8

Dr. Ryuta Kawashima and Nintendo have created a piece of software that provides challenge value and fun for it's users.

The Good:
--------------------
-Excellent Value
-Stimulates Right Brain Activity
-Up to 4 User's Data on 1 Cartridge

The Bad
--------------------
-Spotty Voice Recognition for Some Users

Nintendo's DS has been a hotbed of innovation and creativity since it's launch. It's software library is easily the most unique among the current platforms available. Developed in co-operation with Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, a professor at Tohoku University in Japan who specializes in brain imaging, Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day is no exception. In fact, it turns the DS on it's side.

You'll be suprised how comfotable the DS is to hold in this position, especially if you've imported a DS Lite. You may also wonder why more titles don't take advantage of this more vertical perspective.

When you first start up the software, you'll be greeted by a polygonal representation of Dr. Kawashima's disembodied head. This is about the extent of the graphical power you will see in this title. Rest assured, though as the presentation of mostly simple text and numbers works perfectly against a white backdrop. Any sort of bells and whistles would most likely distract you from the training excercises you perform.

After you sign your name and do an initial test, the training excercises become available. They range from rapid fire math questions to reading passages from literature and voice calculation games. The more days you train with the software, the more stamps Dr. Kawashima will give you on your calendar. Accumulating these stamps unlocks new training excercises and difficulty levels. You can check you Brain Age once a day.

After using the software for a few weeks, you'll probably want to start trying the hard modes. I'm not sure if my brain is in better shape, or if I've learned how to play the excercises better, but either way it feels good to see a measurement of your improvement over time. As an example, when I got my copy from GDC my Brain age was 58. On the software's release day, it was 34. My real age is 29. You'll probably have good days and bad. Some days you may reach the software's ultimate Brain Age of 20, and others you may be in your 70's.

I have not had a single issue with the voice recognition. My wife is French Canadian though, and has trouble getting the game to recognize the word "blue". Apparently this is an issue for alot of people. If you happen to have an accent, you may want to be aware of this. You do always have the option to not do the spoken tests.

I find it best to use the software at the same time every day. I usually use it after breakfast with my morning coffee. You'll see a marked difference if you do the excercises at different times of day. My wife finds it best to use it after work, when her Brain has been used already.

You can store 4 people's data on on 1 cartridge, and Dr. Kawashima encouages you to share the experience with your friends and family.
the software will compare all of the pictures you draw for the doctor, and encourages you to discuss the results with the other players.

There's a great mulitiplayer mode for up to 16 players, and 100 sudoku puzzles designed by puzzle experts NIKOLI Co., Ltd. included as well. Although you only spend 5-15 minutes a day with it, this title is an amazing value.

The software's sound is adequate, offering a simple theme and some indicators to tell you if you're doing good or bad. The highlight for me is the inclusion of the pencil on paper sound. It may seem like a small touch, but it really does add to the experience.

Nintendo has a good chance of making the edutainment genre popular with titles like this. Everyone I've showed the title to has come away with a positive impression, and even my 70 year old grandmother enjoyed it. This same lady made me turn down the volume on countless NES, Master System and TurboGrafix 16 games in the 1980's, and would even force me to leave the worlds of Metroid and Mega Man for the outdoors. No matter what your age or background, Brain Age offers something for you. I showed the software to my mother who is a middle school teacher, and she found it a great way to get kids interested in mathematics also.

Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day is a great title for your Nintendo DS. Highly reccommended to anyone with an interest in self-challenge. I also find it great as a tool to get the brain working before big events, or even getting warmed up to play other games. An active Prefrontal Cortex is a happy Prefrontal Cortex.

Discussion