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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Pocket pleasers hit the spot
The BBC's Neil McGreevy takes a look at some of the latest portable offerings for the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS.

DR KAWASHIMA'S BRAIN TRAINING (DS)

Dr Kawashima's brain training screenshot
Brain Training is a portable gym for your grey matter
Doctor Kawashima's brain training has taken Japan by storm with its medley of simple touchscreen tasks designed to tone your thought pecs.

Born from the scribblings of eminent neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima, who argues that activities like reading aloud, solving simple maths problems and memorising stuff help increase blood flow to your brain, the title has shifted 2.4 million copies in its home country.

The daily gaming regime tasks players with an increasing number of challenges that use the DS's unique hardware for handwriting and speech recognition to improve your smarts.

From joining the dots to reading lofty literary passages, Brain Training simply chucks task after task at players, which does get repetitive after weeks of play.

But as it is more of a bullworker for the brain than a proper game you cannot really complain, especially when you are intellectually transformed from Steven Seagal to Stephen Hawking.

Fans of Sudoku will also find 1,000 of the number-crunching puzzlers included.

Although different enough to be well worth a look, Brain Training is rather like paying for the privilege of sitting an exam again.

VIEWTIFUL JOE: RED HOT RUMBLE (PSP)

Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble screenshot
Viewtiful Joe offers frantic action and visual trickery
In this portable port of the chaotic Gamecube combat fest, a healthy dollop of Japanese quirkiness sees the titular Joe battling for leading man status in an upcoming brawler by knocking seven shades out of opponents made up largely of characters from previous Viewtiful titles.

These button-mashing vignettes take the form of various free-for-alls within miniscule arenas. And boy does it look good.

The sheer amount of cel-shaded visual trickery going on at any given moment is incredible, while the pumping techno speaker-fodder gets the adrenaline going.

With so much happening, gameplay becomes little more than mindless button-abuse as you struggle to even keep up with where your character is on-screen.

Ultimately this is a technical marvel. But unless you have the metabolism of a speed-addicted hummingbird dipped in Red Bull, you will never keep up with the candy-coloured chaos.

APE ESCAPE: ON THE LOOSE (PSP)

Ape Escape: On the Loose screenshot
Time to bag another cheeky monkey
Our closest relative from the animal kingdom has starred in many a decent game, not least Sony's perennial Ape Escape franchise.

This 3D platformer involves sneaking up on more than 200 super-smart simians, cracking them over the head with a club, then bagging the cheeky monkeys.

Being little more than a port of the original games, it is hardly ground-breaking. Yet bagging those damn dirty apes is as addictive as ever.

While fans of the PlayStation outings will miss the second analogue stick, this has all of the charm of the original, miniaturised into a title that is surprisingly well-suited to gaming on the go.

The graphics hardly push Sony's portable powerhouse, looking more like PSOne fodder at times, while camera issues continue to mar the series.

But all-in-all, this is a quality slice of monkey business.




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