For this week’s edition of iPhone Gems we look at a series of brain teaser apps ranging simple trivia and quiz apps to iPhone games based on the popular Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune Game shows.
A sequel to last year’s Brain Challenge for iPhone and iPod touch (iLounge rating: B+), Brain Challenge 2: Think Again ($5) builds on the games, puzzles and design of its predecessor, additional additional puzzles and challenges, an improved chart system, and a new visual training set of games. The game is now played entirely in landscape mode, and although it opens by default using a 90-degree counter-clockwise rotation, this can be changed in the game’s preferences.
As with the first version, the game jumps right in with a series of 5 mini-games to get you started. Once you’ve completed these, you’re given a quick evaluation, and can then set up your own custom profile to track your own progress further through the game. Up to four profile slots are available, allowing the game to be shared between four different users and track each user’s progress separately.
The user profiles and their customization options are a new feature in Brain Challenge 2, providing a higher degree of personalization than in the prior version. You can basically build a face for your in-game persona, customizing a number of specific facial features, hair style and colour and clothing colour and style. Afterwards you’re prompted to enter your name, although we found it odd that the SHIFT button was greyed out here, forcing you to enter the name entirely in lower-case.
Once you’ve customized your profile, you can then choose from one of four coaches, although initially only the familiar Prof. Stevens and Dr. Hurley are available, two more coaches become available as your progress further through the game. Once you’ve picked your coach, you’re taken to the main menu and can get started with your daily tests, play quick training games or view your progress charts.
Brain Challenge 2 is a great improvement on Gameloft’s already outstanding original Brain Challenge game, providing all of the challenge and enjoyment of the prior version and considerably more. The graphics, sound and enhanced customizability greatly enhance the in-game experience, and the increased collection of puzzles and challenges gives you a lot more play. Truly our only real complaint with the first version on the iPhone platform was its relatively high price tag, and we’re very happy to see that Gameloft has produced a significantly enhanced and challenging new version at a much more reasonable price. iLounge rating: A-
The Impossible Quiz ($1) by inXile Entertainment is a simple quiz-based brain teaser, but goes behind simple trivia questions to instead try and promote out-of-the-box thinking. Many of the questions are odd or downright insane, and as the instructions indicate, some will require insane logic or come completely down to guessing. You’re allowed up to three wrong answers as you advance through the questions, displayed in the form of “lives” in the game. Get three questions wrong, and the game ends, requiring you to start over again from the beginning.
Many of the questions are presented as simple multiple-choice questions, but even then the answer isn’t always among the choices, often requiring you to look elsewhere on the screen to find the hidden answer to a question.
Other questions or puzzles are little more than simple directions, requiring that you touch or tap the screen in a certain manner in order to continue.
Little guidance is given throughout beyond what you see on the screen, and this is often where the out-of-box thinking will come in to figure out what to do next. As you progress through the questions, you will also be given “skips” which appear as green arrow at the bottom of the screen. You can use these skips to bypass questions that you may not be able to answer, although certain mandatory questions will still come up from time to time.
While we found the first dozen or so questions to be interesting and challenging, as the game progressed further, the questions seemed to become more inane and make less sense. While the game touts its difficulty as being based on leaps of strange logic, some of these questions seemed odd even beyond this approach.
Leaving aside the questions themselves, the biggest issue that we had with The Impossible Quiz is the linear and repetitive nature of the game itself. Three wrong answers requires you to start over completely from scratch, yet all of the questions and answers appear in exactly the same places. By about the fifth time through we found ourselves simply tapping mindlessly through the first dozen or so questions just to get back to continuing where we had left off. This generally defeats the purpose of making the user start over, and the game quickly becomes more boring than challenging as you advance to the higher levels—strike out at the 50th question and you’ll find yourself going through the same 49 questions again just to get back there. Randomly-selected questions or a scoring system would have been a much better design choice here. Ultimately, for its $1 price tag The Impossible Quiz is a fun diversion but don’t expect hours of enjoyment from it; it fits more into the “novelty games” category than anything approaching a serious quiz or puzzle game. iLounge rating: C.
Jeopardy ($5) by Sony Pictures Television brings an official version of the popular television quiz show to the iPhone OS platform. The iPhone version of Jeopardy goes well beyond just being a basic handheld quiz game, providing some nice features that allow you to customize your game experience.
Before jumping into the game, you’re can visit the game’s options screen to set up what your actual contestant looks like, and to add your podium signature, drawn with your finger using the iPhone touch screen.
Once you’ve set up your avatar and profile, you’re ready to play Jeopardy. You can choose from one of three difficulty levels, or choose a single-player mode to practice.
For normal play, you’re brought into the game with two other contestants. The game play progresses much like the live version of Jeopardy, with the only major difference being that the game board contains only three categories rather than the usual six. The categories are announced, and players take turns choosing a question in each category, with a correct answer allowing the player to choose the next question.
Another area in which the iPhone version of Jeopardy diverges from the actual game show is that players are given three possible questions for each answer, rather than simply answering in free form style. As with the game show, however, a correct response wins money and an incorrect response loses money. Players can also simply pass to another player, in which case money is neither lost nor gained.
Other traditional Jeopardy features are also present, such as the Daily Double which allows you to wager a certain amount on the selected question.
After the first round, play moves on to Double Jeopardy, and then Final Jeopardy, where a single category is presented and each player wages some or all of their winnings on the question in that category.
As an officially-licensed version of the actual TV show, the Jeopardy iPhone game is even able to provide authentic theme music from the show, including the well-known them music that plays when users are pondering the Final Jeopardy question. This, combined with an appropriate audience background soundtrack greatly adds to the game play experience.
Final statistics are presented at the end of the game, including the amount earned by each of the other players and the amount you earned in each of the game rounds.
The iPhone version of Jeopardy is well done and remains quite faithful to its namesake. With 360 categories, containing two thousand questions written by the writers of the actual TV game show, there’s more than sufficient material to fill hours of game play, with the only real downside being that the actual format of play may become a little repetitive after a while. Nonetheless, we suspect that fans of the Jeopardy game show and serious quiz games in general will find a lot to like here for its $5 price tag. iLounge rating: B+
Trivia Wars ($1) by Zephyr Creative present a more serious, no-frills game for the trivia enthusiast, with the added bonus of providing the ability to challenge another player over Bluetooth.
The game format is relatively straightforward and will be familiar to players of other online trivia games. The player works through a series of questions with multiple-choice answers with a scoring clock that counts down as answers are removed. The faster the player answers the question, the more points they score for that question.
The game provides advanced options to turn off the auto-removal of answers, choose the time given to answer each question, select the total number of rounds for each game, and the difficulty level of the questions.
The base game includes four categories of questions; General, Entertainment, Sports and Geography, providing thousands of questions for a challenging and interesting trivia game. Four additional categories, Music, World History, Movies and Art & Literature can be added via the in-game purchase feature for an extra $1. Each category can be toggled on or off, allowing players to challenge their skills in one particular category, or exclude categories that don’t particularly interest them.
At the end of each game, your score is shown and added to a high-score table as appropriate. Separate high score tables are kept for each of the different game lengths, and a star is displayed beside the name for scores obtained while playing in advanced difficulty mode.
Trivia Wars provides a detailed set of help screens for the game, covering the various settings and even providing detailed instructions on how to set up two-player mode.
While Trivia Wars lacks some of the eye candy of competing games, it provides a nice clean interface with no extra distractions, keeping its focus on the material itself rather than adding in a whole set of other game play options. For the serious trivia enthusiast, it’s a very solid game with a comprehensive and challenging database of questions to be found even in the base game itself, with a reasonably-priced $1 expansion pack for users looking for even more content. iLounge rating: B.
The last game in today’s roundup is the result of another popular TV game show being brought to the iPhone platform. Wheel of Fortune ($5) by Sony Pictures Television shares a number of features with its counterpart Jeopardy, including the ability to customize the look of your player and choose a single-player practice mode or compete against other computer-generated players.
Two main game modes are available: A normal game which generally follows the format of the TV game show or a Toss-up game suitable for faster game play. In a toss-up game, rather than going through spinning the wheel and guessing at letters, letters are simply revealed automatically and players buzz-in when they think they can solve the puzzle.
The normal game starts with a pair of toss-up rounds to decide who spins first, but then proceeds as a normal game from there with a category shown. As in the TV game show, players spin the wheel, guess letters, earn money for correct guesses based on where the wheel lands, and are provided with the opportunity to buy vowels or solve the puzzle.
To mix up the game and add a few variations to game play, other types of rounds also come up, providing slight twists on the normal game play, such as special spots on the wheel or additional opportunities to earn bonus cash.
When you’ve finished playing through the normal game, you are given the opportunity to move on to the bonus round. As in the real game show, you’re given a clue, an existing set of letters, and can then pick a few letters of your own. The selected letters are revealed and you’re given a fixed amount of time to try and solve the puzzle.
The game also provides trophies that can be unlocked when you reach certain goals, such as completing a certain type of round, achieving a certain score, or hitting a certain spot on the wheel. At the end of the game, a results screen is shown summarizing how you did in each round compared to the other players.
Like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune is a great iPhone version of its real-life counterpart, providing interesting and challenging game play. The more varied nature of the Wheel of Fortune game in general provides some additional challenges that should help to keep the game from feeling too repetitive, and the actual Wheel of Fortune theme music and audience sounds are a great addition. For its $5 asking price, this is a fun game that will appeal to fans of the TV game show and normal puzzle game fans alike. iLounge rating: B+