Platform: Nintendo DS
The battle of the brain games has a new contender. Squaring up to our reigning champ, Doctor Kawashima and his mighty Brain Training duo we now have - in suspiciously similar packaging - Dr Reiner Knizia's Brain Benders. Dr Knizia is, we're told, a world famous mathematician, expert in algorithmically generated logic problems and a man with over 300 board games and books to his name. He might not have the scientific credentials of our favourite Japanese neurologist, but this 'fiendish genius' promises a 'mental journey that will make you laugh and cry' - or at least that's what the press release claims.
And by a mental journey, they actually mean a kind of puzzle-based world tour. The good Doctor has his sights on a number of the world's major cities, and each one has its own mind-twisting mini-game to complete. In London you're balancing the books at the Bank of England, then in Paris you're fixing the alarm system at the Louvre. In Sydney there's some work to do with the orchestra at the Opera House, then you're off for a spell of trainspotting in Mumbia. With Rio, Knossos, Moscow, New York and Beijing on the itinary you can expect a packed schedule, but don't get too excited. The Doctor's intellectual excursions don't leave a lot of room for sightseeing.
What they do leave room for is a fairly basic two-screen setup, with the Doctor's animated mug offering encouragement from the top while you solve the puzzles at the bottom. Generally speaking, the puzzles are more complex than the exercises found in other brain games, though I wouldn't get too excited by talk of the Doctor's genius or game-design pedigree. Most of the games on offer are variations of things you've seen before. In Mumbai, for example, you're basically playing spot the difference between two sets of trains, clicking on the lower train one to three times in order to state how many differences there are, but facing a penalty if you overstep the mark. Greenland, meanwhile, offers a slight spin on the old Minesweeper formula, while the labyrinth at Knossos is a fairly basic maze game. Las Vegas gives you a grid and deals out cards, asking you to arrange the cards so that the columns and rows contain simplified poker hands. The puzzles are - for the most part - fun, but there's not a lot here that you won't have seen anywhere before.