Release Date: October 31
Platforms available on: PlayStation Vita
Developer: XDev Studios Europe
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Given the roaring success of the Dr Kawashima's Brain Training titles on the Nintendo DS, releasing an equivalent game on the PlayStation Vita was a shrewd move on Sony's part. Smart As is a collection of cerebral-honing mini-games designed to be played in short bursts. It's a tidily presented gym for your mind, tailor-made for the handheld platform.
In a move that smacks of excessiveness, developer xDev Studios Europe has built the game using Unreal Engine technology, the same tech that powers the likes of Borderlands 2 and the Gears of War series. The studio has used the Epic Games software to create some glossy visuals and neat 3D effects, but beneath the layers of polish are a set of robust brain training exercises.
Many of the challenges are very simple in theory. For instance, the language-based mini-games have you writing out the missing letter from a series of words using the touch-screen. It's basic, five-letter words for the most part, but the player is required to power through without drawing breath to earn the top score, and this is surprisingly challenging.
The same can be said of the arithmetic tasks. The game pits players against basic sums, but at great speed and in rapid succession. We're not exactly talking Leonhard Euler here, but these quick-fire problems really get that grey matter flowing.
Logic and observation challenges feel more like a video game in the traditional sense. Logic typically has you arranging blocks using the accelerometer or joining dots of the same colour without having the lines overlap, while observation might have you touch either the front or reach touch-screen on command, with a five-second penalty incurred for tapping the wrong side of the device.
Smart As assigns a star rating at the end of each game and keeps track on how you are performing in each area. To obtain the highest score of three stars, users must be lightning-fast and pinpoint-accurate, and with daily use of this game, there's no reason why they shouldn't be.
As a means of mental exercise, Smart As does exactly what it says on the tin. The only problem is that it feels light on content. The daily exercises take little more than a minute to play through, and there is little to encourage players to keep the game running after their workout has ended.
Social networking integration allows users to share and compare their scores with friends online through Facebook and Twitter. It's a little something extra that helps put your scores in context, and will likely spur users on to obtain higher results in the knowledge that the world is about to be given a breakdown of their intellectual capacity.
The social aspects of Smart As are being billed as its headline feature, but whether this side of the game takes off really depends on how widely adopted it is. The potential is certainly there for it to catch on, with global leaderboards to illustrate how your score compares on a wide scale, though there is no guarantee players will stick with it for the long haul.
Smart As achieves what it set out to do, offering Vita owners a means of exercising their brain. As useful as this is, the game offers only an ephemeral experience, and will struggle to hold players' attention after their daily workout has concluded and a few high scores have been logged online.