Challenge Me: Maths Workout – Nintendo DS


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Ahhh, logic games. The DS is full of them, and the bandwagon is led by strong offerings like Brain Age. As with any successful niche, other companies have been trying their hand at developing enjoyable edutainment. I recently took a look at Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles by Oxygen Games. While it had some solid elements, it left me wanting more than two puzzles and a horrendous lack of explanation. The other game in the series, Challenge Me: Math Workout, is what we have to take a look at today.

While Math Workout does improve upon some of the drawbacks in Brain Puzzles that kept me from enjoying the first game, it’s not without its own fair share of problems. Where Brain Puzzles relied on the safety of employing classic puzzles (Sudoku and Picross), Math Workout involves original creations. However, these original games don’t always play out so well, and you may up feeling like the only thing that’s been truly challenged is your patience.

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The box art is cute and spattered with mathematical mumbo jumbo. Like the other Challenge Me title from O-Games, the claim here is playing the title may help you reduce anxiety, improve your logical thinking and brain reactions, and improve creativity. Also like the other Challenge Me title, none of this is going to happen.

Specifications:

Challenge Me: Maths Workout

Challenge Me: Maths Workout! Challenge Me: Maths Workout is the second game to be released in the Challenge Me series after Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles.

Incorporating two number puzzle games, Challenge Me: Maths Workout will not only bring you hours of fun and relaxation, it may also improve your Maths skills.

Hidden Logic! In hidden logic you must guess the value of your opponent’s cards whilst stopping them from guessing yours. Initially the cards are facedown on the Nintendo DS™ screen – a correct guess (from 1-11) will reveal the card. Play to reveal all of your opponents cards before they reveal yours!

Formulate! Formulate! is a numbers game that uses equations and cards to formulate answers. Each card, numbered 1-9 is also associated with a mathematical symbol such as +, – , x or ÷. You must move the cards around the screen to create a correct formula. Formulate! is a great way to sharpen up your arithmetic skills while relaxing at home or battling the hordes on the tube or bus!

Challenge Me: Maths Workout – Relax, Play and Improve Your Mind!

Release Date: 27 March 2009

Formats: DS

Age Rating: 3+

Challenge Me: Math Workout features two games. Both, as far as I know, are original creations unique to the game. If not, then they are not mainstream brain exercises, which at least gives this title a little edge in that it contains activities you can’t readily find elsewhere. The games can be played locally vs. AI opponents or with friends over Wi-Fi. Up to four players can be in the games at a time. You can even team up with a computer player, if you so wish.

Each game requires you to pick an avatar for you and your opponent before playing. These are just cute little anime looking fellows. There are six people, a panda and some sort of purple robot looking thing. You know you’ve always wanted to do math as a panda.

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The first of the two games is Hidden Logic. This is essentially a guessing game, which already puts into question how it is supposed to help train your brain. The goal is to guess the numbers of your own cards (yeah, both games are card games) and guess the numbers of your opponent’s cards. You each have a stack of face-up and face-down cards, and you use the process of elimination and fleet-footed guessing to figure it out. That’s it. That’s the whole game.

In what seems to be O-Games tradition, there is absolutely no instruction or help menu to tell you what you’re supposed to do in these games. At first glance, it will absolutely not be evident right away. Like Brain Challenges, instruction is missing. Fortunately in that game, many people already know how to play Sudoku. In Math Workout, nobody knows how to play these games, so the lack of instruction is an even bigger issue.

Eventually, you’ll realize there is a set of black cards and a set of white cards, which get laid out on-screen from lowest to highest. The cards you can see are supposed to help you guess what cards your opponent has. Sure, they tell you which ones are obviously already flipped, but the chances of you guessing what the opponent has with much frequency is quite slim. It’s about luck as much as logic, and really isn’t a math workout in any way.

Another thing you may discover is that after a few guesses, the AI becomes exceedingly fortunate at guessing your cards. Since in the beginning all you can do is guess, it’ll take a little bit before you have any hope of putting critical thought into figuring out your opponent’s cards. By then, the AI has become a fortune teller. The whole concept gets tiresome after a few minutes. It may be better with more human players, but I doubt you’ll find out. There is minimal incentive to keep playing this game very long.

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Then, there is Formulate. The object of this game is to complete equations using cards numbered 1-9 with each card having a mathematical symbol associated to it. Sounds somewhat fun, really.

This game, being that it revolves around equations, mathematical operators and structure, could actually be considered a math game. The player is given cards of various colors. Each has a number and a random math operator on them. The goal is to create a formula that works with the cards you have, and if none is possible, discard a card and hope the one that replaces it will do the trick. The operator of the card you put first in line on the equation will have its operator covered up, allowing you a “starting point” of sorts. You are given a time frame in which to build your formula, which adds to the difficulty.

Though this game is built on more of a mathematical principle than Hidden Logic, it is equally as fruitless and tedious. This is mainly because you will rarely have cards that can create a formula. The numbers only go 1-9, and you’ll often have cards that simply don’t add up, or contain too many multiplication and division symbols to make anything possible. Multiplication is often just difficult to work with when you are required to have at least three cards involved in the equation resulting in a single-digit solution. However, you can rely on the fact that the AI will figure out a formula within two seconds if there is any possible way for it to be done with the cards on screen.

I get that part of the challenge is being able to deduce whether or not a solution is viable with the cards given. The frequency of impossible combinations is what makes it frustrating and turns a brain game into something boring. You’re lucky to make one or two formulas in a round of play.

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The game does give you a good bit of control, which is nice. In Formulate, you can set the number of rounds, the amount of thinking time given, the amount of time to play with opponent’s discarded cards, etc. In Hidden Logic, you can control the same type of options. There are also game-wide options like screen color, sound volumes, and the like – your standard options menu.

Graphically, the game is barebones. Obviously it’s not going to be Crysis, but everything is really flat. Pair it with the weird music, which sounds like some sort of midi marching band that makes me hum “I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy” for an hour after hearing it, and it’s not the best overall aesthetic. Math Workout is, though, more interesting than its brother Brain Puzzles. The involvement of character avatars and an overall higher level of color makes this game a bit more appealing.

And that’s all there is to the game.


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Conclusion:

Challenge Me: Math Workout gets some props for trying to invent unique brain-testing games. Unfortunately, they end up being executed more as trials of luck that leave the player frustrated or bored, and certainly not challenged. The lack of instructions will make it difficult for many to pick up and play – particularly in the children’s market, to which this game is targeted. The lackluster gameplay that follows will ensure this title is one that won’t hold people’s attention for too long after they’ve put a little time into the two game modes.

There are definitely stronger releases out there for challenging your mind, despite this game’s bargain price of $20. It is a mundane package that young people won’t take the time to figure out and older people just simply won’t care to play.

Pros:
+Original game concepts
+A bit brighter and more appealing than Brain Puzzles

Cons:
-Bad instruction
-Trite graphics and sound
-Doesn’t live up to its claim – more guesswork than logic
-Simply not enough substance

Grades:  
Overall score-4-10
Design score-4-10
Performance score-4-10
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