How many of us go to the gym on a regular basis? You know you should exercise you legs…your arms…even your pecs on a regular basis. Heck, you might even do some heart-smart cardio workouts. It is a great idea to keep your body in shape and healthy. While you are at the gym, however, do you ever hit those brutal memory machines, spatial sequencing machines, and other mental gymnastics? Oh, sorry. They don’t even have those at your gym, do they? Mine either. On every street corner, it seems there is a place to exercise your body, but almost nowhere to exercise your brain. Studies have shown, however, that regular brain exercises (akin to calisthenics and stretching) can increase memory and brain functions. So, what can you do to ensure that your brain gets the same workout as the rest of your body? This is exactly the question which Mastersoft Mobile Solutions posed to itself earlier this year. Their answer, go back to school…Brain School.
Installation and Registration: Download the game from the Mastersoft web site and install it via ActiveSync from your computer. You will now be able to test the first ten puzzles, comprising of two years of study, and see how you like the game. Once you have decided you enjoy the game, you may purchase it to unlock the full version, including all 20 games. Registering can be a little tricky, as the code is linked to the serial number of the game rather than your owner name. This is only a slight inconvenience, however. Just email the serial number to Mastersoft Support and you will be provided with a registration code.
Puzzles: Brain School is centered around the concept that we never stop learning and never stop going to school. Unfortunately, although many people exercise their bodies regularly, many of us ignore exercises which will make our brains stronger, faster, better.
Brain School take you through a four year program, involving twenty different puzzles (each puzzle consists of five levels) in which your brain will be stretched, twisted and shaped into a considerably more powerful instrument. I am not going to discuss each game in detail (we would be here all night), but if you want to learn more about the individual games, download the incredibly thorough and well written Help Manual (some might say it is “the cat’s meow). Brain School utilizes all 20 puzzles to challenge every aspect of your brain, including:
Mental Speed. The faster your brain processes information, the more intelligent you will appear. Honing your mental speed with games such as Magic Hats, in which you must follow the coin hidden under one of three shuffled hats. Play this game, and then impress your friends by how much more quickly you can process complex information.
Numerical Aptitude. All of us, at some point in our lives, sat in the back of math class and whines, “when am I ever going to use this in real life?” Those of us who now live in real life know the answer to this semi-rhetorical question is: every day. Numerical aptitude, otherwise known as math is among the most critical mental skills you have at your disposal. It is used to balance your checkbook, shop for groceries, calculate the bus schedule, and hundreds of other every day activities. Sharpening this skill, which uses almost every part of your brain, can improve almost every facet of your every day life. As such, it is well represented in Brain School, which tests this skill in eight of the 20 different puzzles in the game, including School Bus, which was among the favorites of the Beta testers.
Logical Aptitude. Logical aptitude, quite simply, tests your ability to reason and solve complex problems. Although most people may get the shakes when you mention logic puzzles, thinking of John, who is taller than Jan, but shorter than Jim…, it is actually used by most people on a regular basis, to do things like maneuver a car through traffic, program the your A/V equipment, and even calling up this article on your computer screen. It is commonly believed that this type of reasoning is learned, meaning that with practice, you can significantly improve your logical aptitude. So, you will want to get practicing right away with the seven Brain School games that work on this skill.
Memory. Memory is probably the function of the brain which is the most well known to the average person. It is the skill (or lack thereof) that most men use when they forget their wife’s birthday, anniversary, or name. Don’t worry, guys (and gals), because Brain School is here to help (and it is not even from the government). Playing games such as Shape Math, Building Blocks, Class Register, Twins (my personal favorite game), Paper Puzzle, School Trip, School Bus, Syllables, Number Patterns, Roman History, and Musical Lessons, will all help you remember all of your wife’s important information. As for what she would like for her birthday…well, you will have to figure that out for yourself.
Spatial Aptitude. Spatial Aptitude measures your ability to distinguish shapes, distances, and spaces. You use this part of your brain when you are navigating through traffic, reading a map, or even rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…although some might argue that last point does not use any part of your brain at all. In fact, some people believe that spatial aptitude is the core of all intelligence. This is such a critical component of education and intelligence, that it is the most highly represented skill in Brain School, and has been included in fully half of the 20 puzzles.
Verbal Aptitude. Obviously, verbal aptitude controls your speech and vocabulary. Reading and writing are excellent way to increase your verbal aptitude, which is closely related to memory. Verbal aptitude is among the most easily trained skills of your brain, and can be significantly increased through study and practice. As such, Brain School devotes three extremely difficult (well, two difficult and one that is more fun) puzzles to this important skill: Wordsworth, Class Register and Syllables (I’ll let you figure out which is the fun one and which are the difficult ones on your own).
Musical Aptitude. Most kids I know thought band and music lessons were something you did to do to get out of more academic classes, or something you got coerced into doing by your parents. In fact, music is an extremely important component of memory, which has a well known and profound affect on the brain. Listening to music can utilize every component of your brain, including memory, learning and emotion. How often has a song made you laugh or cry, or remember a special event in your life? Your musical aptitude is tested by the Music Lessons puzzle. I was disappointed to find that this skill was not tested in more games. Perhaps we’ll have to wait for Brain School 2 to really learn the secrets that can be unlocked within a simple song.
Overall, I thought Brain School did a great job of stretching the lessons and puzzles across all areas of your brain, even ensuring that some touched on several unrelated skills. Nonetheless, I did feel that two important skills, mental speed and musical aptitude, were woefully underrepresented. While most of the other mental skills were included in seven to ten puzzles, each of these found their way into only one puzzle each (mental speed is featured in Magic Hats while musical aptitude is featured in Music Lessons. I would have liked to have seen these two skills featured in more puzzles, to ensure an equitable distribution of all of the skills within the 20 games.
Progress and Exams: When you begin the game, you will have access to only the first year of learning, or five different puzzles (which really means 25 puzzles since each has five levels of difficulty to pass). After you complete a level in any of the puzzles, you will be provided a grade based upon your results and progress. If you completed all of the requirements of the level then you will earn an A+ star.
Once you have earned enough A+ stars, you can choose to take the final exam for that year of learning. One of the things that I really liked here is that your A+ grades can come in any puzzle. Technically, you could even earn all of your A+ stars in different levels of the same puzzle. Likewise, there is also no requirement that A+ stars relate to games in your current year’s puzzles. So, if you are working on year two, you can complete puzzles and earn A+ stars in any level of the ten games in years one and two in order to qualify for the year two exam.
The exam tests all of the skills which you learned that year. So, even if you did not earn any A+ stars, or even play a particular puzzle, it will be tested in the exam. In each exam, you must correctly answer a variety of questions before time runs out. Miss three questions and you will automatically end the exam, even if time has not run out yet. If you answer enough questions correctly, then you will pass the exam, thereby unlocking the next level of learning and five additional puzzles. At the end of the four years of learning, you must pass a final exam, which could incorporate lessons from any of the 20 puzzles.
Tracking Progress: There are several ways to track your progress through the Brain School Academy. The most visible is the main screen which shows a star for each level of each puzzle,divided into four 5×5 grids of stars (each grid represents a different year of learning). Once you complete a puzzle, that level’s star will display the grade you received. In order to unlock the next level for each puzzle, you must obtain an A+ in the lower level puzzle.
You can also view a variety of charts and graphs to view your progress. There is a graph that shows your scores on each of the final exams. You can even view your total score, divided by grade (A+ – C; lower than a C is worth no points); or by difficulty level. You can also view the high scores and best results on each exam. Finally, Brain School offers a career advisor. Based upon your scores on various puzzles, the career advisor analyzes your perceived strengths and weaknesses and suggests a possible career path for you.
Graphics: I found the graphics in Brain School to be adequate for the puzzles included in the game. To be honest, because the object of the game is to challenge you mentally, visually dramatic graphics are not really required. Nonetheless, I was somewhat disappointed by the graphics in some of the games which seemed to be merely line drawings. I would have loved to have seen games such as School Bus Twins, and Music Lesson rendered in vivid 3-D animation. Of course, such graphics would have required a much more significant undertaking than this game demanded. As it was, while the graphics did not seem to be particularly inspired in many of the puzzles, they were more than sufficient to meet the requirements of the game.
Conclusion: Are you the guy who, ten minutes after a conversation ends, smacks his head and says, “I just realized what I should have said”? Or, do you ever feel like the mental equivalent of the 90 pound weakling, while your co-workers kick sand in your face? If so, then your brain could definitely use a workout, and it is time for you to go back to school. Whether you are a college graduate with an advanced degree or a beauty school dropout this game will help improve your mental speed and agility. Complete all four years and all 20 puzzles, and you will be prepared to amaze your friends and colleagues (as well as yourself) with your new mental talents.
Where To Purchase: Mastersoft
What I liked: this game works with every aspect of your brain, ensuring that all areas will improve, fun and addictive puzzles, numerous ways to track progress and compare results.
What Needs Improvement: Some brain skills (mental speed and musical aptitude) were underrepresented and should have been included in more games, some games would have benefited from more sophisticated graphics.
Note: This product uses Microsoft’s Latest Compact Framework Technology. If you do not have the latest version, you can find it HERE.� For more on this fantastic new game, you can also check out the screen shot packed review at .