In the past year, Nintendo’s been working hard to reinvent itself as the ultimate in casual games publishers. Recently, they even announced a special initiative directed at making and marketing games that everyone, not just the hardcore, can enjoy. One of the first real attempts at reaching this market is Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day for the Nintendo DS. At first blush, the collection of math and word games might make you think “how can homework be fun?”, but after just ten minutes of playing, we’re sure you’ll be hooked.
Brain Age is all about testing yourself with a variety of math and word puzzles. It’s all pretty simple stuff, but the game throws it at you at a frenzied rate, which means you’ve got to constantly be thinking. Every day that you play earns you a stamp, the more stamps you earn, the more games you unlock. Some games are simple, such as 20 questions math, which, as the name implies, is a 20 math problems you try to answer as quickly as possible. Earn enough stamps, however, and you unlock the “hard” version of 20 questions, which adds multiplication, division and more difficult problems – no more “What’s 6×7?” it instead becomes “What’s 24×6?”. Word problems typically involve speed reading and memorization, though later, you’ll be tasked to solve math problems by speaking the answers, which becomes fast, frenzied, and believe it or not, fun.
The game’s presentation is sparse, to say the least. It’s mostly a black and white world of plain text, with a little color thrown in to spice things up. The “face” of the game is an electronic representation of Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, the man who inspired the game through his pioneering brain research. Throughout the game, he’ll throw tips your way, though it won’t take long before those tips are repeated ad nauseum, and you wish you could turn them off. There’s some sort of silly fun though in Dr. Kawashima’s talking head giving you tips, and he’s really a charming face for the game.
There’s something inherintly addicting in testing your brain every day to find out how “old” it is. The puzzles may be simple, but it’s so fun to be able to pick up a game and in ten minutes have enjoyed the “complete experience” of it, you’ll find yourself checking in every day to earn another stamp and beat yesterday’s scores. There’s no worse feeling that seeing your progress chart take a dip, which’ll have you waiting anxiously for the next day to begin so you can run through the puzzles again in hopes of increasing the score. How to explain it? Well, it’s probably the fact that Brain Age challenges you to better yourself, rather than trying to best a boring AI every time you play. It’s good fun, and for $20, you’re not going to beat Brain Age.
- Gameplay: 8
- While the games may be basic, the overall package sucks you in and keeps you playing
- Graphics: 6.5
- Not much to look at, but high-powered graphics would be out of place anyhow.
- Sound: 6
- Some cutesy sounds and a decent soundtrack
- Replay: 9
- Insanely addicting, and the multiplayer challenge option will keep you playing
- Overall: 8
- Who knew math and matching games could be so much fun?
— Craig Falstaff