Smart As Review

Entering the world a few years after the brain training game craze has come and gone, we have Smart As for the Vita. Smart As wants you to return each day to play a series of brain-teasing mini games so that it can give you a rating and compare it to that of others on its online leaderboards. However, I can't say that it really makes you any smarter as much as it just makes you better at playing its games.

The games are divided into four categories that break down along math, logic, word, and observation puzzles. The math puzzles mostly involve activities like filling in a missing operand in an equation or determining which comparison operator to place between two equations. Word puzzles are missing letter and word scramble style puzzles. Logic puzzles are variations on moving a piece across a board to a designated destination or connecting dots without crossing lines. The observation puzzles will test your observation skills by having you recall which objects you were shown in sequence or by tapping the screen and back panel based on pop-up prompts. When you finish a puzzle you're given a rating on a three star scale based on how quickly you completed the exercise, with penalties for wrong answers. Completing one game in each category completes a daily challenge, and you're given an overall intelligence rating based on a one hundred point scale.

Once you complete the daily challenge you'll have the opportunity to play the games "for practice" as well. The games available for practice supposedly correspond to the games that you've unlocked through the daily challenges, but I didn't see any link between the two. Games that I had played in the daily challenge weren't available for practice, and I hadn't seen some of the practice games in the daily challenges yet. Eventually you'll unlock everything so this is more of an issue early on, but I'm not sure why you're given the opportunity to practice some games but not others before you're scored on them.

In practice mode you can play each game at four different difficulty levels. You start with the basic level unlocked and if you three star the level you'll unlock the next. Once everything is unlocked you can return to the puzzles to try and beat your previous best times, but to be frank none of the puzzles are so much fun that you'll want to keep coming back to them. And if you're using them to try and train your brain, well, there's no feedback beyond your score to help you improve your thinking skills. In fact, the constant mildly insulting banter that the game delivers to you ala the voice talents of John Cleese makes the whole thing feel even less like a skills development tool and more like a diversion. And if you're going to be a diversion then your puzzles need to be more fun to play.

Smart As makes itself a pretty social game in a number of ways. First you'll periodically be asked a random question such as whether you prefer golf to tennis. Then at some later time the game will let you know which group has scored higher in the daily challenges. Not anything really scientific, but kind of interesting nonetheless. If you want to see further comparisons like this, you can go to the game's Smart As World mode and see how different regions of the world compare to each other score-wise. In this mode you can also create local challenges or look for existing ones. These are tied to your current location, so you can try to claim to be the smartest person in your neighborhood or look for local challenges while you're traveling. This is a nice way to use the Vita's location-based services, but again, it would be better if the games themselves were more enjoyable.

Smart As wants to be part daily brain trainer, part puzzle game, and part social game, and like most things that spread their focus it doesn't very well overall. Not that it's a total loss; it's just nothing that will compel you to return to it every day.

Final Rating: 68%. All that's missing is brain games that you'd actually want to play every day.