Something that causes your brain to rapidly heat up doesn't really sound like a good thing, does it? When we initially heard about Hot Brain, our first thoughts were of monkey viruses and microwaves. So it was with some trepidation that we picked up the latest game claiming to increase intelligence through the power of minigames. Fortunately, despite the worrisome title, Hot Brain turned out to be totally innocuous (whew). Unfortunately, like so many other games trying to cash in on the brain training fad, "innocuous" is pretty much the most complimentary adjective we can muster up for it.
Above: Resist the urge to take a crayon to your PSP
Hot Brain tests skills in five areas: Logic, Concentration, Memory, Math, and Language. All games are timed, and can be grouped into one of two categories: games where the clock continually runs as each question is asked, and games where the clock pauses while the question is being asked.
Minigames that allow you to think as the question is being asked (like Cruise Ship, where you need to watch a long animation to answer the question) can usually be answered in a split second, making it easy to answer 40-something questions in 20 seconds. Answering this many questions is much more difficult in games where the clock continually runs (like Equation Sensation, where you have to fill in a missing the missing mathematical sign, like plus or minus). Because of this, scores often seem artificially skewed toward whichever set of questions lets you think before answering the question.
Another problem is that many games suffer from a small pool of questions, which is especially apparent in games like Spelling Bee, where you're quizzed on the same small group of words over and over. Even if you can't spell worth crap, you'll quickly memorize the correct answers after being asked about the same 20 words repeatedly. Because of this, and the problems with the timed questions above, the test results always seem inaccurate.
It really doesn't feel like Hot Brain is actually doing anything beneficial for your brain, and since the minigames aren't that fun on their own, what's the point? Some minigames even seem like rip-offs, like Cruise Ship, in which you keep track of stick figures entering and exiting a boat. It's a direct rip-off of Brain Age's Head Count, except with a boat instead of a house. At least Hot Brain did take one good cue from Brain Age, as it tracks your progress over time, which is more than can be said for some other lackluster brain games. You'll get at least some satisfaction from seeing your gradual progress over time... until you remember that it just means you're getting better at playing so-so minigames.