offs for so long before they start to get a little tedious. Because the quest itself isn't terribly compelling, it feels like more of a shallow chore. 

In 'Test Mode', players are presented with a challenge from each of the five different puzzle categories. The game keeps track of your progress and by the end of it, you'll be graded on your speed and accuracy. Going with the train theme of the game, the final results screen will even show an animation on a world map to give you an approximation of the distance you covered between two real-life locations. In 'Practice Mode', you can individually tackle any of the challenges you've encountered in the game and aim for a high-score under the Timed setting. You can even play for fun under the Unlimited setting by not having a time limit at all. 

    The game uses a very unique theme previously unexplored in this genre. In practice, players solve brain teasers to add fuel to their animated train to reach destinations or aim for a high-score. Prior to solving a puzzle, the game will indicate specifics to you such as how to play the game. Each challenge will stem from one of five categories: Numbers, Memory, Spatial, Planning, and Search. All of the categories are represented in a 3D pie chart that looks like something out of Trivial Pursuit. There are 15 mini-games in total (3 per category) and while many of these have a "copycat" feel, they can still be fun to play. For example, in one challenge, you'll have to keep track of how many monkeys are hidden behind a small number of bushes. Another mini-game will have players using a frog to hop on numbered lilipads to achieve a designated sum. Don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about how you've seen some of these puzzles before. At the same time, some of these can get pretty challenging which definitely makes the game that much more enjoyable.

When taking part in a puzzle, the left side of the screen will display the timer and the puzzle area itself. On the right will be a physical representation of how well you're doing in the form of a brain with juxtaposed legs who will run faster the better you do. Additionally, there are bar graphs located in the top-right hand corner of the screen that track your performances on your most recent sessions versus your current run. Both of these elements are great for gauging your progress mid-game, giving you something to strive towards as you play.

    As you start to answer some questions correctly, you'll begin to observe just how well the system works. Just when you start finding that the questions pose little challenge, the game will pick up in difficulty by adding more variables for you to consider. If the game senses you're struggling with a puzzle, after a while, you'll be allowed to skip it. Either way, it works well not only for those of a young age group but for parents as well, who would like to bond with their children. Encouraging words such as "Outstanding!" and "Fabulous!" have their place as well in cheering the player on. The entire approach definitely appears to be well thought-out and it does a great job in trying to appeal to multiple audiences.

At the end of each mini-game, an animation will play where your brain will try to hit a strength tester machine to measure how well you did. You'll also be awarded bonus points for speed and accuracy, and even lose points for incorrect answers. If you do really well and achieve over 30,000 points on a puzzle, you can even knock off the bell entirely! Since results are recorded for each individual test, you'll be able to see how your results compare to the top local high-scores. The entire setup is well done and it's great to see the presentation branch out a bit.

    Further on the presentation aspect, the game features a series of cartoony, cheery visuals that are very welcoming for children especially. Needless to say, the music carries this same vibe and for the most part, it's well-suited to the game's atmosphere. The cute animal models and the special effects that are used sparingly are also nice touches as they make the game come alive. Plus, as mentioned, the layouts used for the actual puzzle aspect are very well organized and much more attractive than the slightly-basic setup used in Gameloft's Brain Challenge. All in all, presentation is well executed and it's bound to appeal to those of a younger demographic.

In terms of extended content, The Amazing Brain Train does a pretty good job of giving the average player something to come back to. For starters, the game features a series of trophies that one can aim for as they play. Younger players will likely aim for some of these collectables and with over 20 in all, it'll keep players busy for a while. Quest Mode may give some added motivation, but beyond the idea of obtaining a trophy for 100% completion, most will grow weary of it and see little reason to return to it. Probably the biggest issue most will have with the game's value is the odd omission of a multiplayer mode. Had this been included, the average player would have returned to the game more often; without it, some may feel less inclined to come back. It's a shame that this wasn't added (especially now on the Wii) as it would've made for a stronger recommendation.

    Beyond the locomotive aspect, The Amazing Brain Train may not be as unique as some may hope for. It definitely has a share of flaws as well that prevent it from being as successful as it otherwise could've been. Instead of just limiting replay value to the single-player aspect, a multiplayer mode would've greatly benefited this release in the long run. It's definitely a shame that this wasn't included but that doesn't necessarily mean the game isn't enjoyable. Even with its share of flaws, it's still a fun brain training game that evokes more animated emotions than what you'd find in Brain Challenge. If you don't mind the single-player focus then there's still a lot to like about the game. Especially for those with children, it's almost a "no-brainer" that you should pick this up.

23/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Quest Mode isn't that captivating, some puzzles have been seen before, "brain train" aspect is nicely explored
Presentation 8/10 - Nice graphics for the demographic the game is targeted towards, carries locomotive theme well, nice puzzle layout
Enjoyment 4/5 - Most of the mini-games are good fun, some will even get challenging as the pace picks up, entirely a single-player affair
Extra Content 4/5 - Three modes to choose from, can tackle individual puzzles for high-scores, unlockable trophies, no multiplayer!

Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

The Amazing Brain Train
Review | Screenshot gallery | Trailer | Preview | Feature | Interview


Review by KnucklesSonic8

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