Review by Chocobahn

"Even zombies will need this to train their dead brains."

Ever since the launch of the Nintendo DS, it has been more than just a handheld gaming console. It has been host to a variety of softwares, including dictionary, cookbook and IQ tester among others. Perhaps the first innovative use of the DS is a software designed to train your brain.

Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain? come about through research done by Dr. Kawashima, a neurologist. He discovered that simple math and reading utilise a large part of the brain. Thus, he designed a game that a player can play everyday in order to improve various aspects of your brain, like memory and concentration. And so the game is born.

***** Gameplay *****

Gameplay is very simple. The first time you play it, you will be asked to do several 'tests' in order to determine your 'brain age'. The first time you do these tests, your brain age is normally higher than your actual age, which means, your brain is older than your physical self. Now, the manual claims that by doing the exercise in the game, you will use more of your brain, and thus making it more active, and making it younger.

There are 9 exercises in all, but not all are available from the start. You have to unlock them by collecting stamps, which is awarded once a day. Each are designed to exercise your rusty brain.

At the end of the exercise, you are presented with a graphical representation of how well you did. For example, a rocket lifting off means you did it real quick. You will also be presented with two other things. One is the top 3 scores. You can check your own top 3, or the overall top 3. The other is a graph on how you did over the past few days. Both are useful in determining how you went for that particular exercise.

Each of the exercise last for only a short time (nothing over 5 minutes), and a stamp will be awarded if you have done at least one exercise for the day. It is recommended that you do at least 3 exercises, in which you would get a bigger stamp. Collect enough stamps, and you will be able to unlock the next exercise.

Control is very simple. The stylus is all you really need. Most of the exercises utilise the touch screen to the maximum effect. And a lot of them requires numerical input. The touch screen is responsive and recognise the numbers correctly. It did have a problem recognising the number '4' for a while, but seems to have fixed itself. Maybe it's the way I wrote it.

One exercise, the Voice Calculation, utilises the mic, where you have to say your answers. Unfortunately, that is not as responsive. You need to say out loud. A noisy place will affect the mic.

The exercise are not difficult. Then again, it's not meant to be. As mentioned earlier, most last for less than a few minutes. So it won't take much of your time to help your brain. Up to 4 people can be registered on the same cartridge as to keep track of the progress, and to boast about how you are better than everyone else at a certain exercise.

Everyone else can use the quick play option to train their brain. There is also a wireless download mode where you can compete with a friend in doing simple math.

The English release also includes Sudoku, while the Japanese version contains Kanji exercises that can obviously only be done by the Japanese.

***** Graphics *****

Let's face it, you're here to do train your brain, not play RPG games in 3D. It's definitely not graphics intense. Animations are limited to a 3D representation of Dr. Kawashima, and a very simple one at that. The numbers are clearly written in large fonts, and colours are keep to a minimum. They are usually black on white background, unless it's part of an exercise or a test. Boring? Maybe so, but hey, your brain is more important than the eye candy, right?

***** Sound *****

Again, sound is of low importance here. There is background music at the title screen. Since your brain can't multi-task very well (as claimed by Dr. Kawashima), you won't hear any music while doing the exercises. There are sound effects for right and wrong answers, though.

***** Replay Value *****

This software is a brain training software, and as such, you need to use it everyday (or at least, frequently).

New exercises are unlocked as you collect more stamps, so you won't feel bored doing the same ones over and over again. You can do all of the exercises everyday, or if you are like me, a bit lazy, just do any three to get a bigger stamp. Just remember to do the brain age test every now and then to see if you brain has improved.

***** Overall *****

Brain Training doesn't boast pretty graphics, or beautiful soundtrack. However, it sells like hotcakes in Japan. Ever since it came out, many other softwares try to emulate its success. You have Kanji quiz, general knowledge games, Japanese local customs quiz, etc. Unfortunately, you will only see those in Japan.

This game almost single-handedly create a new generation of gamers for the DS. While educational software is not a new thing, Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain (better known as Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day in America) has definitely boosted its profile, at least in Japan. The second instalment of Brain Training has been a top seller in Japan for a long time. Whether or not it will improve you concentration or your memory is up for you to decide, but anything that can help your brain is definitely not a bad thing.

Good:

* Lots of different exercises to keep your brain active

Bad:

* Not designed for children
* Mic not as responsive

Score (out of 10)

Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 5
Sound: 5
Replay: 10

Overall: 8


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/21/07


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