Buzz!: Brain Bender for PSP represents a change in direction for the Buzz! series. You'll find no general knowledge questions here; observation, memory, analysis and calculation are put to the test in 12 challenges against the clock.
The four observation games require a keen eye for detail. In Shape Spotter, for example, you have to identify an object from a silhouette and you are given up to four choices, each mapped to one of the PSP system's action buttons. Things start relatively simple, with only one shape to spot and two options to choose from, and before long it gets far more taxing as you have to spot multiple shapes that are moving around the screen.
Memory games test your ability to remember shapes and numbers, such as in Puzzle Pieces, where you are shown a jigsaw puzzle and then a piece is removed, and you have to choose which one to slot back in. Again, what seems straightforward soon becomes devilishly difficult as the number of pieces increases.
Analysis games, such as Path Finder, where you have a choice of up to four characters on each side of a maze and have to select which one has a clear path to the centre, require quick deductions from the information provided and strong logic. Calculation games are more maths based, such as Blot Swot, where you have to identify the missing number or mathematical symbol in a given equation.
While the problems in games range from very easy to extremely tough - especially on the hard setting - Buzz!: Brain Bender's real challenge is in the countdown timer. Completing games against the clock introduces tension, especially if you're gunning for a high score and one of the game's bronze, silver or gold medals. Quick fingers are just as important as quick wits.
One of the game's nicest features is the ability to track your progress on a graph. In Training mode, you can access any of the games and play them at your own pace. All of your scores are recorded so you can chart your improvement and get an idea of which of the four areas is your strongest. You can also take a Test, in which you'll be assigned random games and given an overall score at the end. If you win enough medals in Training mode, you unlock a series of challenges which range from completing all analysis games to solving as many observation problems as you can in 20 seconds.
These challenges build on Buzz!: Brain Bender's greatest strength - quick, fun gameplay that is perfectly suited to PSP. The longest challenge takes four minutes, so you can squeeze in a few games whenever you're waiting for a bus or a train, and the broad spectrum of difficulty and emphasis on improvement as opposed to beating high scores mean it's suitable for all ages.
Expect to see plenty of PSP owners scratching their heads when Buzz!: Brain Bender comes out in November 2008.