Smart As appeals to your egotistical side. The PlayStation Vita puzzler is rewarding, challenging, and supremely satisfying – but the game’s key ingredient is the way in which it provides real-time information on your achievements compared to other players.
Whether it's your friends, co-workers, neighbours, or even strangers – beating them at any one of the head-scratchers that make up the experience is exhilarating. World leaderboards and Near challenges – specific to locations with their own local leaderboards – invite you on a quest to dominate the globe with your own intellect. Meanwhile, loading screens provide further insight into your performance by detailing how you rank against others based on age, gender, country, and more. You’ll certainly feel compelled to keep solving puzzles, as you climb the leaderboards and improve every day.
This daily compulsion is paramount to Smart As too, because it boasts a very similar progression to Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training. In fact, it would be fair to say that Smart As is Sony’s version of Brain Training. The game’s all about testing the areas of your brain that are responsible for logic, language, arithmetic, and more. To do this, the title introduces a series of daily sessions that include a range of mental exercises. These can be enjoyed as standalone mini-games if you prefer. The problem with the structure, however, is that the puzzles need to be individually unlocked over a prolonged period of time – so it takes a considerable commitment before you’ll discover everything the experience has to offer.
Fortunately, the puzzles are enjoyable once you do unlock them. Examples include remembering a series of items shown to you, finishing incomplete sums, and much more. Sometimes you'll have to connect two dots without crossing lines, or manipulate a game board so a piece following a designated path can reach its target. The game will also find you comparing figures and calculations to determine if they are greater or lower in value, and tilting the console to roll two blocks into their intended goals. The puzzles are devious, but enjoyable – and they really do test your mental prowess. Better yet, each mini-game takes about a minute to complete, making the title a perfect candidate for short sessions.
Technologically the game is stellar as well, due to a minimalistic aesthetic and some extremely responsive touch controls. The title boasts a fairly decent letter and number recognition tool, which comes in handy when you’re asked to paint characters and digits onto the screen. Additionally, detailed explanations ensure that your own personal intellect is the only barrier between solving each puzzle.
Meanwhile, the game eschews any presentation criticisms by including John Cleese as its narrator. The Monty Python man will praise you when you’re winning, and berate you when you fail – creating a comforting audio experience similar to Stephen Fry in LittleBigPlanet.
Smart As offers an enjoyable mental workout, which is complemented by some outstanding connectivity features. It’s a shame that so much of its content has to be unlocked, but what’s included is fun and thoughtfully designed. If you’ve been searching for a way to train your brain on the Vita, then look no further.