The Average Gamer

Smart As… Review (Vita)

Smart As… is an odd game. A new entry to the brain training genre, popularised by the Nintendo DS’s 2005 Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training, Smart As… is odd because it can only be played for a few minutes each day, making it hard to classify as a “game”.

The main focus of Smart As… is to determine the age of your brain based on four key areas: arithmetic, language, observation and logic. By completing a daily challenge, Smart As… aims to improve your cognitive ability. That’s about it.

There are five mini-games for each area of the brain the game aims to develop, one game from each section is randomly selected for your Daily Training session, and a mean score is taken to calculate your Brain Power. Naturally, players will be stronger at certain games than others. It appears my weak-point is logic, though I’m a dab hand with numbers and words. The handwriting recognition, gyro and touch controls of Smart As… are excellent; rarely did the game misinterpret what I had written on the front touchscreen, and this was most likely due to my shocking penmanship.

John Cleese provides the narration throughout, and tries desperately to emulate Stephen Fry’s comedic accompaniment to your LittleBig Planet adventures, but sadly falls way short.

The games you play in Daily Training can gradually be unlocked as mini-games to play at your leisure in Free Play. Free Play allows you to unlock four levels of difficulty for each game, but you must achieve a three star rating to unlock the next level. The biggest issue I had with Free Play is that the way in which Smart As… is played changes entirely.

When you are given, say, the Less Equals More game during your Daily Training, you are trying to perform as best as you can to improve both your score in that game and your Brain Power. When it comes to playing the game in isolation, I found myself quitting games where I spent too long on a single question, restarting in an attempt to get a more fortunate selection of conundrums. Free Play games become a case of luck of the draw, and not a true sign of progression. In trying to obtain a three star rating, I’m no longer trying to improve, but simply unlock more game, giving me no reason to accept defeat or a challenge placed in front of me when a restart could land me a far easier ride.

By taking the game online you can compare your scores to other players around the world, and see how you stack up. Loading screens offer insightful titbits of information regarding your scores. After my first game I found out I was smarter than the average person in their thirties, which, for a 22 year old, is always useful. Street Smart challenges use your GPS location to provide a unique set of challenges, and new challenges are uploaded frequently. Near allows you to upload and download high scores for particular games, and try to best them.

In essence, the only aspect of Smart As… that can be considered a ‘game’ is the daily training, which takes two minutes out of your day to complete. How long people choose to stick with the daily task is up to the individual, and whether or not you believe this is actually improving your “Brain Power”. The mini-games are fun, but not something you can sit through for an extended while in Free Play.

For a game that costs almost £20, its hard to recommend when it’s a bite-size experience at most.

Smart As… is available now from the PlayStation Store.

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