Otaku USA Magazine
Mind Games

Wither be the man who sees,
Nothing b’yond the cracked-root trees,
For o’er their boughs and und’r the seas,
He’ll find phantastic mysteries.

In case you were wondering, that is indeed a poem that I composed myself, many years ago. It came to me in a dream; a dream filled with puzzles and constructs of the mind that wowed and dazzled (but did not outwit) me. Where lollipops asked me to guess their age. Where The Sphinx ripped his feet from their bricked rooting and danced a quizzical dance. Where I reigned supreme as the benevolent but challenging Chancellor of Chance!

And then I woke up, once again plunged into a world full of absolute nincompoopery. Before me awaited a pile of videocassette games that had within them only one impossible desire • to trick me! To carve a fool’s face in my pole of totem! Well, let me tell you, dear reader, all about these games that I held high above my head in pursuit of a prize in puzzling pugilism.

Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day
Platform: Nintendo DS
Outwit Ranking: 1

This doctor must surely have a few screws loose if he thinks it possible to rip my mind so asunder. Dr. Kawashima, floating before my eyes a disembodied head in which a purportedly proud mind rests, has asked me many a trifling question, none of which managed to pierce even the outermost layer of my cerebellum!

After all of my troubles, I was told that the “age•bCrLf of my brain was 90. Gosh, It seems it is true, indeed: with great age comes greater wisdom, and this fact could only bode well for my intellect as a whole. Though I admit I did not feel intelligent after toying with the “good doctor’s•bCrLf twisted mathematical inquiries and outdated word problems, it goes to show that, even at my most base level of effort, I can outwit the electronic brain of this dual-screened robot any day! The only thing I found here that truly “trained my brain•bCrLf was the pronunciation of its original Japanese title: Touhoku Daigaku Mirai Kagaku Gijutsu Kyodou Kenkyuu Center Kawashima Ryuta Kyoujuu Kanhuu Motto Nou wo Kitaeru Otona no DS Training. Wow!

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Platform: Nintendo DS
Outwit Ranking: 1

It is no wonder that the streets are rife with villains and daily crookery. With a justice system as silly as this one, perhaps it is true that the enemy lies within our very walls! Were I able to scream more than a handful of phrases into my Nintendo portable, I would surely rock the gavel from •pon its stand with my cries of foul lies and under-oath hypocrisy! I do find this ever so funny: it seemed the more time I spent attempting to solve outrageous cases with the young and spunky title role rube, the more my brain began to spin and whirl into the vortex of lunacy this world’s denizens decree to be logic.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the horrific and haphazard head of hair deemed presentable in Capcom’s court of law. Though his predecessor Phoenix Wright did don a dubious •do, Mr. Justice’s spiked style seems better suited for telling the time of day, an insult to the most honorable judge!

Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Platform: Nintendo DS
Outwit Ranking: 1

I have often found that the only true “curious village•bCrLf is that of the human mind, and Nintendo’s latest escapade through a world of crude puzzles only serves to prove my theory. In this very village, I found citizen after citizen refusing to allow my stroll to be anything more than mildly merry.

I was asked to count matches, to aid sheep and wolf alike in the crossing of a river wild, and to essentially help each loafing lad do the homework assigned to him that day. I confess that I failed a couple of times on purpose, if only to fulfill my wish that their teachers may overflow their papers with red markings on the following morn. If there is anything that managed to outwit my person throughout this less than perilous journey, it was the amply accented tongues of the villagers and, strongest of all, my tiny companion, Luke. So captivated was I by his eagerness—perhaps viewed as a reflection of myself in grade school— that I steadfastly composed a longing letter to his voice actor, whose name, for purposes selfish, I will keep to myself!

Poker Smash
Xbox 360 (Live Arcade)
Outwit Ranking: 4

Agh! I feel weakened even as I type this. Though I fancy myself a limber cat on a tin roof when it comes to block and shape-based puzzling games, this title has thrown in, quite literally, a wild card!

I do not mind matching colors. I do not mind the rotating of abstract shapes squeezed to a perfect fit. However, I do mind Poker, foulest of the brute “sports•bCrLf! There is a reason that many experienced players choose to wear sunglasses as they play, and that reason is shame. I felt this exact sensation as I attempted to combine suits that would reap the greatest spoils. I do not understand the appeal of cards that have powerful royalty as their faces, but no statistics list anywhere to be found. What power level is this King? How much does it cost to summon “The Joker•bCrLf?

The lowest point of my evening with Poker Smash came in the form of my online rivals. If my mother did hear the foul curses streaming from my headset, why, the seething disappointment would be a palpable platter!

Platinum Sudoku
Platform: Nintendo DS
Outwit Ranking: 0

Any one person who claims to know me at all must first answer this question, just as a troll would bark riddles at travelers before allowing them to cross his bridge: Have I completely mastered the art of Sudoku?

As much as it pains me to give away an answer such as this, the boastful side of my brain cannot resist. The answer is • yes! Therefore, I found little challenge in this collection of my most beloved pastime. I eventually began refusing to continue, pushing my gaming machine away with one hand, just as one would a bowl of porridge that was either too hot or too cold to the tongue.

This is where I present a challenge to developers of electronic media. I do dare you to stump me in the game of Sudoku. I do dare you to pick up this tattered gauntlet and thrust it at my face, replacing its stitchings with a line of numbers perpendicular to one another. The odds of my emerging victorious from the fabric of this figurative finger-piece remain as high as ever!

Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship 2008
Platform: Nintendo DS
Outwit Ranking: 8

The last stop on my jubilant journey is a bold but bittersweet bouquet. My love for all things Yu-Gi-Oh remains a secret to no man, woman, or child. Since its very creation, I have stayed along its side, cheering every plot twist of the serialized manga and anime, and jeering at every opponent that would face me in my college cafeteria’s Duel Club.

However, I simply cannot grasp the game’s many unique facets on a video plane. The digitized versions of the cards I so adore are but crude replicas, even if my computerized, artificially intelligent opponents could hold no candle to my skill in a real world arena. I quickly bowed out of the challenge presented unto me, and retired humbly to my club’s more tangible arena, where I remain the number one seed in our upcoming tournament.

I hope you are all satisfied with my proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that man can forever be a proud champion over the far inferior machine. I will end this story as I started it, with poetry of my own doing!

Whate’er attempts a man’s outwitting,
Wilt merely serve to annoy.
For the monsters man hath creat’d,
So, too, may he destroy.

[Excerpted from the June 2008 issue of Otaku USA magazine]