The 3DS has its first brain game with the awkwardly titled Puzzler Mind Gym 3D, from Ubisoft. With hundreds of puzzles in twenty different categories, across four main disciplines, Puzzler Mind Gym 3D (PMG3D) sounds great on paper, but its structure, lackluster presentation, and game modes may leave you scratching your head after the first few hours.
Give It Some Thought
PMG3D is a brain exercise or training game that is meant to be used daily to boost your brain's ability in Memory, Numerical, Visual, and Word applications. These four categories are the backbone of the game and each category has five puzzle or game types, although the similarities between some of them within the same discipline is considerable.
The heart of PMG3D is the 90 challenges that are available for you to play at your convenience, ideally you would play one or so a day and check in on the Progress Tracker to see how you're coming along. Each of these 90 challenges has a warm up session in which you must achieve a score of C or higher (on a scale of A through F with the lowest score being a U, oddly enough) before Professor Ian Robertson (who's a real professor in Ireland by the way) will let you proceed to the Challenge. The warm up sessions are exactly like the Challenges, utilizing the same four categories and borrowing from the same game types.
I have to admit I was not impressed that all of the Challenges, and all of the game types, were available immediately. The structure of this game is so flat that it really made PMG3D feel uninspired. At least with Brain Age I had to work to unlock new game types and the level of interaction was more engaging. Nearly every game/puzzle mode in PMG3D is based on a two minute timer, requiring very little stylus interaction. Also disappointing to me was the lame use of the 3D ability of the 3DS -- in no way does using the 3D change the gameplay for the better, or really in anyway at all. Frankly, the game feels bare bones from the bland, if not cheesy, presentation to the basic design of the games.
That said, I don't mean to imply that all of the games are not interesting, but most do get monotonous after just a few short hours of play. Ubi would probably prefer you just play two or three challenges at a time and call it a day, which would help the monotony, but unless you're a serious puzzle gamer, I didn't feel like PMG3D offered much reason for playing in such short bursts. Besides constant "Congratulations!" screens that you have to tap through, and interesting tidbits about the human brain, there was nothing to unlock or look forward to in PMG3D.
At some point I should detail the game types and now is as good a time as any. While I won't specifically mention it, if I recall correctly, every mode has at most a two minute timer, sometimes less. Here is what PMG3D has to offer:
-Altered Images: This was one of my favorite games of the bunch. The professor appears and above him are four images, or objects, with varying designs and colors. The design might be a cartoon rocket ship, a circle, and so on. You need to take note of the shape, its color, and its position relative to the others. In about ten seconds, the images disappear, and you are asked three or four questions about what was there and what wasn't.
-Attention to Detail: Similar to Altered Images in that you are shown several objects for a few seconds and then you are asked some questions about the objects.
-Memory Shop: This is one of a few games that uses the same grocery checkout lane setup. Players are shown a list of grocery items and then a variety of groceries are added to the conveyor belt. You must recall which items were on the list and which were not.
-Out of Stock: Similar to Memory Shop, you are shown a list of items briefly, and then you must watch a series of items and decide which items were on the list but not shown.
-Safe Cracker: A keypad is shown and you must watch the key sequence and then mimic it as quickly and as accurately as you can with the goal being to crack as many of these random safes as you can within two minutes.
The memory games are probably the easiest of the bunch but their similarities to one another left something to be desired. How about the Numerical games?
-Beat the Cashier: Ok, this is my second favorite game. Using the same checkout lane setup mentioned above, this time several items with prices are shown, one at a time, and you must total them up in your head before the cashier is able to ring up the total. Timing is pretty tight, especially on the higher Challenges, but if you're like me and like to do fast math in your head, this is a fun game.
-Bubble Maths: This one is pretty fun. Players are given a total value, say 15, to achieve. A series of bubbles appear on the touch screen with the correct numbers and math operators needed to achieve that value, but it's up to you to decide what order to put the numbers and operators in.
-Feed the Frog: One of the worst games. The touch screen has a frog, and falling from the 3D screen are a variety of numbers. There is a criteria of 'number must be divisible by 3,' for example, and for all of the relevant falling numbers, you have to tap them which makes the frog lash out his tongue and snap up the number.
-Futoshiki: Also one of my favorites, this game features a 2D grid that can be as large as 5x5. In between some of the spaces in the grid are 'less than' and 'greater than' symbols that must be obeyed. The object is to have a unique number for every row and column, i.e., you cannot have the number 2 more than once in a column.
-See Saw: A balancing/calculating game where you must analyze different images that show the relationship between the mass of different objects. Using this information, you figure out the specific mass relationships of the objects (i.e., two green ones equals a single blue one, and so forth).
I think what the Numerical games, and really all of the games, could have benefited from was a small area to scribble out some calculations or notes. Strictly speaking, I suppose that may defeat or lessen the intended effect of PMG3D, in that you would not be keeping all of the calculations exclusively in your head, but I'm not sure -- I'd have to ask Professor Robertson. Anyway, next up are the visual games:
-Block Party: Definitely my favorite game of all. Here you have a cube, I think 5x5x5 was the largest size, and it's missing x number of blocks. You have to calculate the number of missing blocks.
-What's Next?: I think this was the most challenging game of all because, for me, figuring out the sequences was pretty tough. I appreciated the challenge though, and this was one of several modes that really got me thinking.
-Left or Right: An interesting game in which a clown takes a variety of poses and you must determine if he's holding a horn in his left or right hand. You're up against a clock and you must go through as many poses as possible.
-Maze Escape: One of the lamest games, Maze Escape just requires that you move a character left or right at every turn while the steps behind him fall to oblivion. If you're familiar with reading 2D map directions, this one is no problem.
-Odd One Out: A 3D pattern of colored objects is shown as well as a few sample sections. The goal is to figure out which sample section is not from the original pattern.
Finally, the Word games...
-Alphabetical: Another one of the weaker games, here you are shown a sentence and are tasked with tapping the letters of the sentence in alphabetical order.
-Honeycomb: A honeycomb mesh of letters are shown and you must locate a dozen or so words within the time limit.
-Mind the Gap: A series of seven letter words are shown that are missing three consecutive letters. You need to come up with the three letter word that will make the seven letter word complete.
-Spelling Bee: Words are shown briefly, and then you must spell them backwards -- pretty boring.
-Word Confetti: Just about my least favorite game, you are given a category such as 'fruit' and a variety of relevant and irrelevant words fall from the top screen to the touch screen. As quickly as possible, tap on all of the relevant words. What really annoyed me about this game was how often that all of the words layered on top of one another on the lower screen, making it harder to pick the specific word you wanted to.
To the summary...