Seems like everyone wants to train their brain these days, and game developers are more than happy to pump out titles promising to test and increase your mental capacity. PQ2: Practical Intelligence Quotient 2 is the latest brain game made with the input of an "expert," in this case Professor Masuo Koyasu of Japan's Kyoto University. But when it really comes down to it, whether or not the game can actually measure the player's intelligence is secondary to whether or not the game is any fun, right? Luckily, PQ2 delivers the fun in a sleek little handheld package that will at least make you feel
The tests of PQ2 are essentially obstacle courses, divided into five areas:
- 100-Puzzle Test: This monster of a test gives you five hours to solve 100 puzzles. It's quite a commitment, but you'll have a real feeling of accomplishment if you make it through.
- Quick Test: Quicker than the 100-Puzzle Test, but still not necessarily "quick," this mode sends five random puzzles at you to be completed within 10 minutes.
- Theme Tests: One of the coolest modes of PQ2, these tests are divided into categories such as single-move puzzles or trap-filled areas.
- Weekly Test: Extending the game's lasting appeal, players can download weekly new tests from the internet.
- User Puzzles: A puzzle editor allows players to create their own tests and share them over the network.
Each puzzle is a 3D environment that requires players to navigate their avatar from a starting point to the goal, while avoiding traps and rearranging obstacles along the way. Scenarios run the gamut from the very simple to the frustratingly hard. It should be noted that PQ2 is a pretty difficult game. While many brain training games are aimed at a wide, casual audience, PQ2 is for serious thinkers. Some of these puzzles will have you curled up in a fetal position before they're done with you. Of course, that makes it all the more satisfying when you finally solve them. When you make it through a test you'll be awarded your PQ score, or Practical Intelligence Quotient. The game tracks your stats over time and lets you know when you improve. You can also upload your score to the leaderboards to compare your brain size with other gamers.
One drawback of the game is that there isn't a way to play just one puzzle at a time. There are 250+ puzzles included in PQ2, and you can only play them in groups. The shortest group is a five-minute test, the single-move theme, but even that consists of ten puzzles. A handheld game should be able to provide quick bursts of gameplay, but PQ2 is really designed for the long haul. Load times, while pretty average by PSP standards, also add to a lengthy experience.
Players may find themselves wrestling with the camera now and then. You can use the analog nub to rotate and get a view of your surroundings, but you're working against time and the camera is a little slow and clunky. The left and right triggers will snap your viewpoint 90 degrees in either direction, but that doesn't always give you the view you need. In fact, as the areas become more complex, you'll find it increasingly difficult to get a good survey of the land. This doesn't ruin the experience, but it should be noted that the camera is not one of the areas in which PQ2 excels.
The game has a minimal look to it that is nonetheless stylish. Bells and whistles are stripped away so that the 3D challenges take center stage. There isn't any variation as you move through the game: the color scheme on the first puzzle you try will be the same as the 250th puzzle. For what PQ2 is, though, this isn't a problem. In fact, the uniformity will help you make sense of the more difficult areas. Your mind will have to think in several different ways at once for some of these puzzles, and you don't need any graphical flash getting in its way.
PQ2's music is above-average electronica, which varies from ambient soundscapes to downtempo to upbeat techno. By the end of the five hour 100-Puzzle Test you might not want to ever hear it again, but for the most part, it's a refreshing videogame soundtrack.
Adding the Weekly Tests and the ability to download user-created puzzles was a smart move on developer Now Production's part and answers some of the criticisms of the original PQ. The first outing didn't offer much past its 100 puzzles. With over 150 more challenges than the first game plus official trials being added weekly and the ability to create and share custom puzzles, PQ2 should keep your mind busy for some time.
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