More of the Same Training in Minutes a Day.
It's been about 17 months since I reviewed the original Brain Age, commending it for being the first non-game to actually hold my interest. I really enjoyed its pick-up-and-playability, simple-but-fun activities, and of course, Dr. Kawashima's quirky, disembodied head acting as your mentor. So I had high hopes for Brain Age 2, and while it brings the aforementioned to the table, I can't in good conscience award it the same high marks.
Once again, Kawashima, renowned Japanese neurologist, leads you through various tests to determine your brain age level, followed by a set of hurdles (completed via the touch screen or microphone) meant to quicken your ability to call up information, improve your memory, and generally, whip your mind into shape.
The problem with a game like Brain Age 2 is that it's exactly like its predecessor. The experience as a whole hasn't been revamped in any way; rather, new activities have replaced old ones, though they still have the same goal (i.e. instead of performing arithmetic problems, you've got to draw symbols that allow for an equation to make sense, as in 7 ? 9 = 16). For the most part, the new applications (particularly Change Maker) are great fun. There's even a version of Dr. Mario (save the Mario part) hidden on the activity list, and, like the last game, there are a bunch of Sudoku puzzles to be found. Unfortunately, this doesn't remove the fact that this feels more like an expansion pack than a true sequel.
It should be noted that some of the problems with the first release have been remedied. Contrary to what you might have heard the speech recognition has been much improved, and the handwriting recognition, overall, feels much better. There are still some hiccups, like confusing Cs for Gs, but it's not a major concern.
If you never played the original game, then Brain Age 2 is a great value and shouldn't be missed considering its budget price. If you own the original, though, perhaps you should consider whether or not more of the same is what you're looking for.
From a presentation standpoint, the aforementioned notes of similarity between iterations are even truer, with the same minimalist approach being taken to the graphics. I'm pretty sure I even saw the same graphs and diagrams used to explain what a "brain age" is. From an aural standpoint, the same elevator music takes front stage, and barring the piano playing and word recitation activities, there's no difference between playing with the sound on or off.
It needs to be reiterated that the best audience for this game is the one that didn’t play the first game. That being said, if all you’re looking for are new mini-games wrapped in the same game, then it can also be recommended for purchase. Those hoping for an overhaul will have to wait for the inevitable Brain Age 3.