Review by mikaa

Reviewed: 04/24/06 | Updated: 11/20/07

Sudoku and US$20 is reason enough to own this, the rest is just gold topping

One of the primary reasons that the DS is owning the entire Japanese gaming world for almost half a year now, Brain Age (the US title) certainly wouldn't appear special to any normal gamer just by name alone. Heck, by all rights, most gamers would pass it over just by knowing what it was about.

But then, this is technicaly not a game.

Fulfilling their decree that the DS is more than a gaming machine, Brain Age joins Electroplankton as software for the DS that is not traditional games. Instead of saving the world, killing the sadistic villain, or besting the opposition in (insert random sports name), your goal is to exercise your brain and increase your response time to problems.

How is this done? Through a nearly perfect useage of the touch screen, you solve math problems by writing the numbers, write letters and words to solve problems (technical problems listed below), speak words into the microphone, and assorted other random tests to test your memory, reaction skills, and motor skills. Once in a while, the game will ask you to even draw objects from memory, seeing how well you do.

There are issues that pop up in the execution at times, though: for one, good luck ever saying the word "blue" into the micropone; even with absolute silence, the mic will barely pick up blue for some reason, and I'm not the only one to find this out. Worse yet, the mic is far more sensitive than, say, Nintendogs. If even the TV is on, you will have issues performing the exorcises required of mic games. Also, writing letters can be quite annoying if your handwriting is sloppy (ie - like mine). Still, with patience, you can figure it out.

And while the above is reason enough to look at the game, the reason I bought it is the very craze that is catching on in the US like wildfire: Sudoku. Essentially a logic puzzle using numbers in a crossword-style board, the goal is to fill in the entire 9X9 grid with numbers 1 - 9. Problem: each horizontal row can only have one number from 1 - 9 (no duplicates), same with vertical, and each 3X3 square cannot include duplicates either. This becomes quite challenging later on in more sophisticated puzzles, and is proof enough at the genius behind the game. What's more, you get Sudoku on top of the other goods in Brain Age, and all for US$20. Considering the great work with the touch screen input for the numbers, this is definately the best version to get to date, though you may be tempted to buy one of the other Sudoku games later this year.

Is this worth a look? Well, it's easy to see why this is a big hit in Japan, where the culture thrives on education and intellect. In the US, it is selling fairly well, usually for Sudoku. Still, I myself have sold a few copies to customers for the game itself, and even our store's resident wrestling fan wishes for a DS just to play Brain Age. Heck, our whole store is competing to see our ages!

In closing, this is a suprisingly good DS title, and the low price is a steal by any standards. While the game may grow old on replay later down the line (as in, a year later), with Sudoku and the challenge of improving your brain, not a bad game. If not for the letter input issues and mic problems, this would be perfect.

Score: 9 of 10

Best Features: Addicting, Sudoku, controls, unique screen usage
Worst Features: Mic useage, writing letters, anything requiring you to say "Blue"
If You Liked: Big Brain Academy (DS in June), and any of the inevitable translations of the newer games and clones...
Guilty Pleasure: Babbling about how good this is after spending an hour playing the demo after setting up the DS Download Station at work, and convincing three customers to try it out.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day! (US, 04/17/06)

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