NINTENDO DS REVIEW: BRAIN AGE: TRAIN YOUR BRAIN IN MINUTES A DAY

Brain Age makes Edu-tainment fun...for the first time ever. by Cole Smith

April 13, 2006 - For those of you that believe that you may have suffered irreversible brain damage from playing mindless shooters and watching too many episodes of Nick and Jessica, help is on the way. There's no doubt that you've suffered brain damage, but thanks to Brain Age, it is irreversible.

The slogan for Brain Age is: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. I know it sounds like work, but this is way more fun than flossing. It's like playing a bunch of puzzle-based mini-games. As long as you still have the capacity to learn, you will get better at these challenges each time that you play them and thus you will train your brain.

You begin with a test to determine your brain age. You will receive a score that you can think of as a relative IQ level. The older your brain age, the worse off you are. You don't want to have the mind of the average 70-year old, but it can be a real shocker when you find that out. However, your brain age will become younger over the days and weeks as you play this game.

Now here's the bad news, there is math involved. Yes, you will have to perform some calculations. None of them are exceptionally hard and it's nothing that you haven't done in school. It's just that you might not remember your multiplication table if you've been out of school for a while and do everything with a computer or calculator. I didn't do very good on the math at first but after a few days it comes back to you. You really do have all the resources to do well in this game, it's just a matter or retrieving those old files that might be buried in a sludge of gray matter. Now here's the good news, you are limited to playing this game for only five minutes a day.

The gameplay is based on the theories of Japanese neuroscientist, Dr. Ryuta Kawashima who believes that these exercises will stimulate somewhat dormant areas of the brain. Nourishing oxygen is then introduced to these regions which are stimulated by these challenges, allowing them to become more functional in your day-to-day activity. As these newly stimulated regions become linked, your brain will become a much more powerful tool.

The DS is held sideways so that it opens like a book. You will make use of all the controls as well as the touch screen and the stylus which is used for drawing and writing. When writing the correct answers or numbers, you might find that the CPU doesn't recognize some of your handwriting. This could be due to poor spelling and poor handwriting. In any case if you continue to play the game in the nature that it was intended, your spelling and handwriting will show signs of improvements. I found the other controls functioned perfectly.

The math segment is basically a drill. You'll be shown several simple equations that you have to solve. There is a speed element to it so you'll eventually train yourself to be faster and more accurate. You'll notice that you improve a lot quicker if you have an audience, or better yet, some competition. Up to 16 players can take part in the various tests. Brain Age also comes with a version of the popular puzzle game Sudoku. It's a popular number-based game similar to a crossword puzzle. You have a series of grids, nine rows by nine columns. Each puzzle begins with some numbers appearing in various grids. You have to fill in the empty grids with numbers from one to nine without repeating any in either the corresponding row or column. There is only one number that will fit into each of the 81 grids. It can really bust your brain. In yet another math game you will have to keep track of the number of people at a party, as they come and go.

There's more to Brain Age than just math games. In another test you will have to memorize as many four-letter words as you can in two minutes. You will also have to memorize sequences of numbers. There are dots to connect, syllables to count, differences to detect and even a segment which will have you read out loud. Apparently reading out loud is very brain stimulating. Here, try reading this out loud: "Why am I so #~*&+%$ dumb?" Say it again, this time louder. What word did you use in place of all those symbols? Say that word again, but louder. Go ahead, scream it…

At first some of these challenges might seem almost impossible. Numbers race past, sequences and questions are popping up all over the place, but it's something you'll get used to in a few days. Kawashima is the game's genial, genius host. He guides you through the series of tests and helps explain why it's important to stimulate your Prefrontal Cortex. Maybe if I play the game long enough I'll know what that is.

Like the writing recognition software, the voice recognition system is pretty darn good. It's not perfect and it can be particularly frustrating when you do have the right answer, or read the text perfectly, and the system fails to register it. You will usually find that you have to speak slowly and enunciate more clearly. It's not a big deal to get used to in the long run.

The multi-player mode is fun for competition and while it can be inspiring, it's not all that interesting and you'll tire of it quite quickly. The replay value is in the single-player mode. The game will keep track of your stats and you'll be able to see how much you've improved. I've only been at it for a few days and I'm already seeing some improvement. I did twice as good as last time - I got two answers right instead of one…

Features:

  • Brain Age presents players with a series of mental brain-training challenges that incorporate word memorization, counting and reading.
  • Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day for Nintendo DS is a fun, rewarding form of entertainment everyone can enjoy, as it helps players flex their mental muscles.
  • Brain Age is inspired by the research of Professor Ryuta Kawashima, a prominent Japanese neuroscientist. His studies evaluated the impact of performing certain reading and mathematic exercises to help stimulate the brain.
  • Features voice recognition and handwriting recognition.
  • Come with the popular newspaper puzzle game, Sudoku.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Minutes A Day (DS)
2.5
Graphics
Nothing special in the graphics department, not that it needs it.
4.0
Control
Either the voice and handwriting recognition system have the occasional glitch or I can't talk and write properly.
3.3
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Not much of a show but the entire game is presented in a professional manner that is not clinical.
4.5
Play Value
Once you get hooked, it's a one-way ticket to Nerdsville for you smarty.
4.1
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Preview by Vaughn

After decades of exercising your thumbs, Nintendo moves to your minds. by Vaughn Smith

March 2, 2006 - Video games have always been given a bad rap. If you're not shooting at someone, you're running over someone. If you're not running over someone, you're stabbing someone...and so on and so forth. Yeah, we get it. Video games are usually violent and they don't learn you much, as is evident by my lack of proper grammar in this sentence. Darn you video games!

If you've been noticing lately that ye olde cerebral cortex has been diminishing in all aspects of functionality, fear not, my fellow braindead vegetables! Nintendo is using their DS technology and the research inspired by Professor Ryuta Kawashima to make you smart again, but be forewarned - If you're stupid now, then use the Brain Age to get super smart, then stop playing it, you'll become dumb again - just like the book Flowers For Algernon (Charly) and let me tell you, that was one sad book. But you should read it anyway because reading is good for you and video games are bad for you. Well, all video games with the exception of Brain Age and Panty Raider. Oh wait....I've just been handed something....it appears I was mistaken and I owe you an apology. Panty Raider isn't good for you.

I'll give Nintendo credit - after years of reducing our brains to mush with fantasies of pointy eared elf-like heroes who seem to be as common as Elvis impersonators in their universe, plumbers who save the world without exposing their buttcracks when they bend over and giant tie-wearing apes that throw barrels instead of their own feces, it's about time Nintendo gave us something back. Namely, the ability to think again.

Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Minutes A Day! is scheduled for an April release and if history has shown us anything, none of you idiots will buy it. Why is that? Because you're idiots and aren't interested in getting smarter. Care to prove me wrong? Please note that the awesome mathematical puzzler Sudoku is also included.

Company Line:

What is Brain Age?

Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day for Nintendo DS is a fun, rewarding form of entertainment everyone can enjoy, as it helps players flex their mental muscles. Brain Age is inspired by the research of Professor Ryuta Kawashima, a prominent Japanese neuroscientist. His studies evaluated the impact of performing certain reading and mathematic exercises to help stimulate the brain.

Brain Age presents quick mental activities that help keep your DS brain in shape. Activities include quickly solving simple math problems, counting people going in and out of a house simultaneously, drawing pictures on the Touch Screen, reading classic literature out loud, and more. You can also play sudoku, the number puzzle game which has become an extremely popular feature in U.S. newspapers.

On your first day of exercise, you will take a series of tests and get a score that determines how old your brain is. This number is called your "DS Brain Age". By performing daily exercises just minutes a day over weeks and months, the better you'll get at the exercises and the lower your DS Brain Age will become.

Why is brain training good for you?

We all know as we grow older our bodies change and it becomes important to regularly exercise to maintain health and fitness. Our brain is no different. "Use it or lose it," as the adage goes. New research indicates mental acuity may be strengthened, like muscles, with brain exercises.

That's where Brain Age comes in.

But how does Brain Age work?

The Brain Age exercises are designed to stimulate your brain. Solving simple math and logic problems quickly, and reading aloud, have been proven to be effective methods of achieving this goal.

The distinctive Nintendo DS Touch Screen lets users write their answers with a Stylus pen, just as though they were writing on paper or using a Personal Digital Assistant or "PDA". Furthermore, the Nintendo DS's voice input identifies particular words you'll speak during the Stroop Test.

Brain Age tracks your progression through each exercise with easy-to-read line charts. Consistently using Brain Age each day will open new exercises to test your ability.

Baby Boomers and test-prepping school kids alike want to challenge themselves and find ways to stay sharp. Brain Age acts like a treadmill for the mind. With the simplicity of the Nintendo DS, and Brain Age's challenging and rewarding exercises, everyone can stimulate their DS brain, improving speed and accuracy of their game play.

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

System: DS
Dev: Nintendo
Pub: Nintendo
Released: Apr 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best