Before the delay of the Burning Crusade expansion was announced, my boyfriend had a plan in place to gain control of the PC come November. In an effort to distract me from my World of Warcraft addiction, he purchased a Nintendo DS and picked up a game he thought would hook me, Brain Age. Although the game is entertaining, it's going to take a lot more than that to pull me away from the Burning Crusade. A lot more. I'm not even sure if Final Fantasy XII is going to be enough.
Regardless of the motivation behind the purchase of the game, I enjoyed it. If you haven't heard of Brain Age, the game is designed to exercise your brain. It gives you a variety of tests to judge how old your brain is. There are also tasks designed to give your brain a workout and the game has more than fifty sudoku puzzles.
I am a great fan of sudoku so I really enjoyed playing that aspect of the game. I found it the best way to cope with long car trips. If you don't get carsick, I'd recommend it. The tests were interesting, though less entertaining. It was interesting to discover what my strengths and weaknesses were. I'm very good at basic math, but can't count quickly. I'm not sure what that means, but it's something to think about.
While performing these tasks I was given instructions by the polygonal, disembodied head of the Japanese researcher who designed the game. In addition to providing instructions for each task, he also gives you tips about how to increase brain activity. An interesting bit to mention is that he applauds your efforts or he encourages you to do better next time. I'm sure he's trying to be nice about it, but it irritated the hell out of me.
The tests in this game vary greatly, but they are all timed. The faster you can complete the tasks, the younger your brain is. In one test you're asked to read a passage from a book out loud. In another you have to keep track of how many stick figures are currently inhabiting a house. Everything from basic math to connect the dots can be found in this game. I've yet to do all the training tasks, but I've unlocked a good number of them by earning stamps with daily training.
There are some technical problems with the game, which isn't very surprising given the nature of the gameplay. The first problem I encountered was with the Stroop test. This test requires spoken word answers. For some people this doesn't pose a problem, but when I played, the DS had a great deal of difficulty picking up what I was saying. Thankfully, there is an option that gets you out of verbal responses. Still I was disappointed that a portion of the gameplay was denied to me.
There is a similar interpretive problem with the handwriting recognition software. Since almost all of the tests that don't involve speaking involve writing, this is a significant drawback. Some adjustment in how you write may be necessary to achieve optimum performance. For instance, I had to stop crossing my sevens. Some mistakes can't be prevented. For some reason the game occasionally claims that the four I wrote is a two. While some misinterpretations are understandable, I have no idea where the confusion of those two numbers comes in. It's rather frustrating since incorrect answers cause you to accumulate penalty seconds.
There are several different modes of play. The first is a Brain Age Check. You complete three or four of the tests and your brain's age is calculated. I've found that if you are in a busy place your score will drop dramatically. It's always interesting to find out what distracts you and what helps you when taking these tests. The next mode is Training. In this mode you can take whatever tests you've unlocked as often as you like. This is supposed to help you lower your brain age and benefit you come test time. These modes and the sudoku comprise the entirety of the game.
The true enjoyment from this game comes not from the tests or the sudoku, but in competing with other people. Having the lowest brain age in the family is a badge of honor and a highly sought after prize. It's also fun to compare the drawings you're occasionally asked to make with other people's drawings.
Overall, this game does what it sets out to do, exercise your brain. It never claims to be a source of great entertainment, though it can be a lot of fun. But this game is clearly not for everyone. If this sounds like something you'd like doing for five minutes or so everyday I suggest you go pick it up. It's priced less than most DS games, but it's still thirty dollars so think carefully about whether or not it's worth it to you.
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