Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day


Brain Age

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: 4/17/2006

ESRB: E

Genre: puzzle

After hearing that my friend who wasn’t into video games wanted to get a DS lite solely for Brain Age, I had to wonder what it was about this game that intrigued her. She had heard that senior citizens in Japan were playing it as well as the younger generation. I found out that the game is based on a popular book written by Japanese neurologist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima to help train your brain so that it can be sharper and younger. Through a series of simple brain exercises to get that prefrontal cortex going, Brain Age is fun for anyone that can read and do basic math but this is mostly targeted towards adults.

I’m not generally a huge fan of puzzle games, or anything that requires a good amount of thinking. What I like about Brain Age is that these games are very short and quick so that I don’t feel like I’m sitting there for hours trying to solve a problem. These aren’t brain teasers but simple exercises that include numbers, words and colors. There are a few issues with the voice recognition test that involves saying the color of the word, not the word itself. The game does mention that this is best for native English speakers, but even for English speakers, there seems to be a problem with the word “blue” unless you really emphasize on the “U.” Otherwise, you’ll end up getting a brain age in the 60s or higher, which was what happened to me. This is one of the only games where you hold your DS sideways like a book, and depending on whether or not you’re left handed or right handed, the game will rotate to accommodate you. Another problem is during the memorization puzzle where you have to memorize 30 words in 3 minutes and write them down in a grid. There are times when the game either doesn’t recognize the letter or possibly your handwriting. I personally haven’t had many issues with it, but my husband was getting frustrated that the game couldn’t recognize his chicken scratching. Clicking erase erases the entire word instead of the last letter, which can be frustrating since there’s a clock that’s ticking down.

The game can save up to four profiles. Your own profile will track your progress through the puzzles, and you’ll receive a stamp each day that you train. There are graphs to see how you are doing on a daily basis and it’s tracked over a 2 month period. The Dr.’s animated head is always there to cheer you on and offer a bit of advice. Although he does gives you a lecture if you decide to login too late in the evening, but it’s funny how if you missed a day, he will tell you that he missed you. Similar to other DS games such as Nintendogs and Animal Crossing: Wild World, you can play the game for a few minutes each day and still feel like you’ve accomplished a lot. I can’t imagine playing this game for hours, but it’s a nice break if you’ve been sitting at work all day and feel like your brain is asleep. Each day the Dr. gives you a stamp for training, the more stamps you collect, the more games you will unlock.

Another game that is included with Brain Age is Sudoku. Sudoku is already a popular game that can be found in newspapers throughout Europe, similar to crossword puzzles that you find in North American newspapers. However, Sudoku is a numbers game where you have a tic tac toe like grid to fill in with 9 numbers. There are 9 of these grids and the goal is to fill up each grid with the numbers 1 to 9 but the same number can’t be duplicated in the individual grid, in a single row or in a single column. In addition every grid, row and every colum must contain each of the numbers 1 to 9. At first I was thinking that this game would take me forever and that it was going to be incredibly frustrating, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. On my first try I was able to complete the puzzle in about 12 minutes. Making a mistake costs a huge penalty since 20 minutes gets added onto your final time. There are several puzzles that you can complete at various levels of difficulty. This is probably the only part of the game that can take up a good deal of time since after you’ve completed a puzzle, it’s tempting to do another one. They do get progressively harder, so unless you’re really good you could be working on it for awhile. There is the option to save and quit so you can pick it up again later, but this is only if you have a profile set up. None of the quick play games allows you to save.

Brain Age is a surprisingly entertaining game that is so simple and basic, it doesn’t feel like a video game. I’ve explained this game to my parents, coworkers and friends who don’t normally plays games, but they’ve all found it very interesting and would play if they owned a DS. It is like having a portable puzzle book to play with that includes fun brain activities. There is nothing fancy about this game, no stellar graphics or great music to speak of but it still does the trick and will keep you amused, at least up until you get your brain to the ideal age of 20 and then you feel like you’ve accomplished your goal.

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About the Author, Sophia (A.K.A Soapy)

I am a Canadian living in California with my husband and my precious baby Bailey (95lbs of labrador fun). I work full time and go to school, so finding the time to play video games is tough. I still manage to sneak some time in, whether it's playing on my GBA while I wait in line or sitting in the back seat of my car so I can use our dvd player to play the Gamecube on long trips. I've always been fairly decent at playing games to give my younger brother some competition. I started at the early age of 6 when I inherited an Atari 2600. I played any computer game I could get my hands on during those Commodore 64 days. Now I'll play anything from RPGs to first person shooters, racing games or basically anything that's fun and allows me to play with at least 3 other people.