In its first year of life, Sony wanted to show that the Playstation Vita was more than just a normal games console. As well as the “normal” racers, first-person shooters, beat-em-ups and games that you would normally expect to find on a console, they produced a number of first party games that attempted to showcase what the Vita and its unique features could offer. Ranging from the quirky but fun Frobisher Says!, Reality Fighters and then we were introduced to Smart As… which was Sony’s attempt to take brain training games to their next level…
There are two main elements to the game – a daily test to ascertain your brain power, split over four different key areas (Logic, Arithmetic, Observation and Language) testing your mental agility using a range of mini games, and then exercises that you can play in the games free play mode. In the free play mode, initially only one game is available under each area, but more are unlocked as you play. To help you along the way, there is a narrator who gives you instructions on how to play each game, passes comments on your performance and makes other remarks generally. Quite often in games, these can be annoying, but Sony have managed to avoid this by getting the comedy legend that is John Cleese to provide the voice for the game. It may only be a small part of the game, but as Stephen Fry’s performance in Little Big Planet proved, voice acting can make a massive difference to a game.
For the daily test, challenges range from word puzzles where you will need to write answers on the screen filling in missing letters from words or missing numbers from equations, to hand / eye coordination with words displayed on the screen. There will be visual puzzles you will need to solve, memory tests and other tasks, all as fast as possible. At the end of it you will be assessed in all four areas and presented with an overall rating where you can chart your daily progress. Once this is done you can them practice on all of the individual games as you wish or take on specific challenges uploaded by players local to where you live (using Near) or see how you compare with others globally.
The global comparison is quite unusual… You will be able to see how you rank against other players who live nearby, how you rate against those of a similar age group and – on a daily basis – you will be asked a random question about you and your interested and personal tastes. This will build up a profile on you and compare you against others with similar interests. Being left-handed, when I asked it then compared my score in selected games with that of the average left-handed player. On other occasions it fed back that players who prefered one colour over another were (according to the game, at least!) were smarter! Nothing too scientific, but fun, nevertheless.
Probably the game’s biggest downfall however is the use of the Vita’s touch screen which is integral to the game. Several of the games need you to use the screen to use a virtual whiteboard to answer mathematical or literacy questions by writing answers on it. While these are usually just a single letter or number, the handwriting recognition in the game is – at best – hit-and-miss. While there are no time limits for each of the games, the faster you answer all of the questions the higher you are rated so the reliability of the game to understand what you enter is vital and this lets the game down dismally. I found that it really struggled to cope with numbers and letters despite me writing them very clearly in the space provided, needing to take several attempts sometimes wasting valuable time. It was only after investing in a stylus designed for use with tablets that I managed to get any half-decent results. Sorry but that just isn’t good enough.
Technical issues aside, Smart As… IS a fun and mentally challenging title and the ability to go up against your friends (albeit indirectly through the game’s social connectivity functions) does add to its long term appeal. From what I can tell, it hasn’t been accredited in any way by any official organisation such as MENSA so I’d certainly treat all of the tests as something purely for fun than anything too serious although it certainly will stretch your mental agility while you are playing.
It’s not going to set the PS Vita gaming community alight and it certainly highlights the flaws in the technology used in the Vita’s touch screen but it’s fun for a quick few minutes each day. Definitely not a must-have AAA title, but you could certainly do a lot worse and if you’re looking for something to tax your brain rather than exercising your trigger finger then this may well be up your street.
At A Glance
- Title: Smart As…
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PS Vita Card
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No (but has Network features for player comparisons)
- Memory Card Space Needed: 2Mb (for save data)