Guest Author - Lisa Shea
Hot Brain for the PSP falls into the category of Brain Age and other puzzle / brain testing games. You practice with a bunch of mini-games, then you take a test to see just how hot your brain really is. While it can be fun, there isn't enough variety to make it the long term draw that Brain Age is.
First, the basics. You're in a brain lab where testing has shown that the more you use your brain, the more blood flow that goes through it. It makes sense, and I like this concept MUCH more than the bizarre ideal that "everyone should want to have a 20-year-old brain" that Brain Age supports. A well exercised brain is a healthy, happy and functional brain.
There are five categories of brain tests and exercises for you to play with. You can play with logic, memory, math, language and concentration. The types of games you play are pretty typical for this type of game. You play Simon type remember-the-sequence games. You look at a series of shapes and figure out what comes next. You choose numbers in order of low to high. You alphabetize words.
I think we have really been spoiled by the Brain Age series, though. Many of the Brain Age games are really fun to play. I admit some I dislike, but most are good. Here, though, they are all pretty boring. I like the shape assembly game, and the yarn following game is fun enough, but many of the others just aren't fun. In fact, one - the "what rhymes with this shape" - provides shapes that are completely unrecognizable! How can I tell what rhymes with an object I can't identify?
Another problem, oddly enough, is the graphics. At first I was really impressed by the graphics and was thinking I would love the game because of it. Brain Age is notoriously poor on graphics. But after playing for a while, it became clear that in many cases the graphics are just there for the sake of being there - and added a LOT of loading time that was completely unnecessary.
Let's say I wanted to work on concentration games. So I'd go through a sequence of clicks and loading screens to see the elevator going down to that "floor" - and images of rotating brains and so on to get to a game. Once I finish the game, it sends me back to the main level - and I have to do the entire sequence again to get to another test! I looked for ways to turn off these cut scene sequences and couldn't find any. You're just stuck with them.
Also, Brain Age really encourages you to come back daily. It has daily charts and graphs, welcome messages, and more. There are fun, random, creative daily puzzles that you want to come back and see the results of. You can compare your results with friends playing on the same machine, which encourages a friendly competition.
You don't have any of that here. You do have a graph of your overall brain heat over time, but that's it. The most you can do is retake a given mini-game to try to better your score in it. But it's not easy to scan them to see what you want to work on. Never mind that you'd have to trudge through various loading screens to get there.
There was a huge amount of potential here. If they'd tested some more, they might have realized how old those loading screens get after a while, added more multi-person comparisons, and jazzed up the games a bit. I suppose if you have a PSP and not a DS, this is certainly better than nothing. Maybe with luck they'll come out with a sequel that builds on this base and adds in the other functionality.
Buy Hot Brain from Amazon.com