Last seen in 2009, the Brain Age series pumped edutainment into DS systems through a collection of mini-games and challenges focused on keeping your brain active and aware. Predominantly targeted at the casual audience, the series managed to peak mind fitness seekers, but fell flat to what a modern smartphone could do today. This time around, the fully voiced Dr Kawashima enrolls you in his class of concentration and regimented five minute courses of the best, yet, counterintuitive Brain Age so far.
Brain Age Concentration Training is played in the same vein as Wii Fit, made to be used in rhythm and not aligned with a gamer’s sporadic and “marathonic” play. However, unlike Wii Fit, the series of activities can and will help improve the memory of your person. You begin with a select number of things to do in Brain Age Concentration Training, starting off with an introduction of information Addition, being constantly distracted with insurmountable information leading to poor concentration. With continued use, Dr Kawashima’s disembodied cranium carrier appears now and then to give optional lectures about working memory or memory plate spinning. In addition, the talking head hands various, intriguing tips on how to aid our brains, like counting the number of brushstrokes in the morning to help wake us up.
The main hook of the newest Brain Age is the Devilish Training. Here, the Doctor grows Lucifer like and the activities involved painfully push your mind’s mettle. Each of the eight minigames adjusts and tailors to your skill through levels, stretching the limits of your abilities. Levels which match your performance of the last exercise to whether you advance/slump a level or maintain at the current state through pass or fail marks. No need to worry about toppling a level or two, a normal session teeters around your plateau spot. These intelligently implemented grades occur in five minute spurts, and given personal investment, a gradual improvement will be had.
The Devilish Training also showcases Dr. Kawashima as a great motivator. Good or bad, he’s always adding encouraging words through your struggles and praising you in your triumphs. However, some audio repeats itself, but hearing the doctor’s calm Chevy Chase-esque voice aids the damage done. Which to say, Concentration Training unwillingly lowers the bar. From the start, you’re given an E (Fate worse than F) for your poor, early results. The only way to obtain a better score is simply get better marks through Brain Age Concentration Training.
Taxing is one way to affix an adjective to Devilish Training. You’ve got visual activities poking at your cognitive maps like Devilish Mice (track the paths of mice masked by question mark boxes) and Devilish Blocks (memorize the flashing green block in an array of carbon copies). If not done perfectly, levels are lowered to raise moral and strengthen skill toward a deeper progression. Then you get to the more lenient, though skull bashing, percentage based workouts like Devilish Pairs (match cards with the same numerical value) and the forever frustrating Devilish Calculations(memorize answers to addition/subtraction problems). Calculations shine as the true test of concentration, braking thoughts multiple times and answers soon fade as you scramble to piece together what the equation was shown two problems ago. The mad dash exemplifies what Brain Age Concentration Training can do to help/destroy you, then another problem arises when attempting to write.
Activities where you need to rely on using the 3DS stylist for writing out letters and numbers is hit or miss. 9s get inputted as 1s, 4s get inputted as 9s, and, it’s pretty self-explanatory how lacking penmanship and frantic rushing can cause more headaches without meager memory abilities. To sooth the tactical limitations a retry button at the top of the bottom screen resets the current level attempt in case of a game distraction event or a pride-eating do over. Once again, the doctor sympathizes and back pats your decision.
As mentioned before, Brain Age metaphorically schools you, and furthers that point by limiting what you do. Everything is restricted, complete one of the activities and wait until tomorrow. In execution, once you gain enough things to do, the disappointing drawback seems frivolous. To see what the game has to offer in its entirety, you’ll have to stamp the attendance to unlock more activities with more days clocked in. As of this review, 25 days were left with 7 activities, unplayed and inaccessible. Still, trying to focus on one area of memory with one particular exercise or plunging time in the Brain Training game of Block Head leads to nowhere for everyone. Even worse, is Relaxation mode, a tab of games filled with simpler puzzles designed not to infuriate, but can only be played with a completed session of Devilish, Brain, or Supplemental training within that 24-hour period. In essence, don’t expect Free Play here. Expect the circumvention of passive players with one day tokens of great puzzles and games.
Rigorous and methodical as it may be, the real core of Brain Age empowers through the borderline infuriating and soul crushingly difficult challenges. The unobtainable bar sets you up for the delayed gratification, reaching the finish line of that seemingly impossible milestone. Needlessly to say, Concentration training is purely based on your motivation. That said, some things could be easily taken advantage of, yet, creates another fork in the road of self-perseverance. Take for example, keyboard typing training. We’re there to learn a specific way to use a keyboard with four digits on each hand having each of their assigned roles, though you remain reliant on finger pecking, negating the learning experience.
Tasks can and will alter the learning the experience, if you let them. Devilish Reading requires users to read a sentence out loud and memorize an underline word. The trouble comes in where basic gibberish can achieve the task as you only memorize the word. Hell, any sort of pressure applied to the 3DS’s microphone interprets as spoken word. Another counteracting design is in Word Attack, a supplemental training game where a word flashes on the screen and you’re meant to write out the word then it times you on the completion of the game, but inputs words by the letter.
Treat Brain Age Concentration Training as an online college course. Tests and quizzes must be taken at home, leaving textbooks and notes readily accessible to correctly fill out the exams. In order to actually learn the material, segment the easy way out and further prevent from easily manipulating your grade in your favor. Depending upon your approach, Concentration Training will either be a worthwhile avenue to improve working memory and mental might or a waste of tuition just to pad credit requirements.