The first mega-seller for the DS was most surprisingly not a franchised game, but an educational “non-game”. Brain Age and its various subtitles has hit hard on casual gamers and typical non-gamers the world over. The statistics speak for themselves, but I’m here to emphasise why this really is a top product which comes highly recommended to all those wishing to utilise more than 2% of our brain.
Brain Age is broken down into various segments: a series of training exercises, the brain age tester itself, and Sudoku (excluding the Jap version). Most of the training exercises are math based and most are very simply done. Sure you could easily do a couple of problems on paper, but having a randomised set of questions or tasks presented instantly on an electronic medium makes it all that much more accessible. At the end of each exercise you are graded and your results are tracked via line graphs. The internal beauty of it all lies in being able to keep track of your progress against yourself, but also with other players using your DS card. With a couple of intelligent friends participating, as Dr. Kawashima states, you’ll really be cooking.
“With a couple of intelligent friends participating, as Dr. Kawashima states, you’ll really be cooking.”The brain age tester has you going through 3 randomised trials (most of which are unfortunately not included in the daily training exercises). You are graded again, but at the end, based on research studies, you are given an estimate of you chronological age. It is a really interesting concept, but I feel some exercises are weighted too heavily; the voice recognition is decent enough, but getting “high-scores” for the verbal tasks sure is difficult. Whereas when choosing the option to limit to non-speaking problems, it is way too easy to obtain the optimal score of 20 years old - especially if word memorisation comes up and if you’re reasonably gifted, you’ll find that recalling 25/30 words consistently pretty much guarantees you the top overall score even if other areas lack.
I have been using this program on and off since ooh, mid last year? My progress has plateaued for the most part, and I do find myself on some days having to force myself to go through the tasks at hand. Initially it is addictive, but it does wear down; it is best to test your mentality perhaps every 2-3 days. But on the upside, it does work your brain up and I find it especially useful before undertaking my studies to “wake” myself up caffeine-free. And I do feel that my concentration has improved greatly and my studies (University level bear in mind!) have benefited too.
As a nice bonus, there is also Sudoku added in. The interface is great and it makes solving puzzles extremely intuitive. The character recognisation can put you off with stupid errors, but doing puzzles without auto-check removes this frustration. It is great for Sudoku newbies such as myself, and with many, many puzzles of increasing difficulty, you’ll soon find that it is a great logical pastime and you may finally develop the courage to attempt those found in your daily newspaper! Having Sudoku tucked into the whole package just goes to show how this non-game caters for nearly everyone in the family.
My only qualms are that most of the exercises are mathematically inclined giving not enough variation, the voice recognition can be dodgy (though I found my voice suited it alright), and that progress tapers off soon enough. Japan has already seen the release of the sequel for some time now, and having previewed it, it looks like they nailed down the variation part; I can’t wait until they finally bring out a localised version later this year! Brain Age is a budget title at a budget price, but with good presentation and a very workable interface, it represents fun for everyone. It is ideal for those looking to further develop their mental alertness, or wanting to take a break from gaming-overdose, or simply anyone who feels like a quick, productive coffee break.
Eight out of ten
- Simple, easy to use interface
- Anyone regardless of age or interest can pick this up and have fun with it
- Long-term use is questionable
- Probably won't bring you to the top of the class