One of the game series that helped the Nintendo DS have a unique voice was the Brain Age games. These educational titles had several activities to help ‘train your brain.’ And it was all backed up and hosted by a real doctor at a Japanese university. Now the newest in the series is available on the 3DS. This one features exercises to help your brain stay focused on the task at hand, instead of being distracted. Dr. Kawashima, the host of these games, says email, Internet, and cell phones are helping people lose focus, so that’s why this game was made. I hate it when I see people texting while driving or walking, so I guess that’s a good thing to feature in this game. Of course, I like the Brain Age games because of all the neat puzzles and mini-games included as well, so we’ll take a look at them in this big ol’ review!
The main feature of this game is Devilish Training. These are exercises you do for five minutes each day. They’re called ‘Devilish’ because they are designed to be really hard and test your brain to its limits. They are more difficult, but not daunting or anything. Dr. Kawashima’s floating polygonal head is back to host these games and explain the rules, but now he’s even fully voiced this time. For Devilish Training, his head even turns into a devil head, but don’t worry, it’s not too scary, just a little weird. His face just gets red and he gets some horns. Anyway, let’s look at the games you’ll unlock in Devilish Training. You’ll unlock something new each day you play.
In this one, you solve simple math problems. But each time an equation shows up, you must remember the answer and write it in after they show you the next equation. But you must remember that next equation as you write the first answer, because it’ll be hidden after that! When you do well, you’ll move up a level and have to remember three or more numbers! And if you don’t do well, you’ll move down a level until the five minutes of training are up. You can download a demo of the new Brain Age game at the Nintendo eShop, and this is the game they let you try out. Also, there is a separate mode called Concentration Challenge that unlocks when you get to level 3-Back in this game. Concentration Challenge is similar, but you must count shapes and write the number instead of solving equations. It’s a bit easier, but the game ends when you miss one, so you have to try and keep going as long as you can!
It’s just a memory match game. Flip over cards to match number pairs. As you go up levels, they have more cards. I’m good at this one because of all the Mario 3 and Yoshi’s Island bonus games I’ve played!
In this one, mice and cats are hidden behind blocks, and they move and push each other around and you have to remember where the mice are! It’s really hard, I can’t get very far. But it reminds me of a really fun board game I played once called Castle Roquefort. It’s a European memory matching board game that is designed for kids, but it’s fun enough for adults to play, too. Only bad thing is the game is out of print now. I think that people who like board games will like this new Brain Age game.
In this one you must read a few paragraphs and then remember some underlined words and write them down using the touch screen. The higher levels have you memorizing more words. I guess I’ll take this opportunity to say that, like the other Brain Age games, the writing and letter/number recognition in this one isn’t perfect, but then, my writing can be pretty sloppy sometimes.
This one’s a lot like Devilish Calculations, except you must remember shapes, not equation answers. Since I’m not as good at math, I did a little better with this one, but not much!
Blocks are arranged on the screen, and you must remember the flashing one. When it shows the blocks in that arrangement again, you must tap the one that was flashing. Higher levels have you remembering more block arrangements in a row.
It’s like the game where you must remember which cup has a ball under it when they’re mixed all around. Except here, every cup has a ball under it with a number, and you must remember them in sequential order after they’re all scrambled around! It’s really hard!
This one is also like Devilish Calculations, except instead of reading equations; the doctor speaks them out to you with his voice! He says this is the hardest of the Devilish exercises, but I did better on this than regular Devilish Calculations. But then, I work at a place where I listen to customers on the phone spout off PO numbers, customer numbers, and item numbers to order, so I’ve gotten a lot of practice!
And that’s all the Devilish Training exercises! One thing to note is that if you press the pause button, you’ll have to start over. And if you close your 3DS and put it in sleep mode, when you open it again, the doctor will gently scold you for not keeping focus for the full five minutes. Well excuuuuse, me, doctor! I had to close my 3DS that one time because I had to let my dog Venus go outside and poop! Sometimes you can’t be TOO focused on one thing. But I forgive the doctor for griping at me, because there’s no way he could know that’s what I was doing! Ha ha!
The next section should be familiar to Brain Age veterans, as a lot of these activities are similar to ones found in past titles. You unlock a new one every few days of play.
This is exactly like one of the more well-known modes in the original game. Try and solve 20 simple equations as fast as you can. The game will gauge your brain speed afterwards with a little animation of a guy walking, riding a bike, a car, train, or even a rocket. Only difference is that you don’t tilt the 3DS on its side like you did with the old games.
A word flashes on the screen and you must remember it and write it down correctly. Do this as fast as you can for several words.
By the Numbers
In this one, they give you two bits of criteria for a number, like “Is it a multiple of 3 or have a 3 in it?” Then you must tap Yes or No as numbers are presented. After a while, they’ll hide the criteria so you’ll have to remember it. Try and pick the correct numbers quickly and correctly.
Sum Totaled: Battle
This is a simple RPG styled game. You are a stick man with a blank face, and are in a dungeon. Monsters with numbers will come at you, and you must add their numbers together to destroy them. It reminds me of some of the educational games out there, like Math Blaster.
Word Attack: Space
This also reminds me of educational games. It looks like a simple space shooter, and words come from above and quickly hide their letters. You must remember and spell the words to zap them before they get to your spaceship.
And that’s all I’ve got unlocked right now. As of this writing, there are four more to unlock. The last one is unlocked after 20 more days of playing, and I didn’t want to wait that long to write the review. But if there is something significant, I guess I can make a little add-on in the comments section when I unlock it.
This next section has more supplemental exercises, but most of these feel like mini-games or other activities like Solitaire.
This little strategy game is actually pretty fun, and I could see this as a standalone eShop download. You and the doctor’s head take turns moving pieces around various boards with different point values on squares. When you land on a space, it turns to your color and your opponent won’t be able to land on it. You must use strategy to plan where your opponent will move, so you can block his path from getting more points. Only problem is that after a few stages, they make you stop playing and you must wait another day to try more. It’s my game, I bought it, and I should be able to play when I want. But oh well.
There are actually a few types of Solitaire card games that you can unlock. I’ve got Klondike and Spider Solitaire unlocked right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more, though. I’m not really a big fan of Solitaire games, actually.
This one is very similar to the piano game on one of the other Brain Age titles. Tap the piano keys to match the notes. So it kind of teaches how to read music, too! I wish you could pick your song and practice it, as it stands now it’s just a sightreading exercise. But that’s good, too. I’m also really good at the Piano Player game. First time I played I got Train Speed. Of course, since I took piano lessons as a kid and was in band in high school, I have a bit of an advantage.
You know those games you can play on the tables at Cracker Barrel where you try and jump over as many golf tee pegs as you can? Well that’s what this is. Like Block head, there are a few stages per day you can try.
And that’s all I’ve unlocked in that section as of this writing. There are four more to unlock. I’m surprised Sudoku isn’t on here, since that was one of the main draws of previous Brain Age games since that was kind of a popular thing at the time. But who knows, maybe it is unlockable here, too, and I just haven’t gotten that far yet.
This mode has a couple of puzzle games to ‘help your brain relax.’ Only problem is the doctor won’t let you play them until you have completed at least one other brain activity that day. Stupid doctor.
This is basically a touch screen version of Wario’s Woods. Which I’m happy about because I LOVED that puzzle game. Of course, here they took out the Mario references, so Toad isn’t the star. I do like the touch screen interface, though. Maneuvering Toad around the pieces and bombs with the control pad was a bit of a learning curve.
One of the other Brain Age games had a touch screen version of Dr. Mario, and this is the same thing. While I love Dr. Mario, I don’t think it has aged as well as other puzzlers. But my mom still likes it. I do think it’s cool how this version has slow, cleverly disguised remixes of the Dr. Mario themes.
This isn’t really a game. Just pick some soothing music and it shows a relaxing background. Rather disappointing.
The Archive section holds various records. You can view your awards, which are like Xbox 360 Achievements. You can also see rankings and graphs for each game, and how many days you’ve played in Attendance. Compare how you do with your Training Partners; other players who have save files on your game or people you meet with StreetPass. You can also view Doctor’s Notes. These are short little segments called Brain Seminars and Brain News where the doctor talks about benefits of brain training. A lot of it is him repeating himself, but if you are interested in that kind of stuff, you’ll like it anyway.
And the last mode is Settings. Here you can toggle your StreetPass settings. If you ping someone via StreetPass, you can compare your scores to theirs and even do a Devilish Battle. It just compares what scores each person has in each event, and the highest scorer is the winner. Kind of reminds me of the figure battles in the 3DS version of Super SF4. Some settings are unlocked after you play a certain number of days. You can change your stamp design for when you stamp each day you play on the calendar, and change your Mii outfit and face (same color, just stripes, plaid, or dots). The Doctor’s Appearance option just lets you turn off his voice. But if you hold down the stylus as he talks, he’ll go really fast, like a chipmunk! And last is Delete Profile, which is pretty self-explanatory.
And that’s all there is to Brain Age: Concentration Training. While the game was probably originally designed for older gamers in mind, even the doctor says this game is great for kids, too. I think it’s best enjoyed by kids in middle to late elementary school who have already mastered their multiplication tables. This game has several educational benefits for kids. It can help them practice math skills, as well as spelling, vocabulary, music, and more! It’s especially great for kids who have enthusiasm for learning and love for expanding their minds. Many people may gripe about Nintendo’s focus on casual gamers, but when they do a casual game, they do it well, I think. Brain Age: Concentration Training is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Comic Mischief, as the doctor does some cartoony antics in his Seminars.