Note: This game is titled "Dr. Reiner Knizia's Brain Benders" in the European market.
After the release of Brain Age for the Nintendo DS, the floodgates were opened for a rush of similar mind workout titles. Brain Voyage is one of those titles hosted by another puzzlesmith, Dr. Reiner Knizia. Brain Voyage adds a new dimension to the genre with travel to different cities and puzzles inspired by those locations. The game begins with the introduction of Dr. Knizia who has been tasked with solving problems in various cities around the globe. It's your job to help him out by solving puzzles.
The overall style of Brain Voyage is colorful and playful. The visual and musical themes vary appropriately as you visit each new location. If playing around other people, you might want to keep the volume down as the music for each location does not change and can wear thin pretty quickly. As the player, I didn't notice because my mind was wrapped up in the puzzles. Visually speaking, the puzzles are nicely designed but not overly stylized or detailed.
It's a puzzle game, so the gameplay is where the real meat of the game lies. There is a wide variety of puzzles and the difficulty ranges from casual simplicity to a level of frustrating difficulty that nearly had me plunging my stylus directly through the screen of the DS. But with patience and analysis, all the game's puzzles are workable and there's nothing more satisfying than breaking down what initially seems like a mother b**ch of a task.
The game modes include a world tour (this is the primary mode of play), a random mode which throws several random puzzles at you for quick solving, and a Puzzle Bank which allows you to play any puzzles that you have marked as favorites. You can even send a puzzle over to a friend with a DS over wireless so that he or she can get a taste of the game.
The other modes are self-explanatory, so I'll talk about the World Tour. There are several cities available to you at the start of the game and when you visit a new city, a new flavor of puzzle awaits with a tutorial. Your score is based on either time to completion or the number of attempts and should your score be high enough, you will be awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal and a number of coins. The medals are good for a feeling of personal achievement, but the coins can be used to open locked cities and therefore more puzzles. Along the way, you will also be awarded various achievements for your progress including hidden cities.
While the brain game genre is getting a little crowded, the new world travel setting of Brain Voyage keeps things feeling fresh. The range of difficulty and the variety of puzzles provide a gameplay experience that fits any skill level and availability of time. Overall, the game felt a little lacking for TLC, but if you're an avid puzzler and a DS owner, Brain Voyage is a solid bet.