If you're a fan of brain training games, then you will recognize the formula operating behind Brain Challenge for the Xbox 360. This Xbox Live Arcade game is a port of the DS game released in January. Masochists and start-them-early parents could find room for this title in their library, but it's of little value to anyone else.
You start the game with a brain test. From that initial test, you will be able to track your progress across subsequent days and additional assessments. The tests of your mental development are organized across multiple criteria: logic, memory, mathematics, and other grey-matter-demanding areas. The 20 minigames provide decent variety. They are initially sprinkled throughout multiple tests but can be unlocked for individual practice. During tests you may find that one moment you're determining whether a cell phone weighs more than a jumbo jet, while the next you're attempting to solve simple addition and subtraction problems.
Testing sessions result in a score for each criteria and a grade for the overall assessment. You're measured according to brain usage. The game makes the leap in logic to assume that full potential of your brain capacity is measurable across the predetermined kinds of demands presented here. The quirky yet encouraging personalities of other edutainment series are nowhere to be found here. Instead, you have a choice of one of two cerebral coaches. Unfortunately, the feedback you get from your chosen coach is either high praise or unmotivating criticism. The game's writers could have dished out more honey instead of verbal vinegar to players who may need to spend more time with the application to improve their ratings.
The developer seems to be operating here under the motto, "No pain, no gain." Successful completion of different tests will unlock specific challenges for practice outside of the daily assessment. Despite their availability, only a handful of these stand-alone minigames resemble anything of interest. If you need more variety, you can take the included stress tests or play a bit in the creative category, but be warned: The creative options are rather underwhelming and do nothing to train your brain. They do provide the opportunity to color with digital crayons, though, in contrast to the demand of playing two games at once in the stress test feature. One feature worthy of mention is the game's introduction of symbols for color-based challenges. If you happen to miss a task or fail a challenge, the next time you're faced with a similar problem the shapes will have switched to include color-blind identifiers for easier differentiation.
Unfortunately, the switch from the small screen of phones and portables to the television set has been neither seamless in its execution nor kind to the would-be buyer of this title. Objects on standard-definition televisions are frequently difficult to discern. Directions, when they're legible, sometimes fail to help you understand what each test of mental powers entails. This makes the tougher stress tests a real drain on your emotional reserves.
Multiplayer play (both online and offline) lets you draw from a hand of cards to take your turn at one of the title's minigames. You can also play certain cards to release power-ups to make your tasks easier or others' more difficult. Testing your mental prowess and developing your deductive reasoning with friends is arguably the most gamelike part of Brain Challenge. Unfortunately, the online kicks everybody out after every session. Thus, if you want to play together again, you have to go through the rigmarole of creating another match and inviting everybody back. It's really disappointing, considering how enjoyable the multiplayer can be. If your friends live within close-enough proximity, it's actually preferable to get together to play rather than wrestle with the online.
Despite a lack of brain-training games for the Xbox 360, Brain Challenge does little to make a case for expanding the category on this platform. Only the most motivated of self-improving players will find redeeming value in the $10 price tag, making it a difficult title to recommend.