Brain Train Unotan for IPhone

SoftBank Selection makes a brainteasing game that's extremely popular in Japan, so it figures the company would see if it can capture some of that same success on the iPhone. Brain Training Unotan is a series of brainteaser mini games that aims to develop and entertain your noggin. I can't attest to the former, but Unotan has surprising success with the latter.

Unotan's menus feature three categories of brainteasers--Memory, Concentration, and Intuition--with five games in each category. The distinction between the three categories is perhaps lost in translation. The "Remember sequence" test, for example, appears in the concentration category but not the memory category.d--

The games are a mix of common problem-solving tests, IQ test questions, and memory tests that become increasingly difficult as time ticks down. Each game has an easy-to-read icon, name, score, and a handy description tab that will explain how each game is played. When you start a game, you'll see a small timer in the corner that indicates how much time you have left in the given test. Unotan awards you points for completing the assigned tasks quickly and without making mistakes.

When the app gives your score at the end, a cartoonish scientist appears to tell you how much your brain is developed for a particular test--"100%" indicates a top score. An animated cherry blossom blooms to indicate how well you've done. While adorable, cherry blossoms are a highly symbolic image in Japanese culture, usually linked to mortality. So why the Japanese developers selected it to indicate victory is curious to say the least.

The games will keep you hooked for as long as your competitive nature demands. You'll want to get the highest score possible and be awarded with the coveted "100% developed" designation on any given test. Unfortunately, you can't share your scores with friends or post the scores on any form of online standing board--two features that would surely enhance replayability.

Some games are more challenging than others. You may be really good at recognizing matching images and identifying quickly the given shape's match in a group of others. But maybe your brain isn't wired to remember faces so quickly, or you have difficulty adding small sums as fast as possible. I personally found counting moving dots extremely hard.

I admit to being disinclined toward liking a game with so many memory tests and the predictable "find a match" test. But I found myself struggling at tasks I never conceived would be difficult--being able to give a snap judgment on how many dots I see or remembering a particularly fast-moving sequence flashed before me. I grew frustrated by some of the games, which kept me playing, and now I've kept Unotan on my iPhone for a little longer than I previously planned.

While you'll likely drop the app from your iPhone or iPod touch after you've gotten perfect scores on all the tests, Unotan is still a great casual offering. Though it has no save feature, the two-minute games are perfect for bus rides or quick play sessions.

[Consider assistant editor Chris Holt's brain sufficiently trained.]

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