A recent study at an Iowa University in the USA showed that challenging yourself by playing a brain-teasing game for just two hours a week could slow down the mental decay associated with ageing. Now, if you have played the two previous games found in the Active Neurons series you would already be doing pretty good in keeping the old grey matter healthy. But with Active Neurons 3 – Wonders Of The World you should be prepared to be as bright as a spark well into your latter years.
Active Neurons 3 is the third game in what has probably been the quickest released game trilogy in the history of video games, what with both Active Neurons and Active Neurons 2 having only released in the last 10 months. But the key here is that the developer Nikolai Usachev and the porting team at Sometimes You don’t muck around too much with what works well for these games. That is of course brain-teasing problems; brain-teasing problems that are relaxing to play and impossible to put down.
For those who haven’t played the previous entries, Active Neurons basically focuses on a 2D maze. Your job is to take control of a white square and get that square to an exit point in the maze. The only problem is that you can only initially move that square horizontally and vertically in any direction, and once you hit the go button, the square won’t stop moving until it comes in to contact with something like a wall, or barrier, or something that might blow it up.
The gameplay therefore revolves around carefully planning out the route needed in your head and then executing it. But even then it’s not simple and you might make a wrong turn and put your square into danger, hitting it against a red block in which case it is instantly killed. Other sadder moments come about when you just put your little square into an endless loop, stuck moving backward and forwards with no way out. The good news is that there are a few things to help you in this quest. One in my opinion is great, and the other is a bit naughty.
The first option to help us is the ability to go back one move, rewinding one move at a time so you can try to replay the error back. This is great if you get stuck in a loop that traps your little square. There is also the option to restart your progress back to the beginning if needed. The second option is that which reveals the whole solution on how to complete the puzzles. Here the game shows you one possible walkthrough of the level. The problem I have with this feature is that it’s too damn tempting to use. Whereby normally when you get stuck it takes a while before you eventually give up and get out your laptop or phone to look for a walkthrough, with Active Neurons 3 you have the temptation too easily at hand with unlimited usage. Some will love this, and it’s certainly helpful at times, but I’m not so sure on the unlimited nature of use.
Active Neurons 3 introduces you to new dangers and aids throughout the levels. You have teleportation devices, codes to crack, a mirrored block that will kill you, and the ability to swap between two different squares in a playthrough. There are 14 chapters in total with 10 levels within each, and that is certainly plenty of puzzle to be getting on with. After you finish a chapter you unlock a wonder of the world – hence the long-winded name this comes with – which is split into ancient wonders and modern ones. I like this nice touch and it’s a pleasant way to tack on a reward system.
The visuals are all very simple but are extremely pleasant on the eye. The design, colours, and maps give you a sense of ease and wellness with the world, and I especially like the extra details in the wonders, and in the small cutscenes at the beginning of the game. The soundtrack is once again excellent throughout too, delivering a brilliant selection of chill-out tunes that wouldn’t feel out of place on a packed beach in Ibiza. A packed beach some time around 2004.
If you have loved the previous two games in the Active Neurons series then you can’t put a foot wrong With Active Neurons 3 – Wonders Of The World on Xbox. It may feel a bit like a piece of DLC rather than a new imagining of the series, but that’s fine for the cheap price and offer of a host of extra levels. The wonders of the world theme, visuals, sound, and design are excellent, and even though I don’t personally like the inclusion and temptation of the solution being on tap, and a bit of a change in the gameplay towards the latter levels would have been great, yet if you need to give your brain a workout then you can’t go wrong with Active Neurons 3 – Wonders Of The World.