Brain Age was once a big deal. I remember distinctly seeing people play that game that I never in a million years would expect to see. Thinking games aren’t exactly my thing either, and assuming you have watched at least a few of our Masterpiece Gaming videos, you will understand why. That said, when I was roaming around the Sony floor at E3, nestled in between LittleBigPlanet Vita and a tabletop soccer game, a game called Smart As.. caught my eye.
From my small sampling of the game, I was very intrigued and have since followed the game diligently until it released. Smart As.. takes the “thinking game” genre and adds every social aspect you can think of to it. You can tweet your results, post them to Facebook, compare with players around the world, or just see how you fare against your friends (assuming you have friends with a Vita and the game).
While there are things you can do besides the daily challenge, it’s the daily challenge that kept me going back to it. It runs you through a selection of questions/brain teasers in all four categories: Arithmetic, Language, Observation, and Logic. Afterwards, it shows you your strong points and weak points, followed by a percentage, which reminded me of school. I’m not ashamed to admit I averaged a SOLID 65-75% on a daily basis.
This short activity only takes around five minutes from start to finish, and then you’re done. There are games you can play freely, however, most are locked from the outset. Unlocking them requires you play through the daily challenge, each day unlocking a new one. It’s rather odd, having the daily challenge and one game per category unlocked once you boot up the game. It leaves you with little to do, so much as I think my first sitting with Smart As.. lasted a whole 15 minutes.
The social aspect is really neat, though. You can challenge friends to beat your score, you can tweet/share your daily challenge score, or just check to see how you rank from other players. It breaks down your statistics on so many levels, at some point you will scratch your head in wonder. “Do you prefer apples or oranges?” “Are you left-handed or right-handed?” You’ll get a question like that every time you sit down to do the daily challenge, and then it proceeds to randomly dish out facts. Such as “You are in the top 14% of left-handed people”.
Smart As.. also has a neat “near” feature that allows you to post your results specifically to your location. My wife and I had some pretty intense back-and-forths in our locale, but sadly no one else in my small city was playing. There’s a local leaderboard to show your rank, so I could imagine bigger places like LA, New York, Philadelphia, and others being more enjoyable in this aspect.
There are two serious problem with this collection of brain teasers. Most of the games are great, and make great use of the Vita’s hardware. One particular annoying feature is forcing people to use the AR (augmented reality) cards. For those unaware what AR is, you have a weirdly-barcoded card that you set on a flat surface. The game then implements what the camera sees into what you are playing. It’s a neat concept, but I think forcing users to use it is a major setback. Especially in a game like this. Smart As.. would be the perfect travel game, but with the inconvenience of this mechanic it doesn’t make my travel bag.
Second, there are some language games where words are narrated to you and you have to be able to understand exactly what they are saying. Except they speak in a heavy British accent. My wife is a smart person, but when she has a hard time with a game like this because she can’t understand the woman speaking, that’s not a good sign. She consistently places around 85% and higher until one of these games comes into the rotation, and that number drastically drops. I’ve never seen her almost throw her Vita, either.
As fun as the game is in short bursts, the appeal quickly wore off as the two major problems settled in. Smart As.. is still a good collection of mini-games that will certainly test your brain, and allow you to share and brag about the results should you choose to. It’s hard to recommend to everyone, though, with those two big problems, most importantly not being able to understand the speaker.