Brains are buzzing in 8 different ways in Cortex Challenge; a fun, light, party game from Coiledspring Games!

Publisher: Coiledspring Games, Zygomatic
Johan BenvenutoNicolas Bourgoin

Artist: Sébastien Lopez

Release date: (2016) Re-release 2022

2-6 Players

Age: 8+ (6+)

15 mins

Favouritefoefunlearning score 8.5/10

*Card Game * Gameschooling * Fun * Filler * Funlearning* Easy to Learn * Open Information * Luck *Party Game * Memory * Puzzle* *Race*

Brain Game! No, seriously. A brain on the box, a brain to collect……this game is all about brains. And it is seriously good fun!

Brain Gym!

In Cortex Challenge (which was originally published under the name Braintopia), you’re trying to complete a series of 8 different challenges faster than everyone else around the table. Every time you complete two of the same type, you get to assemble one quarter of your mini brain. Whoever is the first to solve four puzzles and complete their brain wins!

Set Up!

Couldn’t be easier – give each player their disassembled brain pieces and 30 seconds to feel the 10 touch based sensory cards that feature textured items like a strawberry, a baseball, and moss. Then set these aside face down. Shuffle the remaining 80 test and challenge cards into a stack and place it face down in the centre of the table.


Brain Boxing!

Each of the 8 different challenge types has a symbol on the back side of the card so you know what kind of challenge is coming. But you won’t know what it is exactly until the card gets flipped and everyone races to be the first to solve it! If you are first to put your hand on the card and your answer is correct, you keep the card. If you’re wrong, the card is discarded and you have to sit out the next round.

In an extra twist, you can only ever have 4 cards in front of you. So, if you earn a 5th card, you’ll have to choose one to discard – that can make getting a pair more of a challenge. And, if the same challenge category is flipped over twice in a row, the second is replaced by a fresh category.


The 8 different challenge types are:

Memory: These cards contain images of 5 objects. Once you slam your hand onto the card, you must recite the 5 objects from memory.
Maze: These cards contain a maze with a central starting point and letters on potential exits. After you slam your hand onto the card you must state the letter that completes the correct path through the maze.
Colour: You must name the only word on the card that’s written in its own colour.
Coordination: Each card back shows two hands hand (blue/red) and each finger and thumb on both hands has a number (1-5). When the card is flipped over, players must use the right finger/thumb to touch that part of their own face and be first to slam their hand on the card.
Duplicates: These cards contain various items. After slamming your hand on the card, you must name the one item that appears twice.
Frequency: You must name the die face that appears the most times on the card.

Reasoning: You must be able to confirm which letter piece fits into the gap – spatial reasoning style!
Tactile: When the tactile card appears, the winner of the previous round shuts their eyes and everyone else chooses a tactile card from the separate stack of 10 cards. That player then has 10 seconds to guess what is on that card by touch alone. If they don’t guess correctly, the card is discarded without penalty. But if they do, they instantly earn a brain piece!


Bright and Brainy!

Cortex Challenge is light and fun and not your average party game. There are no silly hats or need to expose other players’ more “interesting” sides. It’s a game that everyone can play because there will be at least something in there that you’re good at!

I’m quite eagle eyed and can quickly spot Duplicates and Frequency, but Co-ordination is completely lost on me. Conversely, ShadowMeepleMedia can imagine spaces and shapes with his eyes closed so he is a strong contender for the Reasoning challenges. Mini-Meeple loves the Tactile and Maze challenges, and so it’s definitely one game where we all feel like we have a chance!

In fact, we sit round the table with itchy fingers waiting for the card to be flipped. Knowing the type of challenge coming up gives a few seconds for mental preparation, but visual and pattern recognition skills are almost always going to be on high alert. And it is very satisfying when you’re first to slam knowing that others were just a fraction of a second behind you!

The Tactile cards are harder than you think – some textures are very similar. So when the pressure is on during those very short ten seconds, your mind goes blank as to what the bobbles, grooves, and furriness could be!

I think perhaps if you played Cortex Challenge all the time, you could become quite familiar with the cards. There are only 80 in total plus the Tactile stack of 10. But this is a game to play when you have a group of adults ready for some light, quick, fun response action (did someone say the pub??!!). Or when you have a group that involves younger gamers, and you want something quick and varied to play that engages them as much as the grown-ups. Given that we usually want to play again immediately after finishing to restore reps as Master of the Mazes and First at Frequency means we are obviously willing to take that risk! haha

I also like the fact that cards get mixed up to avoid the same categories being repeated over and over again – it feels like the game gives different players and skills opportunities to shine!


Brain Training!

For Mini-Meeple, Cortex Challenge is especially excellent. The range of challenges has him pouring over the cards, hand hovering just above….like he does when he gets engrossed in Dobble (click here for our #funlearning review). And when he spots the duplicate animal, or mentally tessellates the jigsaw piece into the right slot first, the slam and smile are simultaneous!

He isn’t first to slam every time (plus we are making fewer and fewer allowances as his skills develop). But he’s okay with that. He knows everyone has to get all 4 brain pieces to win, so it doesn’t hurt so much. I would say that at this stage we don’t make him sit out if he guesses incorrectly, mind you! I’m not that silly! haha

It is also a great game for the board gaming initiative I am starting at his school. Taking games into the classroom to celebrate the pedagogical value of learning through play and fun is something I am really passionate about. The relevance of these skills to his curriculum couldn’t be more direct, and the social benefits of getting the children playing together (and working together) is invaluable. Particularly after the disruptions and challenges they have faced over the past few years.  And the best thing is the kids don’t even realise they are learning – they’re just playing great games!

This is a dazzler of a #favouritefoefunlearninglibrary game and one that will be played on our table, at the pub, and in Mini-Meeple’s classroom a lot!

 [Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own]. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.