(Lightning Reviews are back! Back again! And with one of our fav forum members -- cjvitek giving us a look at Brain Challenge ($9.99 at the iTunes Store). Want your Lightning Review elevated to our front page -- with a tasty 25% iMore Store discount prize to top it off? Get the details, choose and App, and make with the reviewing! And if you're looking for a good example for what kind of reviews we like, this is a great one!)

Take it away, cjvitek:

My wife and I just bought a Wii a few months ago. Recently, we just purchased the game Big Brain Academy for it, and we love it. I bought the game Brain Challenge hoping it would be similar to the Big Brain Academy game. And I wasn't disappointed.

Read on for more!

Brain Challenge presents itself as a "brain strengthening" game. The idea is that you engage in mental excercises to learn to use all of your brain (as indicated by a brain use percentage). As you perform better on the daily tests, your brain percentage increases. You can also practice the various tests, and as your performance improves, various other games are unlocked.

The tests are grouped into one of five categories: Logic, Memory, Math, Visual, and Focus. Each category has five tests that you can do (or practice). When you start, just one is unlocked. In addition, there are bonus categories - I have only unlocked one game in the "creative" category called cubes.

Leading you through the exams is your mentor/guide, one of two authority figures that you choose. You can also take a stress test, which is the same tests but conducted under "stressful" conditions. You can practice those tests as well, presumably to lower your stress level (or at least respond better while under stress).

In reality, I don't know how much these games help your brain power. Much like the Wii game, you simply learn to respond quickly to the test, learning what to look for, and how to interpret the results. Having said that, you can see clear differences in ability between two people - some people do really well at the memory games, while others may excel in logic.

I just bought this game yesterday, so I have not unlocked all the secrets or hidden games. During the practice levels (where you can choose easy, medium, or hard), the game gives you a letter score to see how you did. My guess if you score well in everything, other games get unlocked.

You can set up multiple profiles, so many people can play the game. Unfortunately, there is no two player interaction. You can't take a test, and then have someone else take the same test. That is one strong plus feature of the Big Brain Academy games - you can have a cooperative mode where you are helping each other, or a race mode to see who finishes first, or even a puzzle mode where you compete to get points on a puzzle board. Features like that would give this game a 5 out of 5 rating. As it stands, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is a complex game, and can be played many times if you are the kind of person who will want to try to push yourself to get better and better.

The game costs $9.99, so it isn't one of the cheaper ones out there. When I bought it and was playing it while listening to music, it kept crashing. I have since played it without sound, and without music in the background, and it seems to run fine. Hopefully if there is a bug, it will get fixed in an update.


After having played it a few more times, while I can't be certain, it does appear that the brain use percentage is not actually calculated, but instead is simply increasing on a set pattern. I just completed a test where I deliberately got at least half of the questions wrong. While my brain use percentage didn't increase, it only went down by 2%. In addition, in the various categories, while my score was horrible, the brain use percentage in each category was still well above the first time I took the tests (when I know I did far worse in the most recent tests).

One thing I did notice is that if you seem to be doing poorly, the tests seem to get easier. And if you do well, they seem to get harder.

This is somewhat annoying. While obviously using a percentage value to indicate your level of brain use is not realistic, I was hoping that your progress was accurately being tracked based on some algorithm combining speed and accuracy. This does not appear to be the case. Your brain use percentage MAY be a cumulative score, but even that is not ideal, as your score should be based on each time you take the test.

The games are still fun and challenging, but there doesn't seem to be any real measure of progress or improvement.


  • Involved gameplay, many different games and levels


  • No multiplayer options
  • brain use percentage is not actually calculated