It was only a matter of time before someone took the idea of Big Brain Academy and decided to deliver it to a whole new audience. Midway’s latest PSP title aptly named Hot Brain is the first game to take this brain-training genre and run with it. With 15 brain teasing exams Hot Brain will make you realize that sometimes even the simplest problem is more complicated than it appears, thus making all of us feel a little less intelligent than we would like to believe. Of course this is the idea of these games and Midway’s latest UMD captures that almost as well as Nintendo’s quirky franchise.
While a game like this doesn’t necessarily require a story it does have one. Granted it is a bit on the shallow side, but it does keep it from feeling too much like a series of mini-games packed onto a single disc. As the newest recruit at the Hot Brain Institute you will be tested in five main categories; logic, memory, match, language, and concentration and each one will be carried out on a different floor of this incredibly off the wall mansion. Along the way you will receive useless bits of info and instructions from your host Dr. Warmer, who is surprisingly voiced by Fred Willard known mostly for his roles in such movies as Anchorman and of course his voice work on different TV shows and even past games such as the Billy & Mandy game released last year.
The premise behind these tests is to warm up your cerebral cortex until it reaches a boiling 120 degrees, which of course would kill a normal person, but for the sake of the game it actually means you are doing really well. Dr. Warmer is under the impression that the harder the questions test your mind the more the mind works to solve them, thus increasing blood flow and causing your brain temperature to skyrocket.
There are three distinct game modes that you can buff your skills on. The first is of course practice mode where mistakes are admissible. The core game is called Test, and this is where the majority of your single-player endeavors will occur. Finally there is a multi-player mode that allows you to go head to head with up to three other people. For the most part these modes are all very different and offer unique ways to play each one, for example in the core single-player game your progress will all be tracked via a chart that shows your progression. While this alone may sound enticing it is the multi-player that really gives this game enough legs to stand on its own.
In multi-player you can play either cooperatively or competitively with your friends in a variety of different game types. You can jump into a Brain Race to see who can get their brain fully heated the fastest or join forces in Think Tank and try to raise the bar together. These modes are however only available in ad-hoc mode and there are no options for game sharing, which will certainly be a draw back seeing as how not everyone will be rushing out to own a copy. Adding game sharing would have been ideal as it gave players the ability to turn their friends on to a completely new experience that they would possibly like to try out on their own.
Hot Brain isn’t without faults however, but thankfully some are more limited to the hardware as opposed to the software. For starters, and I know I have to sound like a broken record at this point, the loading is terrible. Funny thing with this game though is that it isn’t the length that kills it, it is the frequency. It is rare for a PSP game to not have loading issues, but this is a first for me. Instead of having to wait for each item for upwards of 45 seconds to load the game simply loads every little function it does and I am still not sure which is more annoying.
The other big drawback is in the presentation of the game. While hearing Fred Willard’s witty one-liners is cool at first, their repetition grows stale quickly. The menus also suffer from being a bit too bland at times and due to the fact that you are constantly being led around by the hand through pre-rendered scenes can wear on your nerves rather swiftly.
Hot Brain does a lot of things right and only stumbles in a few areas that really don’t hinder the overall game itself. With such a lack of recent original titles for Sony’s portable this feels like a warm welcome, especially to those looking to experience some of what the DS folks have been raving about with Brain Age. While not quite as deep or addictive as Nintendo’s title Hot Brain does a nice job of bringing a quirky niche genre to the PSP and I highly recommend everyone looking for something new a whirl.