scheds's More Brain Training from Dr. Kawashima: How Old Is Your Brain? (Nintendo DS) review

Does What You'd Expect, Not Much Else

It’s no secret that Brain Age is a huge franchise for Nintendo DS, shipping over a million units since its release. One can then assume it’s no surprise that a sequel, Brain Age 2, is now available, also on Nintendo’s handheld. What’s here is exactly the same idea as the first game, just with some new methods. You’ll still be encouraged to do some deceptively simple math and word games daily to increase your brain activity, and there’s still the same problems that stuck out in the original game. If you’re looking for some different and perhaps more advanced brain training minigames, this fits the bill nicely at twenty dollars.

Brain Age 2 has eleven training methods which range from filling in the missing mathematical operator from an equation to keeping track of a runner’s place in a sprint as he alternately passes his opponents and falls behind. Virtually all the games are grounded in either math or memory, as these are the fastest ways to warm up the brain – says the game, anyway.

Once you complete one training game in a day, you’ll be asked to stamp a calendar, one of the many ways Brain Age 2 charts your progress and commitment to its training regimen. Accumulating stamps will open up more of the eleven games until you’ve got them all. As per the name of the game, you can also check your ‘brain age’ once a day. It’s a scale that the game originated, and it basically assigns a number that judges how quickly and accurately you do the three exercises it randomly chooses for you. Eighty is the worst possible score you can get, and twenty is the best.

Just as in the original, the biggest problem with Brain Age 2 is that your scores don’t mean a thing outside of the actual game. It also doesn’t tell you specifically how it arrived at your brain age score, which is a bit annoying if you really get into the game on a daily basis and are looking for a little more meat. A more specific breakdown of your brain age – or even just an IQ Test or something more standardized – would have been appreciated.

Making up for this though, are the over fifty Sudoku puzzles available from the menu. It has beginner, intermediate, and expert level boards for you to play, although if you’re looking to learn the difficult crossword-looking numbers game, be prepared to do some online reading; Brain Age 2 barely even explains what Sudoku is, much less how to play it.

Brain Age 2 is an improvement over the first game in that its tests feel more challenging and is thus more satisfying when you see your daily brain age counts inching toward twenty. It also makes good use of the DS and its touch screen (and microphone) inputs. However, where it really, truly counts for this series – a more focused and appreciable measure of how you’re improving – you’ll find that this game comes up a bit short. In all, it’s not a bad way to spend twenty bucks by any means, and if you manage to stick with it for a week or two, you may find a good waking-up routine to get your brain active on a scheduled basis. Just don’t expect any sweeping improvements.

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