Going simply based on the name plastered on the box, you would be lead to believe you are playing the latest clone of Nintendo’s popular Brain-Age series. As you investigate more you come to realize that Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles is instead a collection of two popular game styles, neatly packaged into one box. You are more than likely going to recognize one of the games included in the package: Sudoku. This popular number-based craze has been around for quite some time. The second one, Nonogram (or picture logic puzzles) is a bit more obscure, but fans of Picross will likely recognize it once they get into it. While two titles may seem a bit miniscule, there are a plethora of challenges to be found, but you have to really like both of these types of games to really get the full value packed into this DS cart.
To better understand it might be best to describe each activity upfront. Sudoku is certainly no stranger to just about any culture. This Japanese phenomenon has taken off dramatically and appears in newspapers, books and just about everywhere online. The simple concept of using numbers as a sort of crossword puzzle is fairly addicting, and it proves no different in Brain Puzzles. Oxygen has opted to use the traditional input method as opposed to letting players write in their answers, which saves confusion. The touch controls in the game are very accurate, so time is never an issue when it comes to choosing a set number from the list.
The second game is akin to Picross, where you are given vertical and horizontal colors and numbers, and need to figure out where they go in order to create a picture. Sounds relatively simple in theory, but in practice it can really test out those cranial muscles. These kinds of games are played with a process of elimination as you try to figure out which blocks need to be shaded in to form the image. For example if you have a horizontal line that lists black two, black one and black three, this means there are three sections that need shaded in that row; one with two squares, one with one and the last with three. When comparing that to the vertical arrangement you have to figure out where each one resides based on the variables.
Trust me it was confusing at first, and this brings me to one of the biggest problems with Brain Puzzles. There are simply no tutorials that aid you in how to play either of these titles in-depth. This is boggling because every time you click on an area of the screen it gives you a description of that function, regardless of its futility. Granted if you are used to both of these puzzle types, this will not affect you in the least, but it also makes this casual puzzler not so friendly to newcomers of the genre. As for the Sudoku portion it is not nearly as bad because the game is so popular, a quick Google search and one can find all the necessary rules and ideas for the game, but for picture challenges a quick and dirty run through of one of the puzzles would have gone a long way.
There are a limited number of modes with the Free Play option being the most enjoyable, simply because there is less stress involved with obtaining a high score. The Challenge modes keep track of your progress, and tell you how well you are doing, but without anyone to compare them to it loses some of its appeal. There are a ton of puzzle here though, roughly 1,000 to be exact, and once you get into the higher levels they become extremely challenging. Needless to say if you are a fan of either picture logic puzzles or Sudoku, this package is a steal at just under twenty bucks.
Sadly the visuals are as meager as the tutorial options. The game sports a matte palette of black, red and white, with little deviation from the standard color scheme. This makes the game come across cheap regardless of the surfeit of content stored into the tiny cartridge. You will quickly get passed this, as well as the abysmal audio which consists of tacky music and boring sound effects. There is no mistake that this game focuses on simplicity, but it wouldn’t have hurt to try and spice things up with a little color. The only exception is the aforementioned help buttons that guide you through every little thing in the game. This is helpful for explaining navigation items. Also playing book-style is quickly becoming a favorite style for DS games for me.
Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles is kind of misleading in its title. You would think you are getting a Brain-Age clone, but instead you are presented with a ton of picture logic and Sudoku puzzles. If these are your cup of tea, then this is the definitive collection hands-down. The amount of solutions to conquer will have to bending your brain for months. However, if neither of them tickles your fancy, this collection will likely disappoint. For twenty bucks it is hard not to recommend Brain Puzzles to anyone looking for a solid collection of mind teasers, just be aware of what you are getting into before diving in.