Have you got a photographic memory? If you haven't, skip this straight away, 'cos Brain Blasters is aptly named, pulping your little grey cells into a consomme with its infuriating blend of arcade action, vicious time limits, ultra-quick-thinking and horrible, horrible memory tests.
The plot is typically French - that is, almost entirely notional and extremely daft. You are leading a team of magician types and your aim, as you battle against either the computer or other players, is to amass enough gold to make it to a final challenge with arch-mystic lozu - but whether you actually get that far is another matter...
The first stage of the game is the Memory Quest, 25 successively harder memory tests. Pass them all and you collect a magic ball, which you need when you tackle lozu. At the start of each round, you face a five-by-five grid with a number of tiles on it. In 60 seconds you must memorise the colours, shapes and positions of these tiles, then use your little on-screen figure to collect the tiles that fall from the sky, run to the grid and plonk them down in (you hope!) the right place.
Other little bonuses fall from the sky to help you out. One acts as a joker, coming up with the right tile wherever you place it on the grid, and another lets you duplicate one of the tiles already there. A third enables you to use the full width of the screen (invaluable in two-player mode), while another gives you a glimpse of the correct pattern, just in case you forgot. The final one is wrapped up as a parcel, and it either gives you a mystery goody or blows you up!
There are several options. One enables you to choose the names of the wizards on your team from the list given and even substitute your own names. Characters who accumulate large quantities of gold can be saved and used again. The Mad Mod option lets three humans play at once (absolute mayhem), while the "Contact God" option is seriously weird. Here you can pay varying amounts of gold for successively more useful bits of advice. This is where you finally hand over all your loot if you want to tackle Iozu.
Then there's two-player mode, which gets seriously frantic, and in many ways is the best bit of the game. After each round a graph displays your memory's performance both for that round and cumulatively.
Although it's essentially a static-screen puzzle game, Brain Blasters is very good-looking. The backgrounds are nicely-drawn and atmospheric, and the shapes you have to manipulate colourful and detailed. Best of all are the little magicians, who whizz around at great speed and are very humorously animated. Watch out in particular for the musicians who play while you memorise each pattern - very, very funny. The sound is excellent. The jingles and tunes are original and rather catchy, and the sound effects are nicely done too.
The convoluted plot for Brain Blasters disguises the fact that it really is an extremely simple and addictive game: once you know what you're doing, you're hooked. It really does combine a whole host of game-playing skills - you need fast reactions to grab pieces you want before the other player gets them, and strategic thinking as you work out which bonuses you want and which are quickest.
Most of all, though, you need an eidetic memory which can etch a complex arrangement of colours and shapes in your mind within the minute or so you've got to beat that wailing devil waggling furiously next to you. Playing against the computer, it's good. Playing against another human, it's brilliant.