Monday, July 2, 2007

PSP Review: Hot Brain

Want to go to the Big Brain Academy, but your parents only have tuition and trust fund money for the PSP? Don’t sweat it, comrade, your life’s not over (Not yet, anyway). Believe it or not, you can actually get quite an education at the Hot Brain Institute, the PSP’s equivalent to Nintendo’s college of large craniums. But I must warn you, if you’re not prepared to be alert and attentive during class, Dr. Ed Warmer (voiced by, wait for it…Fred Willard!) can make you feel awfully dumb and insecure in only a matter of minutes when he tells you your brain is “ice cold.”

Structured in a form of tests that measures your logic, memory, math skills, language and concentration, Hot Brain is a lot like Big Brain in that its purpose is to flex your cerebral muscles at the same time it’s showing you your I.Q. And that’s one of the reasons I like this game—it has the ability to mentally jumpstart your brain AND show you that you need to bone up on your addition (yes, that’s right, I said addition) table. But also like Big Brain, you won’t be playing this game for hours on end, as you’ll quickly find your brain gets tired after about an hour of play. So don’t pick this game up if you’re expecting a game that you can just lean back in your Papasan and play with one eye on the TV, and the other on the PSP because this game really demands your concentration.

But you wouldn’t pick up this game expecting Contra anyway, so if you’re the type of gamer who thinks the only type of puzzle you want to solve is pushing boxes onto levers, then you’re looking at the wrong game here, pal. What this game does do extremely well, though, is wake up your brain with its easy (yet challenging) questions that increase in difficulty the faster you answer them. So if you’re actually still in school, I’d recommend playing this game early in the morning for a few minutes before you take a test, as it will definitely get your brain cooking.

But if you’re thinking this just sounds like a PSP rip-off of Big Brain, I’d have to tell you, weeeeell, not exactly. The catch of Hot Brain is that it measures the temperature of your brain with the activity it’s giving off by how hard you’re thinking. The hotter your brain is, the more your brain is getting a work-out, and the three groups in each category (for example, the Language category has games that measure your knowledge in spelling, letter order and matching pictures with rhymes) do a great job of keeping you interested for a little while. But therein lies the problem—there’s not enough variety. While you won’t find your brain memorizing patterns and therefore, rendering the game useless, you also won’t find yourself having the same enthusiasm you once did when you first booted up the game—unlike a game of Sudoku, which seems to have limitless potential for fun.

Also a little disappointing is how often Fred Willard repeats the same educational facts over and over again. While I do think it’s interesting that a yawn comes from neurotransmitters located in the brain, I DON’T think it’s interesting that you just told me that fact seven seconds ago Mr. Willard, but thanks for reminding me. Even so, that’s really just a small quibble of mine, and if you’re not bothered by learning things through repetition, it may actually help you. But for me, it’s just an annoyance.

Also of note is that there is a multi-player feature for two to four players that sounds pretty interesting. But since I don’t know anybody else with the game, I couldn’t try it out. So keep that in mind if you’re thinking about making a purchase as that adds about one more star to my vote as I like it when like minds think alike (and also get a brain grade of “lukewarm”).

All in all, Hot Brain is a fun experience if you’re only playing it for about ten or twelve minutes a day. Anymore than that, though, and you’ll quickly get a chilly reception from your brain telling you to turn it off.

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