Smart As…

How does this Vita exclusive brain trainer hold up?

Smart As… is a puzzle infused brain training game developed exclusively for the Vita by Climax Group as Sony’s equivalent attempt at a Brain Age type game.

If you approach Smart As like a game expecting a really fun experience you will be disappointed. If you come expecting a brain bending experience that keeps you sharp and entertained, you will get just that. This brain trainer relies on PSN based features to stand out, however they don’t add much to the experience. On top of that, Smart As is also held back by having to take use of the Vita’s gimmicks and a lack of nearly any depth.

Running off Unreal Engine, Smart As looks really sharp with shiny and simple menus for the most part, and it carries a consistent style as it switches from menus to mini games with cute little comments in between. The whole game has a very minimalist look with a colour palette that sticks to bold primary colours that really pop on the OLED Vita. John Cleese commentating on pretty much everything in the game is also a bonus, although it does get repetitive after a few days of play. The only thing I had a problem presentation-wise was the slightly less pretty/easy to navigate online menus.

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The core gameplay of Smart As consists of twenty different mini-games categorized by four aspects of brain usage. These categories are logic, arithmetic, language, and observation. I did enjoy a few of the mini games in Smart As, they actually made me feel like they were giving my brain a work out that made me feel smarter every time I played the games. The mini games in Smart As that only require simple tapping on the screen or back touch pad of the Vita were quite enjoyable. Sadly, a fair amount of the mini games were not so fun; mini games that require manipulating objects in a 3D space or using the Vitas (crappy) camera for augmented reality based mini games left me with plenty of frustration.

The daily challenge in Smart As is the main mode of the game that gives you a percentage based on how well you do in the four brain categories in that day. However, it only makes use the games that don’t use camera or sound features, leaving about two thirds of the twenty total mini games included. This results in the daily training getting stale much sooner than it could have, and online challenges make use of the same few games. This leaves a huge chunk of Smart As out to dry in the free play section which just seems kind of odd with so much content left out of the main mode, cause it’s not like Smart As had a lot to offer to start.

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An interesting thing about the camera based mini games is most of them would have worked better if they didn’t have AR play. Although one of the mini game is one that requires pointing the Vita’s camera around in real time and trying to shoot down numbers for arithmetic problems, but it doesn’t work well at all due to some some very badly calibrated movements and sensitivity that ruin that particular situation. Other than that bothersome mini game, the other AR play mini games such as ‘Where is it?’ or ‘Alpha Trap’ would have been better off and more straight up fun sticking to regular on screen styles instead of AR camera garbage.

Ironically, the socially connected aspects of Smart As don’t really give the experience as much depth as they should have. But hold up, first you have to try to connect to the game servers a few dozen times (oh yay). My ratio of successful versus unsuccessful connections to the Smart As online servers was shamefully low, especially since the connected aspects of the game were its most heavily advertised features compared to other games of the genre. When I actually got into the Smart As World menu, there was practically nothing to do! Just some leaderboards and location based modes involving Near that had practically no players and only made use of the same handful of mini games the daily challenge had to offer.

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In terms of lasting appeal and reasons to come back, the game keeps you interested for maybe two weeks on it’s own if you are interested in the trying the whole range of mini games it has to offer and improving your brain score. Every time you do a daily training session, you unlock another of the twenty total mini games. After you unlock all twenty of the mini games, the only thing left is trophies. While this game’s trophies may seem easy to get at first, Smart As really doesn’t offer enough content to keep you coming back for 100 days of play (that is one of the trophies).

Smart As is a pretty fun brain trainer that is mildly entertaining for a considerable amount of time despite it’s overall simplicity and depth equivalent to that of a kiddy pool. It may have only a handful of decent mini games to choose from it still manages to be interesting with unlocks and trophies, give it a shot if you want a game to keep your mind sharp on the go.

  • http://freethemechs.blogspot.com/ FreeTheMechs

    Hmm— I disagree with this review. Maybe not objectively, but it’s also missing the personal and fun side of Smart As. And the more personal, biased journalism seems more TVL’s thing.
    Not to sound like some rude jerk either, but having a 16 year old review an education game is a pretty wacky decision. Any age where schooling is still a mandatory, 5-day-a-week thing doesn’t necessarily grasp or value education as an entertainment possibility just yet, seeing as the only way they’ve known it is from oppressive obligation.
    Not saying Marcus doesn’t, but it’s still a weird decision— sort-of like having a 16 year old do a major review period.

    • vongruetz .

      I know a lot of senior adults who bought a Nintendo DS and Brain Age specifically for this exact kind of brain training. I’m wondering if they knew about the Vita and Smart As how that would effect Vita sales.

      • Baran Altuncu

        Wouldn’t affect Vita sales that much because you can get Brain Age and a DS dirt cheap right now, also the DS is user friendly in the respect that the moment you pop in the cartridge the DS shows “Play Game”, but the Vita requires a memory card and then says Installing Game and then you have to swipe to the game icon then tap on the icon then tap on play game to finally start the game.

        So don’t bet that the Vita would have sold more if seniors knew this game existed.

  • Baran Altuncu

    I’ve had this game since it came out on PS+ EU and I have to say that the score is definitely spot-on. The game itself was made beautifully, the visuals are beautiful with the Unreal Engine’s Power, but the content itself was not that great.

    Most of the puzzles are super easy and require no to little thinking power on Easy to Hard. For example, Turbo Tap, Where is it, Spell It, Odd Word Out, etc.. these games were super easy and I got 3 stars on the 1st try most of the time. Then there comes the games with ridiculous 3 star times requirements. Such as Roller Blocks, Chain Reaction and Cube Mania. Just seeing that I required to solve the puzzle in a few seconds less made the game based on luck most of the time to get the 3 stars.

    Now I’m not saying the whole game is bad, surprisingly the Math puzzles were well made and I loved them all. They made me think hard just how a Puzzle game should. Over all I would have given the game a 3.5-3.8, just a few points higher. I’m about to platinum this game and say goodbye to it to make more space for future Vita games. It was a great time.