The portable nature of the Nintendo DS and the feature of a stylus and touchscreen make it a convenient system for pen and paper games. Brain Buster Puzzle Pak makes use of this by giving us a collection of number puzzles. Everyone knows about Sudoku, but Brain Buster also includes lesser known puzzles such as Slitherlink, Nurikabe, Light On, and Kakuro.
If the rest of those puzzles are new to you, don't worry. Each of them comes with a tutorial that teaches you how to play. Not only will the tutorial teach you the rules of the game, but it will also teach you the mechanics of how to actually put answers down such as filling out boxes and connecting lines. Brain Buster is definitely geared towards the casual gamer or even someone who has never picked up a DS in his life.
The puzzles start off easy, but each subsequent puzzle gets more difficult. The ramping up of difficulty is actually pretty solid and definitely makes you feel like you've accomplished something each time you solve a puzzle. Items can also be used in the puzzle to make it easier. While the puzzles are going on, sometimes objects like fish or UFOs fly around the screen. Hitting them with your stylus will let you collect them. After a certain number of items are collected, you can use them to buy hints in the item menu.
Since Brain Buster Puzzle Pack contains five puzzles in all, I'll give brief impressions of each of the puzzles.
Everyone's favorite pencil and paper puzzle. I'm pretty bad at Sudoku, so I was barely able to solve the first couple of puzzles. A nice feature was that if you picked a number, like 7, then all the 7's on the grid gets automatically highlighted, which makes it easy to see what numbers should go where. One drawback to this Sudoku is that there's nowhere to jot down little notes to yourself. When I play on paper, I usually write possible numbers for a grid really small inside the grid. There's no way to do it in the DS version.
I liked the premise of this puzzle: connect the dots to draw a continuous line that ends where it begins with the help of the numbers on the grid. The numbers tell you how many sides of that number will be occupied by lines. What I didn't like about this is that the grid was too small and using the stylus to mark down lines was so inaccurate I got frustrated. Trying to connect dots so close together often resulted in me tapping a different dot I didn't want to connect in the first place.
Using the numbers on the grid as a hint, you place light bulbs on the board. The goal is to illuminate all the spaces on the grid. This is the easiest game of the collection and the most satisfying for that reason. Since each round is so easy, it doesn't take a whole lot of concentration, which means I can play it while waiting in line for something, or keeping an eye out for the bus.
Kakuro is more math oriented, since you have to place numbers on a grid to add up to the guide numbers. The gameplay is pretty straight forward and the difficulty ramps up quickly. This is more of a sit-down, drink tea and concentrate type of puzzle, like a crossword puzzle.
This is my favorite type of puzzle of the pack. It reminds me a little of minesweeper, since you use the numbers on the grid to deduce where to put down blocks. I understood the rules of the game as soon as I went through the tutorial since it's so easy to learn, but like all good puzzles, hard to master. I went through the first ten levels pretty easily, but the rest made me sweat a little.
Other than the clumsiness with the stylus (it's so hard to be accurate with such a small screen), the puzzle pack is a decent addition to any casual gamer's collection. While everyone might have different favorites, it's easy for me to take a few minutes off to play Nurikabe each day and then put it away for next time. I thought that the little tips from the Professor character about playing puzzle games when you boot up the cartridge were a little corny and trying too hard to be Brain Training, but that's easy to ignore and really, everyone would probably just go straight to the puzzles anyway.