Sometimes, a package doesn't really tell you what you need to know about a game -- and it can actually be misleading or off-putting. As tragic as the thought is, the box art for Brain Buster Puzzle Pak falls into that category. Up close, the art is rough, jagged, and looks like it might have been printed in someone's home office.
So is the game also unfortunately bad? Not even a bit -- Agetec's Brain Buster Puzzle Pak lives up to its name and is packed, as promised, with an array of brain-busting puzzles. The puzzle standard, sudoku, is present, but BBPP brings in four other games as well, all presented by a professor who in no way resembles Dr. Kawashima. By that, we mean he actually has a body.
The other included games -- Light Up, Kakuro, Nurikabe, and Slitherlink -- may be new to many players, but that doesn't mean they aren't recognizable. Light Up and Nurikabe, in particular, have elements that are reminiscent of the PC favorite, Minesweeper, and Slitherlink has been hailed as the next big thing after sudoku. Together, they make for a good mix of puzzles to put together on one cart.
The only real problem with the game -- besides the box art ... did we mention the box art? -- is that sometimes, it can be a little difficult to determine precisely what you're supposed to do. Particularly for those who are just learning some of these games (which is the situation we found ourselves in), you may think that you've completed the puzzle when really, you've not done it correctly. The moment you finish any puzzle, you get a congratulatory screen, but the first times through a few of these games, when you think you've got it, you might find yourself looking around, as we were, for some sort of "complete" button. There is none. You've simply got to get it right. Luckily, once you've cleared a section, there are helpful onscreen indicators. In this screenshot of Light Up, the pink-tinted 4 in the upper half of the screen represents the unsolved portion of the puzzle. In the lower half, the section around the other 4 has been solved -- and thus, it has turned white.
Some of the other aspects of the game are imperfect as well -- at first glance, the puzzles seems somewhat limited, with only fifty of each type. However, training mode generates random puzzles (of random difficulty), so the actual number of available puzzles is much higher. Also, the controls can be a bit shaky and imprecise at times, which often means you have to slow down just enough to keep you from getting that really great finishing score.
However, Brain Buster Puzzle Pak also tries to throw in a few cute extras, and here it succeeds. Occasionally, while playing, little monster faces will randomly appear in the frame surrounding your puzzle. Pop three of these before they disappear and you'll get an answer bubble, which, when used, will show you one correct answer. Collected answer bubbles can be used in any game, as well.
It would be easy to write this game off as just another budget sudoku-themed title, but there's really a lot more to Agetec's puzzler than meets the eye. For logic and number puzzle fans, we can give Brain Buster Puzzle Pak a pretty solid recommendation. It's not perfect, but plenty of full-priced games aren't, either, and at least this one delivers exactly what it promises -- a good puzzle experience at a low price.
Controls: Everything is stylus-based and a little finicky, but after a few minutes in trial mode, none of the games seemed like too much of a problem. At times, things are a bit imprecise -- you'll find yourself drawing the wrong line or clicking the wrong box -- but careful players shouldn't have an issue.
Visuals: Simple and colorful, which is really all we need. Everything is quite clear, and the backgrounds are pleasing to the eye. One thing is certain -- the game itself looks a lot better than the box art!
Sound: There's sound?! Oh, right -- we mostly played with the volume down and other music on, and expect you might as well. The tracks aren't particularly memorable, despite being very repetitive.
Localization: Since this is just a straight up puzzle collection with no story, it seemed better to focus on localization here. Brain Buster Puzzle Pak hits you right out of the gate with a hilarious example of the not-always-great localization: "This game only uses stylus." It's one of those sentences you puzzle (pun intended) over. Is it technically correct? Is it wrong? Is it a mistake? Did they mean to do that? Or maybe we're the only ones who stare at opening screens for ten minutes, wondering at the grammatical intent behind the thing. Hmm. Either way, at times the text is a little shaky and unclear, which makes the tutorials both hilarious and somewhat frustrating. Luckily, the games don't take much brain busting to figure out.
Difficulty: This really depends on your ability with the included puzzles. For hardened fans of sudoku and similar games, some of the puzzles in Brain Buster Puzzle Pak won't be much of a challenge. Each class starts out with easy puzzles, and the difficulty ramps up as you move on. For newcomers to the genre, or dabblers, that progression should be just about perfect. Hardcore puzzle fans will roll through the opening puzzles just to get to more difficult fare.
Final verdict: 6.5/10 -- solid, especially at a budget price, but not a standout title
Brain Buster Puzzle Pak has its problems, but none of them are the price. At a mere $19.99 for a big stack of puzzles, a lot can be forgiven. Once you're into it, the rest just sort of fades away.