Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day Hands-On

Professor Kawashima's research fuels another assault on our poor grey matter.

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Just when you thought it was safe to slack on your brain training, Nintendo showed off a new installment in the popular Brain Age series. Dubbed Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day, the sequel continues to offer mental challenges designed to keep your mind fit. A demo and some hands-on time with a work-in-progress version of the game at Nintendo's Summer Preview Event hooked us good on the fun title.

As before, the game will feature a basic structure. The disembodied head of the good professor will offer praise, pointers, and random bits of wisdom as you play the game. You'll simply create a profile, take a test to determine your "brain age," and then dive in. The game will feature the same array of modes as its predecessor--quickplay, daily training, sudoku, and the option to download a demo to a friend wirelessly. Quickplay lets you casually try the various training games you've opened up. Daily training is where you'll go to play and open up training games. Finally, sudoku is just that, the math game with a huge following that's still a total mystery to us. Hardcore fans will be pleased to hear the sudoku in Brain Age 2 offers 100 new puzzles.

While the game is structured the same way as its predecessor, you can look forward to a new array of training games. Our demo of the game showed off several that were both cool and anxiety inducing (math and timed pressure are a recipe for disaster). The piano player game requires you to follow along to music displayed on the left side of the screen by tapping keys on the right side of the screen. Sign finder is a new form of mental-math cruelty that shows you the numbers in a math problem and then requires you to fill in the signs to make it work out. Word scramble shows you letters rotating in a circle on the left screen and challenges you to figure out what it is and spell it on the touch screen.

Memory sprint requires you to keep track of a runner's place as he works his way through a race. Word blend relies on the Nintendo DS's audio prowess by playing a sound sample of a spoken word. You'll simply have to spell it on the touch screen. Easy, right? Unfortunately, as things pick up, you'll have to deal with multiple words being said at the same time. Math recall is another math-tastic game that forces you to solve math problems. While this is likely bad enough for many, the game takes it up a notch and obscures a number in the equation and drags it down into each subsequent problem. Finally, a rock-paper-scissors game, which seems harmless enough, forces you to think as it challenges you to follow its orders to win or lose the match. The games are fun, in a masochistic way, and benefit from improved voice and handwriting recognition, which have been enhanced over the original game.

In addition to all the mind-imploding training games, Brain Age 2 includes a bit of a respite from the mental gymnastics and offers a non-training game called virus buster, which is essentially Dr. Mario sans the good mustachioed doctor but with touch-screen controls. As with the original game, Brain Age 2 isn't about pushing the DS's limits when it comes to graphics. All the games are represented simply and move along at a good pace. The audio in the game is a bit beefier, with cleaner sound effects.

Based on what we played, Brain Age 2 should be a great follow-up to the original game. The training games are challenging but still fun, in an oddly educational way. The addition of virus buster is a welcome bit of mental decompression that should come in handy when your head comes close to exploding from all the math exposure. Toss in an expanded multiplayer mode that lets you play up to four games with a group of friends locally, and you have a slick little DS title that's both fun and good for you. Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day is slated to ship this summer for the DS. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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