Send grade-schoolers on 'Brain Quest' on DS

— -- "Where do tornadoes occur most frequently?" Would your children know it's in the Midwest of the United States? They would if they had been playing Brain Quest: Grades 5 & 6, one of two new Brain Quest games from Electronic Arts for the Nintendo DS. The other is Brain Quest: Grades 3 & 4.

These two games bring the popular grade-specific flashcard sets to the DS platform. Both games offer three ways to explore the popular Brain Quest questions. Each game boasts 6,000 questions covering six academic subjects. And within each game, you can select the grade level at which you want to play.

If you want to jump right in and start answering questions, select the Brain mode. From within that mode, you then choose which of six academic subjects you want to explore: math, science, English, geography, history and a catchall category called "Grab Bag." Next, you select the number of rounds (a round consists of five questions on the academic subject) and then your brain-busting bash begins.

The questions vary in format but include multiple choice, select an image, matching, sorting, fill-in-the-blank, word builder (add a letter to the beginning of a word to change it into another word), and cross-out (cross out a letter in a misspelled word). You answer the questions by using the DS stylus and the touch-sensitive screen.

If you want to explore these questions with a friend, select the multiplayer mode. From there, you have the option of playing competitively against or cooperatively with your friend; in both instances, you'll take turns using the same DS. When playing competitively, you both answer the same set of questions and the score shows one player winning. In the cooperative mode, the questions that each player answers are different (encouraging cooperation) and, while a score is kept for each player, no one is declared a winner.

Kids will particularly enjoy the single-player Quest mode. In this mode, you still answer rounds of questions in the academic categories, but now there's a light story added to motivate you to play. In Brain Quest: Grades 3 & 4, you are transported to a wildlife park where you help rangers in six different wilderness areas that correspond to the academic subject areas. In Brain Quest: Grades 5 & 6, you become a contestant in the Quest Extreme Games festival. Each extreme game represents an academic subject. For example, to compete in a soccer match, you will do math challenges.

In these three Brain Quest modes, kids earn accolades and points and unlock collectible stickers to use in designing art scenes.

In addition, the game has a robust Sudoku mode, offering 4 x 4, 6 x 6, and 9 x 9 puzzles. These puzzles can be played on three levels of difficulty right away, with two additional harder levels available for unlocking in the 9 x 9 puzzles.

Brain Quest cards have always been popular with families, particularly when traveling. But those cards are always more enjoyable when played with others. These electronic versions make the process of testing your bursts of brilliance more fun when playing by yourself because the format is so engaging. The game celebrates your getting questions right. It plays uplifting funky music as you work. And for kids who aren't driven by wanting to learn the academics, the Quest mode provides them with extra motivation to take on the intellectual questions.

Brain Quest delivers on its slogan "It's Fun to Be Smart" with this snappy packaging of grade-appropriate academic questions in a video game format. While this isn't a traditional video game with cutting edge game play and deep storytelling, this is an excellent compilation of academic questions made fun by the variety of ways in which you answer the questions. This game is so supportive that even reluctant learners will want to play.

Gudmundsen is the editor of Computing With Kids magazine ( Contact her at