Review by scarlet_puppy

Reviewed: 08/11/08

Not as educational as you may think.

So Japan decided to release this game called Brain Age. Well, we’ve done all sorts of other things with video games haven’t we, so why not an educational game for adults as well as kids? So Japan therefore ended up designing a game that would make you smarter if you played it. Surely it would be great, they must have thought? Well, it could’ve been, but some big flaws stop this game from being what it could have been.

The concept of the game is to play several different minigames each day, and supposedly if you do them often enough then it makes your brain more active, and therefore makes you smarter. To check that there are some results, you can take a Brain Age test to see if you get any better. You do three different exercises, and then your Brain Age is determined. The best that you can get is 20. Overall, the idea for the game is pretty cool indeed. Unfortunately, the execution was not.

Throughout the game, Doctor Ryuta Kawashima (or his head, at least) guides you through the game and gives you some tips on what to do. He also tells you how each exercise can make you smarter, allegedly. Although his inclusion is a nice touch, it doesn’t add much to the overall game.

Not much can be said about the graphics or sound within the game, because games like this don’t really need them. The only thing worth noting in terms of graphics is Ryuta’s head, which for some reason seems to be very blocky. There isn’t much music in the game either, except for this one tune on the menu screen. It’s quite catchy, but nothing amazing.

So, as I previously stated, you have to do numerous activities to try and improve your brain. These activities involve many things. Among others you can solve numerous mathematical problems, memorise a pattern of numbers or count the number of people entering an exiting your house. At first, you only have a few exercises, but as you spend more time playing, you unlock more. So how many are there overall? The answer is nine. Not to be rude, but nine doesn’t seem like enough exercises for a game of this calibre. I’d have thought it would need something like twice that. Also, none of these games are actually particularly interesting. None of them can be considered fun in any way at all, but then again I suppose that wasn’t the game’s purpose.

The Brain Age test also has some problems with it. When you first start, it will ask you if you can or cannot speak in the environment that you are in. Once you have decided, then you start the test. It contains any three of several small activities which you must complete, including ones where you must count numbers across a screen and linking several numbers and letters together quickly. Most aren’t too bad, but the real problems arise when you play the games involving voice recognition, namely the Stroop Test. Using the microphone inside the DS, you must say the colour of the words on the screen, the catch being that often the word is a different colour (e.g. a word saying yellow will be coloured blue). The problem is that the game doesn’t recognise your voice very well at all. I often find myself saying the right colour four or five times before it accepts it. As a result, you generally get a better Brain Age when you choose the option, ‘I can’t speak.’

But how does the game do in terms of actually making you smarter? Well, it sort of works and it sort of doesn’t at the same time. Although doing these exercises regularly can make your neurons and synapses work harder to do the necessary calculations and whatnot, the game’s overall usefulness is questionable. Think about it. They often say that ‘practice makes perfect’, which is usually true. This means that if you play the exercises regularly, then you will be able to do them more effectively, but without any particular increase in intelligence. This really makes me wonder if this game actually does make you smarter.

To the game’s credit, although the minigames you play aren’t fun, the Sudoku in this game is. Nintendo have put several different sudoku puzzles into this game, and the interface for them. It is easy to put in small notes saying what numbers might be there, and also to erase squares that you know are wrong. The Sudokus in this game are just as fun as they are in real life, and are a great way of killing time.

But once you’ve done every last Sudoku, you realise this game doesn’t have that much replay value. Although it takes a while to unlock every exercise, you may find that you don’t have the patience to do it, and also after playing this game for a couple of weeks, the minigames and Brain Age Tests will become so boring it is very difficult to keep your interest in the game.

Overall, although this game could’ve been really great, it stops short due to a number of major shortcomings which stop the game not only from being interesting, but also from improving the minds of people who bought the game.

Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 6/10
Gameplay: 5/10
Replay Value: 5/10

Interesting concept.
Clear good intentions by Nintendo.
Sudoku is very fun.
It helps you become smarter…

… well, possibly.
Boring minigames…
… and there are only nine of them.
Terrible voice recognition.

Buy, rent or avoid: If you really think that playing a few minigames over and over again will make you smarter, you might want to consider renting it, since it only takes about a week to get bored of it. Otherwise, save your money and buy an encyclopedia instead. Trust me; you’ll learn a lot more from that instead.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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

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