My friend, Carmen, asked me an odd question the other day.
"Have you played any brain training games on your iPhone?"
You may not think that question is so odd given that I go through a lot of apps in my weekly quest to fill this column with stuff you'd want to read about, but you'd have to know my friend.
Carmen loves her iPhone 4S, but she seldom plays games on it. She's not much of a game player to begin with, but iPhone games just never caught her interest. She's tried a few, mostly word or puzzle games. She travels a lot so you'd think she would gravitate towards something that might help her kill time while waiting in airports, but nothing seemed to stick.
So imagine my surprise when she told me about a game that she's hooked on. (Hooked!) It's called 94 Seconds and now I'm hooked too.
In this game your answer as many questions as you can about various subjects in 94 seconds, hence the name of the game. 94 seconds seems like such an odd (though even) number to set a limit to. Why not 90 or 120?
I dunno, but I don't care either because I'm having too much fun. So much fun that I've told some of my other friends about it. Now Mike, Teresa, Karen, and Geoff are hooked.
All of which brings me back to Carmen's question. My answer was no, I hadn't played a lot of brain training games, but her question and my apparent addiction to 94 Seconds got me wondering if I'd overlooked the brain trainer/teaser genre altogether.
As you might imagine, there are a zillion teaser/trainer games for iOS and weeding through them all would require the exclusive use of IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer for a good week or two to be able to tell you with any real confidence which ones are any good. So, I cheated. I grabbed the first two that were free and had ratings higher than 4 stars in the Apps Store and tried them out. I got lucky, because both apps I picked are pretty good.
So, this week I'm going to fill you in on one app I know a lot about (94 Seconds) and two that I've only just begun to poke at. So please forgive any errors or omissions.
94 Seconds [25.3MB, iPhone 3Gs or newer, iPod Touch 3 gen or newer, iPad, iOS 5.0 or later, Developer: SCIMOB]
This is the game an increasing number of my friends are hooked on, and it's easy to see why. It's fast paced, easy to learn, and challenging.
Answer as many questions as you can in 94 seconds and get a score. Try to get a better score the next round. The questions are deceptively simple, but the challenge is to give an answer that begins with the letter provided. For instance, you may be asked to respond with the name of a fruit that starts with the letter 'N'. You can likely come up with a few given a couple of seconds, but remember that you only have 94 seconds an you have to type your answers in.
Carpenter, Caretaker, Craftsman...
To aid (sometimes) in the task, the game will auto expand an obvious word, but be careful because the auto-expand sometimes gets it wrong. The game also gives you points if you approximate the spelling. For instance, it may give you a point if you answered "necktarin" for "nectarine". How it decides what's close enough is magic and not always forgiving.
Not bad, but it could be a lot better
There are also four "Jokers", helpers that you can use to keep things moving. Some help with answers while others delay the time a bit. Pretty soon you'll find a strategy to help you get higher scores and you'll be hooked like me. There are ads, which are annoying and distracting. Two bucks kills them. You'll spend it.
Clockwork Brain [81.2MB, all iOS devices, iOS 4.3 or later, Developer: A. & D. Bendilas O.E.]
This is likely the most "brain trainer" of the three apps. The free version lets you play a series of 4 challenges, each are timed and you have to give as many answers as possible in the time allotted. It's a nice mix of activities too that test memory, association, and pattern recognition. They are all easy to learn and fun.
One of the 4 free challenges
The faster you go the more challenging it becomes. For instance, in one challenge you are required to find a matching anagram for the word that's displayed. It starts with a four letter word, then increases to five, then six letters and the number of choices to pick from increases as well, making it tougher to find the right answer quickly.
Get a score and go back for more
At the end of the session your score for each challenge is tallied and combine for a total score you get points for how well you did. Get enough points and you can unlock other areas of the game.
I like the steampunk theme and how the app is laid out. I'm also a fan of the way it mixes things up a bit with the challenges. There's no power-ups or strategy to learn, it's just your wits against time and the machine.
There are no ads in Clockwork Brain, but you can buy expansion packs that get you more challenges.
This is a keeper.
Chain of Thought [27.6MB, all iOS devices, iOS 4.3 or later, Developer: Jay Bascal]
This one's a bit different. You start with a key word and a pool of words to pick from. The challenge is to find a word that combines with the key word to form a new common word or phrase. You then do the same for the word you picked, forming a chain of words that uses up all the words in the pool and completes the puzzle.
For instance, the key word may be "make" and the correct word from the pool might be "shift," to form "makeshift". The next correct word from the pool might be "work" to form "shift work," and so on.
There's only one correct answer to each puzzle and you have to complete it as quickly as you can. The faster you are the higher your score.
Not bad for a first timer
I like this because it provides a challenge the other two mentioned apps don't have. There are five session per round and your total score is calculated by how fast you were versus how many errors you made.
Chain of Thought is a good time. Definitely one for you to check out.
And that's a wrap for this week.
Also grab Little Things Forever, this week's Free App of the Week. Great game!