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Flash Focus: Vision Training in Minutes a Day

by Jonathan Metts - October 26, 2007, 12:47 am PDT
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7

Finally, Nintendo releases a game that requires the use of your eyes.

Despite a somewhat different title, Flash Focus is a blatant imitation of the Brain Age series. The good side of that comparison is that fans of brain training will like eye training just as much. The bad side is that Brain Age 2 was released just two months ago, so if you recently played through that game (or are still playing it), Flash Focus is probably too much of a good thing.

I'm extremely skeptical of any claims that Flash Focus can actually improve your eyesight. More likely, it just teaches you to play the included mini-games better, so it's not so much your eyes getting stronger but your brain figuring out where to put your eyes for each exercise. In the interest of giving a more natural viewing field for these vision-based activities, the game is played in the standard (horizontal) DS layout, which is the first major departure from the Brain Age formula. Instead of a creepy dismembered head, your guides through the exercises are a gang of nameless athletes depicted in 8-bit pixel art, much like the little guy from Excitebike on NES. The appearance of these sports players is a clue that Flash Focus is heavily sports-based. Half of the mini-games are loosely based on various sports, and almost every line of text in the game mentions how this or that visual skill applies to sports. Although it comes across as forced, the emphasis on athletics is effective in making Flash Focus seem less nerdy than Brain Age.

Most of us think of vision in terms of visual acuity (accuracy), with measurements like "20/20" (i.e. your vision at a distance of 20 feet is the same as the average person's vision at the same distance). Flash Focus totally avoids standard visual acuity, and rightly so, since the small DS screens are poorly suited for displaying eye charts. Instead, your vision is rated in areas like eye movement, hand-eye coordination, and peripheral vision. The game's "core" activities tend to work on just one or two of these areas, while the sports activities combine multiple areas for a more well-rounded exercise. The core mini-games are similar to what you'd find in Brain Age, with abstract graphics and zero personality. The sports mini-games are more fun and more graphically impressive, because they use digitized photographs and even full-motion video in ways that you won't see in many other DS games. Each exercise (whether core or sports) takes one or two minutes to complete, and your score is recorded for daily comparisons to yourself and anyone else with a save file on the game card. Despite its casual façade, Flash Focus has a subversively old-school streak in the way it pushes you to compete for higher scores in relatively simple activities.

The daily training aspect works better than in Brain Age. Every day, the game will offer an optional "Eye Age" check (it recommends checking three times per week for accurate results) and then recommends a training regimen based on your most recent Eye Age. Although your Eye Age is summarized in a single number, just like your Brain Age, this game also tracks your performance in five different categories of visual skill, so the test results are considerably more thorough and nuanced. The recommended regimen of exercises in Daily Training seems randomly chosen among such themes as "Focus On Your Strengths", "Balanced Training", or "Sports Training". The game will choose five activities based on the theme, and when you've completed them all, you'll be treated to some optional Eye Relaxation Exercises, which are guided by a voice so you don't have to look at the screen for instructions. After the relaxation phase, the game jumps back to the main menu, effectively recommending that you stop playing for the day. Of course, you can always log back into your profile and play some more, and you can always choose from any of the unlocked mini-games with Custom Training, but the Daily Training feature is a convenient way to pace yourself and avoid playing the two or three mini-games that you happen to like best. Brain Age could really benefit from including a feature like this.

Unsurprisingly, Flash Focus awards you a stamp on the calendar after completing the first exercise of each day. Unlike in Brain Age, every single stamp unlocks something new, and the first eleven stamps open up the eleven locked mini-games, so you don't have to suffer through weeks of lesser bonuses before getting the good stuff. Most of the unlockable events are sports mini-games, which are the most fun of the lot, so it's exciting to get a stamp each day (or several, if you want to cheat by fudging the system calendar).

There's not much else to say about Flash Focus. It follows the now familiar non-game/mini-game formula of numerous other DS titles. Although it's not very original, the content found here is compelling and fun, and the sports twist proves to be inspiration for several addictive mini-games. Whether any of this will improve your vision is dubious, but Flash Focus is nevertheless a fine addition to the Touch Generations lineup.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7 6 6 8 5 7
Graphics
7

Some of the sports games feature very impressive in-game use of video. The rest of the game looks competent, though rather bland. You may actually find yourself longing for the presence of Dr. Kawashima's decapitated noggin.

Sound
6

Forgettable music meets generic sound effects. However, the relaxation exercises feature a very pleasant voice to guide you along.

Control
6

Don't expect anything fancy like handwriting or voice recognition. Most of the touch inputs are accurate, but the numeric keypads can sometimes register one tap as two, and there's no backspace key! This causes unnecessary failures in a few core exercises.

Gameplay
8

As mini-games go, these are really simple – more like WarioWare's micro-games, but with sliding difficulty that makes it very challenging to get high scores. Some of the sports games seem really easy until you unlock the hard versions, but they're all fun. The core exercises are more abstract and less interesting, and they lack the satisfaction of plowing through a pile of arithmetic problems as fast as possible. However, Flash Focus in general has a compelling quality that makes you want to beat your own high scores on everything, even the activities you don't like as much.

Lastability
5

The game is obviously meant to be played for about ten minutes per day, and it even includes the Daily Training feature that portions out just that much content. At that pace, you will get decent mileage out of the game. If you get antsy and start to attack more events more quickly in Custom Training, the experience will be exhausted more quickly. There are no multiplayer features nor any longer mini-games like the ones typically included in WarioWare, Brain Age, and other similar titles.

Final
7

Flash Focus is an entertaining collection of so-called training exercises, half of which are fun sports-based events and half of which feel more like actual exercise (somewhat satisfying but not really enjoyable). The presentation is rather weak, and the content is limited, but this is nevertheless a respectable entry for training-aholics.

Summary

Pros
  • Convenient Daily Training feature
  • Fun sports mini-games
  • Lots of (tiny) events to unlock
Cons
  • Core training is not as much fun
  • Minor control issues
  • Very little personality in the presentation
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Miru Chikara wo Jissen de Kitaeru: DS Ganriki Training Box Art

Genre Party/Parlor
Developer Namco Bandai
Players1
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Flash Focus: Vision Training in Minutes a Day
Release Oct 15, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Miru Chikara wo Jissen de Kitaeru: DS Ganriki Training
Release May 31, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Sight Training
Release Nov 23, 2007
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: Sight Training
Release Jan 17, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
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