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Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch (Switch) Review

by Daan Koopman - January 2, 2020, 5:13 am PST
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The itch for training my brain is back, and there are enough Sudoku puzzles to go around.

With Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch, the series goes back to basics. Unlike Devilish Brain Training/Brain Age: Concentration Training, your working memory isn't the sole focus anymore. The big three tests of the original DS Brain Age/Brain Training are back: Self-Control, Processing Speed and Short-Term Memory. While it was sensory overload, you can't deny the game took a big step forward. The same was true of More Braining Training/Brain Age 2, where most of the previous training options were ditched for brand new ones. The new stuff in Brain Training Switch is solid, and there are even a few risks taken, but I just wish there was a teensy bit more.

Brain Training for Switch consists of two parts: Quick Play and Daily Training. Quick Play consists of six exercises where you put the system in its regular landscape position. The first three games (Rock-Paper-Scissors Test, Finger Calculations and Finger Drills) make use of the right Joy-Con's IR motion camera, and all of them are incredibly fun. The Rock-Paper-Scissors Test is a quick brain age check, testing your reflexes and focus. At random intervals, you are asked to win or lose, constantly playing with your expectations. Finger Calculations sees you flashing a number of fingers into the IR motion camera. On screen, the numbers are showcased with hands too, forcing you to stay on your feet and think quickly. My favorite challenge in the IR games, however, is Finger Drills. With your hand, you’re asked to make various shapes in quick succession. From an open hand to a thumbs up, Finger Drills focuses on your hand eye coordination with pinpoint precision. The three exercises don't try to lose you and keep the instructions on screen at all times.

The IR exercises steal the show in my book. The games are some of the most novel uses I've seen of the motion camera, with them actually being implemented into actual gameplay. The previous uses were just mostly okay, with none giving you the tools to interact with the IR camera properly. I recognize that you have to get used to holding the Joy-Con a certain way, but it wasn't something out of reach. I did wonder how far my hand and the camera needed to be apart, and still screwed this up a number of times before I nailed it. What remains impressive is how it picks up shapes so incredibly well, and without any hassle.

The other three games in Quick Play (Birdwatching, Flag Raising and Box Counting) have a distinct two player focus. Birdwatching and Box Counting are similar, with both games focusing on counting what is on screen. Players press ZL or ZR to count something, and press the L or R buttons to confirm the amount. The biggest difference between the two is the speed at which they move. The boxes are visible for a limited amount of time on screen, while you can take your time with the birds. In Flag Raising, players have to copy the movement of a character on screen and move a flag in multiple directions. The minigame is like a far more complicated version of Simon Says with you having to follow the instructions exactly. You won't keep playing the multiplayer offerings for very long, but it was a nice distraction from the main course.

That main course is Daily Training. It is the part of the game where testing your brain matters, and progression will be saved after wrapping up exercises. In addition to the IR Motion Camera offerings I've mentioned, Daily Training offers a decent selection of old and new tests that you can dive into. Unlike Quick Play, players will hold the Nintendo Switch in Tate mode (vertically) and use the included stylus (retail release) to play Brain Training the classic way. The stylus' size is, simply put, just perfect. In comparison to the last few Nintendo 3DS models, you can easily wrap your hand around the Nintendo Switch one. You don't have to hold it in some weird or off putting position.

In total, it took 18 days to see every piece of content in the game. The main problem is that after a while, Brain Training for Switch just gives you one new exercise every two days. There are, not counting anything in the Brain Age test or Quick Play, just 13 exercises in total. This is just a bit more than the originals, with the majority being minigames that you already know. That being said, I do really like offerings that they have available. The minigames available are Calculations x25, Calculations x100, Low to High, Germ Buster, Dual Task, Photographic Memory, Head Count, Reading Aloud, Sudoku, Masterpiece Recital, Finger Calculations, Finger Drills and Word Scramble. In classic exercises, like Calculations, you still write your numbers on the screen in the hope that the game accepts your handwriting. Some other older offerings like Germ Buster and Sudoku sport a brand new look or new functions to support the new one screen set-up. They are just as straightforward as they used to be in the Nintendo DS days, so not as elaborate as Devilish Brain Training.

The new games in Brain Training for Nintendo Switch are a feast for the senses. In Dual Task, you will be performing two tasks at the same time. The little guy needs you help jumping over hurdles on top while you choose the highest number at the bottom. You really have to divide your attention, because screwing up at either end would incur a six second penalty. Photographic Memory requires you to remember a current photo and asks you about the photo you've seen before this. The exercise starts out extremely simple, but quickly starts to mess with you. Mirrored images will populate your field, and will completely throw you off your game. It is really intense, and forces you to take in details very quickly. Last but not least, we have Word Scramble. In this game, letters will float all across the screen. Your task is to find the words within the chaos, and quickly press on to the next screen.

You can't have Brain Training without the Brain Age test that the series is known for. The test focuses on three specific factors we've mentioned at the start. During my first run of the Brain Age test, I felt pushed to the limit. Round one was clicking on the highest numbers, while the second part was counting loudly from 1 to 120. In the final round, the player has to remember 25 numbers and fill the boxes from memory one by one. Every Brain Age test throws different exercises into the mixture. There will be moments where you might be required to do the Rock-Paper-Scissors game, connect numbers and letters with lines or keep subtracting from a certain number. The test is meant to be played back-to-back, so don't worry if you fail them. You really learn from your mistakes, and simply do better the next time around.

Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch is a fine offering for the system. The game focuses on the principles of the Nintendo DS outings, and does so with grace. I think it is a shame that more games were not included in the total package. The new parts of the experience were rather good, but it would've been better if most of it was new. Still, I can't deny having a good time with challenging myself at the same mixture of minigames. Besides that, playing Brain Training is a great start to the day. It allows me to mentally reset, try some hard-hitting challenges and get on with my day. For now and then, the Nintendo Switch version is rather ideally made.

Summary

Pros
  • Fine mixture of offerings
  • IR exercises great fun
  • Stylus feels great in hand
Cons
  • Few more games would've been nice

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Game Profile

Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch Box Art

Genre Puzzle
Developer Nintendo
Players1 - 2
Online1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

jpn: Brain Age: Nintendo Switch Training
Release Dec 27, 2019
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch
Release Jan 03, 2020
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch
Release Jan 03, 2020
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
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