BrainTaire Review

Lose Your Marbles…

Now there’s no shortage of retro games on iPhone, but I’d hazard a guess none more so than Laddha Inc’s latest, BrainTaire. A variation on Solitaire, played with marbles on a wooden board, this deceptively simple sounding distraction has been a firm favorite of gamers since as far back as the 17th Century!

Which kind of makes PacMan look like a spring chicken, eh?

But does this laid-back and unabashedly old-fashioned approach to gaming still cut it when near console standard shooters and sprawling RPGs are becoming increasingly commonplace on the iPlatform? Well, yes and no. As with their last effort, PenTacToe, Laddha seem more concerned with putting a unique spin on a classic game and providing the player with a meaty cerebral challenge, than with spending time on creating pretty graphics, slick menus, or coming up with a charming theme for their game. This means those who like their puzzlers cute and colorful, will likely be unimpressed with BrainTaire’s bland game board and functional visual style.

However, if you’re willing to look past the under-polished presentation, a thoroughly enjoyable and über-challenging little brainteaser awaits.

At the outset, the lack of a tutorial or any explanation of the controls is a bit disorientating, and results in a few moments of frustrated tapping and swiping as you try to figure out how the hell you’re meant to move marbles around the board. Then the penny drops (or you pay a visit to our forums), and realize the game’s control scheme is in fact wonderfully simple and well implemented.

Tapping on a marble highlights that piece, another tap on an empty slot makes your marble  “jump,” thus removing the marble you’ve hopped over from play. You continue in this manner until all the marbles bar one have been cleared…which, of course, isn’t as easy as it might sound. On the contrary, BrainTaire will truly test your gaming mettle, and requires patience and strategy to master.

Beyond this initial style of play (classic Solitaire), there are also additional levels available from the App Store, which each put a decidedly different spin on the formula, and actually feel more like standalone games in their own right. It really is amazing the impact an extra empty slot or two can have on how the whole game plays out, believe me!

All in all, Braintaire provides a much more sophisticated and compelling gameplay experience than the screenshots and simple concept perhaps suggest. While the ability to listen to your own music library as you play is a nice touch. If you’re looking for a truly authentic experience, allow me to recommend an opera set in the baroque standard, also all the rage in the 17th Century don’t you know. That said, Justin Bieber might work too…

Don’t forget the lovely folks at Laddha Inc. are offering iFanzine readers the chance to win $100 worth of iTunes Gift Cards simply by playing BrainTaire. Full details here.

iFanzine Verdict: BrainTaire looks a little rough around the edges, but don’t let that put you off. There’s honestly nothing amateurish about the fiendishly addictive gameplay, diverse selection of levels/modes, and brainteasing challenges on offer here. Recommended for gamers who like to give the old gray matter a workout every now and then.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]