Buzz!: Brain Bender PSP
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Relentless Software
Unlike the other titles in the Buzz! series, Buzz!: Brain Bender isn't a virtual quiz show for you to take on the AI opponents or your friends. Brain Bender, as the name might suggest, is a compilation of mini-games that are supposedly designed to get your cerebral powers back into shape. On the whole it's quite an entertaining package and should be appreciated by those who like their brain training mini-games. There are a few issues with Brain Bender however and in some respects it could have been better.
Essentially, Brain Benders is a collection of sixteen mini-games that are divided equally amongst four different categories: Observation, Memory, Calculation and Analysis. You'll begin by choosing one of the four available profile slots and taking a test which involves questions from all four categories. Once you've finished the test you're given the results (in kilojoules or KJ as it's called in the game) and shown an electrical device, such as a nose hair clipper, that is supposed to represent what your brain could power. With the test now complete, you'll have access to the Training, Challenge and Brain Battle modes. You can also retake the test at any time you wish. The game also features a Boffin Awards section where you can view any awards you've earned.
You'll probably spend most of your time with the game in the Training mode. Here you can pick any of the sixteen mini-games to practice for sixty seconds. Each of the mini-games has three difficulty levels, easy, medium and hard, but initially you can only play them on easy. You'll need to earn a bronze, silver or gold star on each of the difficulty settings to unlock the subsequent one. You'll want to earn a bronze star on each of the difficulty levels for each mini-game as doing so will enable you to unlock all of the challenges, which are initially all locked, in the games Challenge mode. The challenges don't differ too much but you'll get different time limits imposed on you and such like. There's even an option to take part in a pass and play multiplayer game (requiring only one PSP) in the Brain Battle mode and it's certainly a welcome addition.
The quality of the mini-games is all important of course and for the most part there are no problems with the sixteen on offer in Brain Bender. There's a good variety of puzzles on offer and they are sufficiently challenging to keep you on your toes. There are maths based mini-games, games that will test your power of recall and games which require you to find the correct way out of a maze. To answer the questions you will simply press the button (circle, triangle, square or X) which corresponds with the correct answer. There won't always be a choice of four answers however, particularly on the easy difficulty settings, for you to choose from. The game rewards you for certain achievements such as lasting for more than a minute in one of the challenge games or completing a mini-game without getting a question wrong and this does encourage you to keep on playing and improving your scores.
On the face of it then it would seem that Brain Bender is absolutely fine. There are some problems however which could significantly reduce the game's long term appeal. As the game allows you to take the test any time you wish it really doesn't feel worthwhile. A lot of other games of this type restrict you to doing just one test per day and that makes a lot more sense. In fact I've found myself ignoring the test completely in favour of trying to earn achievements or gain silver and gold stars in each of the mini-games in the Training mode. Secondly as the game gives you full access to all of the games to begin with, there's no real reward for continued play outside of getting those achievements. Having additional mini-games to unlock upon completing specific achievements would have helped to add longevity to the game.
The Buzz! series has never been wonderful for deaf gamers and Brain Bender once again disappoints. There is a mini-game called Sound Chain that asks you to replicate the sounds in the same order that you heard them. Naturally I thought this might be a problem but in actual fact, there are no problems at all for deaf gamers with this mini-game. As the sounds are played a picture of the animal/vehicle/other object making the noise shakes so you're given a visual clue as to what made the sound. None of Buzz's comments are subtitled. These comments appear in the game's cutscenes, when you make a selection on the main menu, during the results section after a mini-game, when you're perusing the Boffin Awards and when you're playing the mini-games. Thankfully none of these omissions are important as you'll always be aware of what needs to be done in any of the mini-games and challenges as the instructions are shown in text. There are also text summaries for all of the awards in the Boffin Awards section. It is disappointing however that we have another Buzz! game that is without subtitles.
Buzz! Brain Bender is actually quite a nice spin-off for the virtual quiz show series. The overall standard of the mini-games is actually quite good, in fact I don't think you could argue that there's a bad mini-game here which is certainly an achievement. The lack of subtitles is unfortunate, although it's far from being problematic. The long term appeal of Brain Bender is also questionable. That said, the asking price of just £19.99 definitely makes it a more attractive proposition for anyone who's looking for a game of this nature for their PSP.