A rising trend in gaming is the genre becoming known as "brain training games." These titles are credited with making you smarter, and games like Brain Training for the Nintendo DS have become big hits overseas. So it's intriguing to see D3 Publisher's latest release, PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient, which promises to test your intelligence in a unique series of logic puzzles. It's a cool concept, and a different approach for a game, but in the end, taking tests just isn't very fun.
PQ has been developed based on the ideas of Dr. Masuo Koyasu, Professor of Psychology at Kyoto University. Dr. Koyasu has developed his own version of the modularity theory of intelligence. Roughly speaking, the developers of PQ, Now Production Co., have embedded Dr. Koyasu's riff on the classic "seven intelligences" model for human intelligence. The future of human intelligence tests is, apparently, videogames, and Dr. Koyasu has verified PQ's grading system for accuracy.
Of course, accuracy is only worthwhile insofar as the conclusion is legitimate. It's hard to fully buy into PQ as a true test of intellect, especially once one begins to actually play the game. Each level is a question, and there are 100 of them. Little to no direction is given: The player controls an avatar placed in a room with obstacles, dangers and limited abilities. By moving boxes, avoiding lasers and sneaking behind guards, the player must traverse each room to reach the exit.
The graphics are a funky VR styled retro-cool. This approach makes PQ feel different, but in the end the aesthetic also reminds me of Metal Gear Solid's VR Missions, which offer much more variety and enjoyment in terms of gameplay. Add in an often wonky camera, and the pressure of trying to solve each puzzle as quickly as possible, and you have yourself one frustrating 3D platform/puzzle game hybrid that wants to tell you how dumb you are.
In the end, PQ is long and, before the end, it's frustrating and relies on hack gameplay elements that don't make it feel like a very "smart" title. The opening levels are enjoyable enough, but after you're introduced to the basic tropes of the game, the play turns to a grind. The payoff at the end is not worth it, in spite of the fact that you can upload your scores to an online leaderboards. Leaderboards are meaningless if you don't know anyone on the list, and it would be mean to convince any of your friends to play PQ just to compare scores.
I love the idea of the "brain training" games, but I've realized that there is a potential dark side, and that dark side is probably PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient. Gamers love to be evaluated, but taking a test is no fun. If you lust for platform/puzzle action in an "escape the room" mode, look for the recently-released PSP title, Exit. If you seek out a brainy gameplay experience, check out the Brain Training titles, which feature much more varied gameplay and are actually designed for playing rather than testing.