It's funny to think that this time four years ago, brain training didn't even exist as a gaming genre.
It was in 2005 that Nintendo signed up Dr Kawashima for its pioneering DS brain trainer, but since then the genre has gone from strength to strength – particularly on mobile phones, where every publisher and their aunt has released one.
Gameloft's Brain Challenge and Brain Challenge 2 were two of the classiest examples on mobile, and the franchise has since made the leap to Xbox Live Arcade and iPod. It's no surprise to see it as an iPhone launch game.
If you've played those titles, it'll be instantly familiar on iPhone. It's broken up into 25 mini-games, which fall into five categories: Visual, Memory, Logic, Math, and Focus.
Yes, they forgot the 's' on the end of Maths. Tsk.
Anyway, like all brain trainers, the idea is you take a daily test, which over time tracks how your brain is (hopefully) improving based on all this mental practice. As a game designed to be played in short bursts every day, Brain Challenge works perfectly, with no-nonsense pace complemented by an excellent presentation.
You have a choice of two personal coaches to track your progress: one female and one male. And as you play, you unlock new mini-games to play on their own in the Training Room. The games are certainly varied, with all being short and sharp, to ensure you don't get bored.
As ever with Gameloft titles, there are plenty of extra treats, too. You can unlock bonus games besides the core mini-games to test your creativity, while there are also additional 'stress management' games – something first introduced in Brain Challenge 2 on mobile.
Brain Challenge makes good use of the iPhone's specific features, particularly the touchscreen, which makes it simple to jab at answers or objects. We did experience the odd mis-type on the games that involved typing in numbers, which was a bit frustrating. But on the whole, it works very well – as it should, given that this genre started life on the touchscreen DS.
There's even one mini-game that's exclusive to iPhone and uses the device's motion sensor, with you moving cubes around by tipping the phone. It's a nice touch, but in truth isn't one of the most fun games available here.
Other than that there are plenty of stats to browse on your performance, although we'd love to see someone produce a connected brain trainer for iPhone that lets you compare your scores with other people, letting you know you're in the top ten per cent for Visual skills, for example.
Perhaps that'll come in the next version. But as iPhone's first brain trainer, Brain Challenge is an excellent start. It's smart, slick and a pleasure to play.
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