Get Out There and Exercise Your Brain! - A somewhat math-impaired Tv.com member's review of Brain Age
Category: Puzzle Game
Players: 1-16 players
Rating: E for everyone
Release Date: April 17, 3006 - United States
Platform: Nintendo DS
Welcome fellow Tv.com members! The following review is going to be about Brain Age - a videogame that I previously was curious about, but not sure of at first. It didn't take me that long to get hooked though. From the first mini-game onward, I had fun. Sure there were times where I got frustrated, but for the most part, I had a blast playing this game.
This game was the brainchild of both Dr. Ryuta Kawashima and Nintendo. His book (published in Japan), Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain, was the inspiration for the game. They were interested in making a game that would appeal to both hard-core and casual gamers.
Well, now onto the game itself - Brain Age. It's not your usual videogame - where you fight off baddies and face off against bosses. In this game, you have to do a series of different mini-games (calculations x 100, for example) to help to determine your Brain Age - and to help to exercise your brain as well.
The controls in this game are easy enough to get the hang of in no time. They are mainly touch-screen based, using the stylus for most of the mini-games.
You also use voice recognition in Brain Age - this tended to give me some problems. I would say one thing, and the computer (cpu) thought I said another.
For example, when I play through the Stroop Test, whenever I say Red, the computer would think I said Yellow or one of the other colors. It isn't that good at voice recognition overall, I tend to have to repeat myself sometimes when doing any voice recognition related task in Brain Age. This can tend to get on my nerves.
As for the stylus controls, they're decent enough - but there are times where I wanted to throw the game against the wall! They sometimes didn't work the way that they were supposed to. Sometimes when I play Time Lapse and Calculations X 20 and 100, the computer (cpu) mistakens what I wrote down, for another number. One example was when I was playing Time Lapse -- I would put in one time and the computer would think it was another one. This seems to happen more for left handed people (which I am) than right handed people.
Well, the graphics, they aren't too bad or too good, for that matter. They're somewhere in the middle - which suits this game just fine; not that it needs any flashy graphics to keep gamers entertained. The game itself makes up for the somewhat lackluster graphics with good gameplay.
The sound in Brain Age is decent, not anything special. It's kept to a minimum, and I don't mind it though. The lack of sound in this game, helps to keep me focused on the task at hand - bringing down my Brain Age to the minimum age of 20.
Hmm - The game of Sudoku, a game that before Brain Age, I did my best to avoid. Sudoku looked like the type of game that would drive me up a wall.
Once I tried it out on Brain Age though - I changed my mind about it. It ended up, at the most, being a fun game to play.
You, the player have to do the best that you can to fill up an entire 9 X 9 grid with every number between 1-9 without repeating any number in each smaller 3 X 3 grid you fill. Just follow the pre-written numbers in order to find out the right sequence. You get to use the stylus when filling in the puzzle itself, which makes this game that much more interactive.
There are two modes of Sudoku you can play - with notification (which is very hard) or without. I played some games of Sudoku with notification and I personally stunk at them. You only get 5 (no kidding) chances to solve the puzzle, and each time you get it wrong, you get a 20 second penalty added to your time (geez, that's harsh). I tend to play the game using the second mode (without notification), since it's a lot less stressful and more enjoyable in the long run.
Last but not least, if you don't want to finish the puzzle, you can always save it and come back to it later. I tend to do this myself, since I only have so much patience for a Sudoku puzzle.
Gameplay in Brain Age is straight forward for the most part. Gamers play the game for sometime when they get the chance to, like Animal Crossing: WW or Nintendogs, seeing how much their Brain Age changes each day. Using either their left or right hand in order to play the mini-games with the stylus.
Some of the games on Brain Age, are voice-controlled and gamers get the chance to talk into the microphone in order to beat the mini-game.
When you are playing the mini-games, you are timed, and the faster you are (without making any mistakes) the better your time. Professor Kawashima keeps an eye on your overall Brain Training, providing you tips along the way as well.
Sometimes when you play the game, he asks you somewhat random questions (a.k.a.: Memory Quizzes), like what you did you eat on a certain day, or what the most interesting thing that you saw on tv from the day before.
Other times he asks you to make a series of three drawings from memory - I'm ok at it, but some of my drawings look kind of funny (I would post pictures of them if I could -- but sadly I don't have a digital camera)... For example, when the Professor asked me to draw the famous statue, The Thinker -- let me put it this way, my drawing looked like a stick figure!
Now onto Quick Play and Download mode -- in this mini-version of Brain Age, you don't need to have a save file or input any personal information either.
It's basically a simplified version of the full game, that lets you play three modes: Quick Sudoku, Quick Brain Age Check and Quick Training. After trying out the game itself, the Professor will show you a preview of the full game. As for download mode, gamers can get certain information from other Brain Age users and play against them. They can either download Calculations X 30, a different take on the Calculations game in Brain Age - which lets up to 16 people play against each other or Quick Play Mode.
Next stop is, the heart and soul of Brain Age itself - the Brain Age Check! This is one of my favorite parts of the game - the exception being when I have to take the Word Memory Test. Gah, I stink at it, definitely not one of my favorite mini-games! The 3 tests themselves are picked at random, and vary somewhat due to whether or not you're able to play them using voice recognition or not.
Here they are in no particular order:
Calculations X 20 - In this game, the player has to do their best to get as many math problems correct as they possibly can, in a timely manner. I like playing this mini-game myself, since I'm good at this kind of math.
Number Cruncher - The object in this mini-game is for the player to count the number of a particular colored number or of a moving number, then write down the answer on the touch screen and see if they are right. I find this mini-game to be fun to play, and it keeps me on my toes.
Connect Maze - Ok, the point of this mini-game is to connect letters to numbers. Not in any order though - in a specific order - A-1, B-2, etc., and so on. The faster that a player finishes the maze, the better.
Word Memory - My least favorite Brain Age mini-game! The point of this mini-game is to remember as many words as you can in the set amount of time given, and then write down the ones that you remember onto the touch screen.
Stroop Test - In this mini-game, the player has to say the color of the words that appear on the screen. I only had one problem with this game, the voice recognition for this mini-game isn't that good. When I say one color, it some times mistakens it for another one.
Speed Counting - This mini-game has to be unlocked. The point of it is for the player to be able to count from 1 to 120 as fast as they can.
Last but not least, is Daily Training! This is another one of my favorite parts of Brain Age.
Here are the mini-games in no real order:
Voice Calculation - In this game, you have to answer math problems using voice recognition. I had some trouble with this mini-game... When I answer some of the problems, the computer (cpu) mishears it and thinks it's another answer.
Time Lapse - This mini-game requires the player to figure out how much time has passed between the first time on the top screen and the second one. Sometimes I had problems with this game - I would write down one number and the computer (cpu) thought it was something else. This issue tended to get on my nerves.
Triangle Math - The point in this mini-game is to get as many mathmatical equations right as you can. You figure out the equations on the top screen and write down the correct answers on the touch screen.
Head Count - This mini-game requires the player to keep track of who goes in and out of a house. Once people stop going in and out of the house, you have to guess how many people are inside of it, and then write down your answer on the touch screen.
Syllable Count - The main point of this mini-game is for you, the player, to count up all of the syllables in a number of sentences, and get as many of them right. I like this game - it helped me to get better at a skill that I've been out of practice at for some time.
Calculations X 100 - This mini-game is a longer version of Calculations X 20 (which has 2 modes - normal and hard mode). I have fun playing through this mini-game. The main objective is to get as many math problems right as you can, as fast as you can.
Reading Aloud - In this mini-game, you have to read a section of a book as fast and as clearly as you can. The faster that you read - the higher the syllable count will be.
Low to High - The point of this mini-game is to use the stylus in order to get the numbers in the right pattern. You start out with a low number (4) and then go up from there. The highest I've been numerically is 8 numbers, it took some time for me to get there though. If you get one wrong - the amount of numbers goes down by one.
I liked most of the mini-games - with a few exceptions.
The Professor's sense of humor and his helpful tips throughout the game.
Sudoku - surprisingly! This game is fun to play every so often.
Kind of Like/In the Middle
The controls, both voice recognition and stylus - could be finicky at times. This tended to drive me crazy every now and again.
The music and sound - They were good for the most part, not too overwhelming or overbearing. The sound was just right, but as for the music, it got to be rather repetitive after awhile. So I tended to keep the volume down in order to not get bugged by it.
Some of the mini-games - Time Lapse and Word Memory being the ones that I liked the least.
Overall view of the game
In conclusion, Brain Age is for the most part, a fun game for people of all ages to play and to learn from. It doesn't matter what kind of gamer that you are, as long as you play the game with an open mind - you won't regret it.
Game Play: 8/10 - Brain Age's game play is straight forward and fun, although there are some things, like control mistakes that tend to put a damper on the fun factor.
Music/Sound: 6/10 - The music and sound in this game were decent enough and suit it just fine. The music tends to get on my nerves though, every so often.
Controls: 7.5/10 - They worked for the most part (voice recognition and stylus controls), but there were times where they weren't working as well as they could have been. The game developers should have put more time and effort into fine-tuning them. Just by doing that, would have improved the game itself.
Graphics: 7/10 - They were decent enough for the game and suited it. Nothing too flashy or anything, just the bare-bones necessities.
Legacy of the Game: 9/10 - Brain Age seems to have a decent following, despite its flaws.
Sense of Humor: 7/10 - The Professor seems to have a good sense of humor, and makes me chuckle every once in awhile.
Replay Value: 8/10 - This game is fun to play every so often, but hard-core gamers may get bored of it.
Wi-Fi capablities/DS to DS: 7/10 - There's not a lot to do in Brain Age using either of these options, besides Quick Play mode and Download mode.
Overall [not an averaged score]: 8.5/10 - Brain Age is a fun game that the whole family would love, in spite of its flaws. I would recommend it to any gamer who wants to broaden their horizons and train their brains.