Nintendo’s Brain Training series was one of the first non-games to hit the DS, and when it sold through the roof and people demanded more it was no surprise to see other companies trying to jump on the next big thing. The Buzz series usually involves a quiz of some sort with players having to “buzz in” with the right answers, but when you have a license and “host” as popular as Sony does, it isn’t too big a stretch to see the Hostmaster appearing in a personal brain challenge style test.
Buzz: Brain Bender is Sony’s vamped up answer to Nintendo’s Brain Training series. The idea is to switch it on, take a test to see how powerful your brain is and then practice the 16 different challenges to try and improve yourself for daily testing and also to try and obtain the trophy-esque awards. But there’s more to the title than that, and if you happen to have friends around you can even challenge them to a 6 person pass the PSP battle to see who is the smartest in the bunch.
While the graphical style is extremely clean and looks a lot more fun than Brain Training, the input is what made the DS title such a success. It’s weird having to check the puzzle on the left, then figure out which button is assigned to the different multiple answers before hitting it. I mean, it doesn’t take an awful long time to do that, and people who haven’t played BT won’t mind that extra little time, but for those who have been yearning for more brain challenges may find it a little frustrating.
The challenges are divided into Calculation, Analysis, Memory and Observation, with each category having 4 different puzzles (each with 3 differing levels of difficulty). Each puzzle can score you up to a maximum 500kJ with 450 – 500 scoring you a gold star. Clearly the goal of the practice section of the game is to collect a gold star in everything, and this will take a lot longer than a simple 30 minute session every other day. The puzzles are challenging the deeper you progress and they’re actually extremely fun to play.
But it isn’t all roses and smiles for this Buzz title. Sadly there are a few bugs when it comes to the sound, and while you may see the Hostmaster’s mouth flapping, nothing will be heard for another 2 seconds or so. Something that should have been an easy fix for the developers has been left in to really drop the quality of the presentation. Thankfully, you’ll be skipping most of the stuff the Hostmaster says once you get more familiar with the puzzles, so this becomes a non-event.
The one thing that Brain Training has over Buzz: Brain Bender is the “come back” factor. Should you get bored with the puzzles, you could always guarantee that the Sudoku puzzles would pull you back in, and once you were in you couldn’t help but take the daily test. With Buzz, however, there is nothing that will get you to put the UMD back inside your PSP once you’re bored with the puzzles or daily tests. It would have been nice to had followed Nintendo that extra step and chucked in some kind of addictive, almost unlimited, puzzle. The “trophies” do a decent job of keeping the title on once it is in, but I fear many won’t go back to this every day.
Buzz: Brain Bender is actually an incredibly decent piece of brain challenging software and older owners of a PSP might actually get a lot of use out of this. For PSP owners who also own a DS, I can’t help but steer you towards Brain Training on the DS, for your brain challenging needs. Sure Buzz might look nicer, and be presented in a more familiar style, but the answer input and the “come-back” factor is definitely lacking. For those looking at this as a unique addition to their PSP collection, this is likely to end up on the shelf, or under your bed, and you’ll forget you ever owned it.