Review: Puzzler Mind Gym 3D

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After Brain Age captivated the cranial matter of Nintendo DS gamers of all walks of life half a decade ago, the floodgates broke wide open on the brain training genre. The same is bound to happen on the 3DS now that the device is beginning to pick up steam following its drastic price drop, but for now Ubisoft’s Puzzler Mind Gym 3D owns the market.

Modeled in line with Professor Ian Robertson’s expert techniques for cognitive rehabilitation, Puzzler Mind Gym is a 90-day training course aiming to give that flabby brain of yours a rock-hard six pack and a sculpted pair of guns that would make Ron Burgundy weep into his scotch. Unfortunately, despite some respectable aspects the game falls short of this goal.

Puzzler Mind Gym is an extraordinarily ordinary brain training program. It offers 90 “days” worth of brain-bending mini-games akin to the sort of edutainment programs and problems found in many elementary school curriculums and activity books. Each daily session consists of four warm-ups and four main challenges that count towards your overall performance grade graphed out in the personal Progress Tracker. That amounts to a rather substantial total of 720 puzzles.

Those 720 puzzles are dived into four categories – Memory, Numerical, Visual and Word – and each category comes with five unique logic games. Over 700 games is a lot, but when there are only 20 different challenge types to fill that large amount it doesn’t take long for boredom to set in, no matter the quality of said challenges.

And the individual games that are included are largely of enjoyable quality. My favorites were the word and number games. In one, you are given a list of words to find and spell out amongst a scrambled honeycomb of letters. Another good one is called Mind the Gap, in which a series of seven-letter words is presented, each with three blank letters missing, and you have to figure out the three-letter words that fit into the blanks and complete the full words. It’s kind of like a newspaper jumble crossed with the TV game show Lingo.

From the number and math games, I found Block Party to be a fun challenge each time I faced it. A disassembled block made up of individual cubes is shown, and you are given two minutes to calculate how many cubes it will take to complete the full block. Other brain tasks include memorizing a shopping list and picking out the correct items as grocery goods randomly scroll down the checkout conveyor belt; quickly spelling words backwards; examining a series of colored objects and then answering questions about them from memory; cracking into safes by watching the blinking buttons on the code panel and repeating the pattern to open the lock; and figuring out the final image in pattern sequences.

As you proceed through the daily sessions, the puzzles grow increasingly difficult, challenging you to memorize longer lists of items, decipher more obscure words, and solve more advanced mathematical equations, all within a period of two minutes or so. But overall, the game suffers greatly from a total lack of structure and progression. You can pick out random puzzles from any day in any order, so if you want you can plug the cartridge in and start with the toughest puzzles of the 90th day right off the bat. The game fails to establish a daily routine for you to follow. No motivation is given to keep you engaged either. Aside from various unlockable brain facts and mental workout tips, there aren’t any substantive rewards waiting at the end of your training sessions. You get a letter grade based on your performance, an average grade for the chosen day is placed on a bar graph, and then you move on. That’s it, from Day 1 to Day 90. It sure doesn’t help that the presentation is about as mind-numbingly bland and generic as can be.

Taken in short sessions a day at a time as intended, Puzzler Mind Gym 3D’s simple logic challenges are reasonably successful in their attempt to keep players entertained and mentally sharp. Just not for very long. Within a matter of days you’ll already have grown tired of repeating the same challenges over and over, without ever achieving a sense of accomplishment for sticking to a self-enforced regimen. I think this game would be great as an eShop app to have around for quick cranial crunches, but there simply isn’t enough here to justify it being a $40 retail product. Please, don’t be duped into paying for a full-priced membership to this brain training gym.

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Pros:
+ The individual brain games are enjoyable
+ Over 700 challenges in all

Cons:
– Not enough variety to fill 700 challenges
– Lacking sense of progression and motivation
– Shallow grade tracker and no substantive rewards
– Dull, lifeless presentation

Game Info:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ideas Pad Limited
Release Date: 9/13/2011
Genre: Brain Training / Logic Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!