Dr. Simon's BrainTrainer

As a kid, you're always told that someday the ability to multiply compound fractions and suchlike will come in useful. We, and no doubt most of you, too, are still waiting for that day to arrive.

Fair enough, being able to add up a bill in the shops or figure out how big a dent that new pair of shoes will make in your paycheque is a handy skill to have. But really, who ever needs to know algebra or logarithmic math? Aside from a NASA engineer?

It's something we were planning on asking HandyGames, whose late entry into the brain training genre dwells solely on sums. Except that we got so bored of the game that we lost our usual journalistic sense of investigation, and decided to go and eat biscuits instead.

You see, instead of following the Nintendo template of presenting you with a series of tasks that challenge different parts of your cerebellum, such as visual recognition, spatial awareness and lateral thinking, Dr. Simons BrainTainer offers up a series of mental arithmetic questions and nowt else.

Now, arithmetic is a part of other brain training games, sure enough, but it's more usually part of an arsenal of tasks that include other, more varied exercises. On its own, it's really rather dull.

In fact, if any of you were children of the '80s, the only silver lining to this particular pocket gaming cloud is the memory it dredges up of Texas Instruments' Little Professor gadget, a reverse calculator 'game' that drew up maths questions and expected that you provide the answer.

Frustratingly, BrainTrainer starts promisingly enough. A bright cartoon-style design pervades the game and its interface. Proceedings are overseen by a bearded university lecturer in a white coat and it's he that'll introduce the challenges and guide you through the process of creating your profile.

It's to this profile that your scores and ratings are saved as the professor hands out tougher and tougher challenges. Except that by the third or fourth time you're handed a list of multiplication, division, addition and subtraction exercises, the realisation sets in that there's nothing more diverting on the horizon, and any and all progress is likely to halt.

This stands BrainTrainer in stark relief when compared with Gameloft's Brain Challenge, currently our favourite of the many mobile brain training games that've been released this year. Where Brain Challenge got matters so right was in the range of exercises on offer and the panache with which they were presented to you.

Indeed, if you remember our original review, you'll recall that the game had the air of a gameshow about it. However, all the glitz and glamour in the world wouldn't do much for BrainTrainer. The bottom line is that it's too simple to be taken seriously.

Its intimated claims of being able to boost your brain power are also, we feel, rather spurious. Everyone, from a teacher to a schoolkid, knows that being good at maths doesn't automatically mean you've got a clever noodle between your ears, and vice versa. Yes, it's part of the deal, but not the be all and end all of brain power. Sending out a contrary message is counterproductive.

But that's an argument for another time. And time is what you'll have a lot of on your hands if you shell out on BrainTrainer, as you certainly won't be spending much of it playing the game.

Dr. Simon's BrainTrainer

A poorly conceived and late entrant to the burgeoning brain training genre