Train Your Brain — and Compete with Facebook Friends — on iPhone App BrainBox

Educational games have long been an untapped market. There have been a number of attempts to teach people meaningful information through video games, but more often than not, they have come off as boring. There hasn’t been much beyond Brain Age on the Nintendo DS that truly has hypnotized players since Carmen Sandiego. However, with new media comes new attempts, thus the guys over at Appbird gave it a shot with their iPhone application, BrainBox.

The game is a compilation of six mini-games meant to train your mind on the go. The focus is on mathematics, memory, and vocabulary. When players start it up, they are prompted with a login for Facebook. Seamlessly, BrainBox connects you to your account, and it’s time to play.

Greeted with a bubbly, up-beat tune that sounds like something from the Roaring 20’s, we had high hopes for this title, and dove right into the word games, Wordsort and Worldbuilder. The former is pretty basic, in which players are given a period of time to tap words in alphabetical order. Tap one wrong, and the iPhone vibrates and you move on. The lists become increasingly longer and more complex as you proceed, and at the completion you are given the stats on how many you got correct and your score.

In terms of social elements, these scores can then be posted to your feed, and you are also capable of sending direct challenges to your Facebook buddies. Additionally, the scores are all tracked individually – for each mini-game – and you can see everyone’s ratings, via a leaderboard, for each game as well as everything cumulatively.

As great as the Facebook Connect system is, Wordsort is still a bit boring, so we moved on to Wordbuilder, which consists of a grid of random letters and the task of making as many words as possible. Well, if you are the voluble type, this is actually kind of fun, but the game tends to squawk at you whenever you use some plural forms. Visually, it is about the same as a giant calculator pad, only with letters.

Speaking of calculation, the two math games were about the same level. Fastmath is solving simple, elementary equations as quickly as possible and Fifteen is to line up numbers sequentially (again, quickly). Truth be told, these are fantastic for learning basic math, and not a bad thing to have around, if you have kids. But it feels a bit bland for adults.

The last two games are Sequence and Sudoku. Sequence is a memory game where you have a few seconds to memorize where randomly place letters or numbers are and tap where they were in the correct order. This one is actually extremely challenging, but once you get to around seven to nine letters/numbers, it is literally impossible for the average human being to remember it. Short term memory just doesn’t remember that much. Sure, you could write it down, but doesn’t that sort of defeat the point?

Sudoku, however, was actually a lot of fun. Oddly enough, Appbird assumes that everyone knows how to play Sudoku, and no directions are given beyond choosing a difficulty level. For those unfamiliar, the basic premise to the game is that players are given an 9×9 grid, divided into 3×3 grids called “regions.” The idea is to fill each region with numbers 1 – 9. However, some numbers are already filled in and you cannot place the same number more than once in any row, column, or region.

What made Sudoku fun, however, was that it was actually a game. Everything else in BrainBox is more or less the same as a text book. There is no style or flair to the app, and nothing really to attract the player and keep them interested like in Playfish’s Who Has The Biggest Brain? or wooga’s Brain Buddies. Granted, it is a fantastic application for training your brain, but it is hardly worth the $2.00 if you’re looking for something entertaining.