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Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day

by Karl Castaneda - April 20, 2006, 12:28 pm PDT
Total comments: 10

8.5

Steroids for your noggin'.

Nintendo's strategy to attract new players into the fold with so-called "non-games" has yielded some pretty varied results so far. Animal Crossing has a broad fan base worldwide, while Electroplankton is about as niche as it gets, and unfortunately for yours truly, neither of them have gained much favor in the Castaneda household. I was beginning to think that non-games simply weren't up my alley when Brain Age arrived on my doorstep, and that's when my opinion completely changed.

The history behind the game is simple: it's a collaboration between renowned Japanese neurologist Ryuta Kawashima and Nintendo, designed to stir your brain's efficiency by putting it through daily training exercises, from doing twenty arithmetic problems to reading aloud to a head count mini-game where you're supposed to keep track of how many people are inside a small house. Easy to knock out in a short period of time, the title is clearly marketed toward adults who simply need a mental wake-up in the morning. (Kawashima actually recommends that the game is played in the early hours of the day.)

Once you've completed your exercise(s) for the day, you'll get your stamp, and depending on how many stamps you've got, you'll unlock more content, from extra difficulties to a brand new challenge. You'll eventually need twenty stamps to gain access to all nine tests. In addition to your daily training, the game will ask you random questions and then quiz you on what your answer was a few days later, commanding that you better your memory skills. Also, quick, demo-like versions of the game are on-hand, if you want to just steam through in a few minutes. Also, you can compete with your friends, to see who can complete the math-oriented challenge the fastest via local wireless. Obviously, Brain Age's daily training isn't meant to be played for multiple hours in a day, as there isn't enough content to sustain that kind of play schedule, but for those who want more entertainment, the quick-play mode, multiplayer, and Sudoku puzzles are included to keep you busy.

Something that'll immediately set Brain Age apart from other titles is its complete reliance on the touch screen and microphone. The way you play it is by placing your DS on its left side (or right side of you're a lefty), and then using your stylus to write down your answers (or use the mic to voice them when appropriate). It's very intuitive, and despite some concerns that I've heard about the accuracy, I haven't had much trouble with the game understanding my handwriting, although voice recognition isn't as precise as I'd like; having to repeat an answer isn't uncommon.

As the box art suggests, the basis of completing all of these mental hurdles is to lower your brain age, which you'll receive as soon as you boot up the game and create your account. Through three short tests that test your mind's agility, you are shown your score, with 20-years-old as the goal. Personally, I was in the 50's when I started, but I've been able to improve into the low 30's as I've continued playing.

Believe it or not, the product's pretty serious about getting your head in shape, and I've definitely seen the results. I actually feel quicker and more precise in my thoughts, and the various graphs that the game has on hand to show progress proves it. You may not be the next Stephen Hawking after putting a month's time into this game, but you'll definitely be able to balance your checkbook or do your homework a little faster.

As far as presentation goes, Brain Age is pretty bare-bones, but it gets the job done. The polygonal, disembodied head of Ryuta Kawashima acts as your personal coach, and his quips are actually pretty amusing. Challenges are stripped down to just include what's necessary, and there's not much to fault, in that sense. The sound consists of elevator-like music, and for the most part, it's a forgettable aspect of the game. I wish they'd give Kawashima a voice; it would likely lend some more humor to the already-quirky package.

At the end of the day, Nintendo has made me a believer in this whole non-game idea, and it's actually gotten me excited about future iterations of the franchise. Big Brain Academy comes out in June, and I have a feeling I'll be first in line for it. Edutainment may sound lame, but it's well-executed here, and you'd be doing yourself a favor to at least try it out; you may end up hooked.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6.5 5 8.5 9 9 8.5
Graphics
6.5

Brain Age carries little visual flair, but there's really no reason for it to. Kawashima's head has some fluid animation, though, and the simplified interface carries a certain charm.

Sound
5

Although I wasn’t expecting Koji Kondo, Brain Age’s music is still pretty bland and uninteresting.

Control
8.5

I had very little trouble having the game understand my handwriting, but it's a complaint that has been brought up often by friends of mine who have the game, so be aware of the possibility. It’s important to note that the Sodoku interface is extremely handy and some might actually prefer it to the handwritten versions. The voice recognition isn't nearly as precise, though, and you'll likely have to repeat answers every once in a while.

Gameplay
9

Brain Age is addictive enough to keep me coming back every day, trying to improve my mental age and completely throwing myself at the training schedule. It's quick, it's fun, and I'm even learning! What more could I ask for? Well, more content would be nice, but for what it's designed for, a hefty package wouldn't be appropriate. (Train Your Brain In Hours A Day?)

Lastability
9

Brain Age is actually meant to be played for an entire year, and judging by my current experience, that isn't hard to imagine at all.

Final
8.5

Brain Age is a fun and inventive non-game, and it's finally sold me on the concept.

Summary

Pros
  • Noticeable results
  • Quick and fun challenges
  • The floating head of Ryuta Kawashima
Cons
  • Plain visuals and sound
  • Probably won't give off the kind of satisfaction marathon gamers expect
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

TrueNerdApril 20, 2006

Nice one Karl. As someone who wasn't too thrilled with Nintendogs or Animal Crossing, I was skeptical of this one. Not so much anymore. Plus, the $19.99 price tag is SWEET.

KnowsNothingApril 20, 2006

Someone tell me the difference between this and Big Brain Academy. Right now. GO.

KDR_11kApril 20, 2006

This game comes with more words in the title.

With more words comes more mental excercise. That's a good thing. Now read them out loud to increase blood flow....good...

~Carmine M. Red
Kairon@aol.com

Bill AurionApril 20, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: KnowsNothing
Someone tell me the difference between this and Big Brain Academy. Right now. GO.

I think BBA is basically "Brain Training for Kids"...

vuduApril 20, 2006

Bill's right; BBA is the kids version. It took me a lot of snooping a couple months ago to figure that one out.

miedoApril 20, 2006

This was posted on 4/20/06. I really want to make a comment about illegal drugs and the irony of posting a review of an intellectual game on the same day. But that would make llama cry.

MarioApril 20, 2006

Big Brain Academy seems to work your brain through more Wario Ware type mini-games rather than straightforward maths quizes and what Brain Training has, and has a more child friendly presentation. I hope Nintendo put BBA for download at the DS demo kiosks soon, I can't wait to try it, if it's as good as Brain Training i'll be getting it.

KDR_11kApril 21, 2006

miedo: Maybe some brain training would turn those neonazis into sane people?

I haven't played BBA, but I've heard that it has a lot more activities, can be played for more than just a few minutes per day, and has far superior multiplayer features.

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Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day Box Art

Genre Strategy
Developer Nintendo
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day
Release Apr 17, 2006
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Tōhoku Daigaku Mirai Kagaku Gijutsu Kyōdō Kenkyū Center Kawashima Ryūta Kyōju Kanshū Nō o Kitaeru Otona no DS Training
Release May 19, 2005
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain?
Release Jun 09, 2006
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain?
Release Jun 16, 2006
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
kor: Meail Meail DS Dunoe Training
Release Jan 18, 2007
PublisherNintendo
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