Mega Brain Boost (DS) review
"I suggest passing on Mega Brain Boost since it offers less content than the Brain Age games it imitates."
The edutainment genre hasnít always been popular. After flops like Mario is Missing and Mario's Time Machine, many people wished the genre would simply die. In 2006, though, Nintendo revived the genre with a pair of edutainment games that were more geared towards middle-aged adults. Brain Age and Big Brain Academy, which utilized the simplistic touch screen and microphone controls of the DS, proved successful and spawned the "Touch! Generation" series of casual games for the DS. Due to the success of that line, Majesco decided to release its own pair of brain-training games known as Brain Boost: Gamma Wave and Brain Boost: Beta Wave. These games tried to imitate Nintendoís success but met with sub-par results. Now, Majesco has compiled those two games with a brand new third title in a single-cartridge compilation, Mega Brain Boost.
Mega Brain Boost is designed to improve oneís memory using Makoto Shichidaís right brain theory. This theory is that the right hemisphere of the brain will develop after playing this game every day for two months. There are only 15 challenges in this game, so you can easily complete a day's training within an hour.
All of the challenges are timed. When you answer questions correctly, you earn points. Answer them incorrectly and you lose points. The more points you earn, the harder the game gets. Most of these challenges are memory-based and rather limited. One mini-game is Remember Colors, which involves a group of colored dots that appear in a specific order during a three-second period before disappearing, at which point you must choose the answer on the touch screen that correctly recalls the pattern. At first thereíll be only four dots and you can easily remember the sequence, but eventually it gets more complex with more dot combinations and you may only remember a few colors ( not always enough to identify the correct answer). A similar diversion is Remember Numbers, which asks you to recall progressively larger numbers.
One game that really irked me was Remember Circumstances. A group of pictures appear, disappear and reappear, only one of the pictures wasnít included in the first set and you must identify it. By the time seven or more pictures appear, it gets much too complicated for me to remain up to speed... which brings up my main beef with the memorization games. Once I reach a certain difficulty in the game, I start getting tired and my performance declines. Since these games tend to last over 100 seconds, it's easy to find your mind wandering and your score suffering by the end of the challenge. While playing memory games like these could very well improve your memory, Iím too lazy to put forth the effort. These games simply feel slow at times, whereas Brain Age gages your brainís performance in a more rapid-fire sort of way that is more to my liking.
Fortunately, Mega Brain Boost does feature more than just memorization games. There are a variety of faster paced diversions such as Match the Kanji Characters. In this game, a Japanese Kanji character appears on the left side of the screen and you must find the matching Kanji character on the right from a list of possibilities. At first there are only a few options, but soon things get more difficult as a larger selection of choices appears and the symbols become smaller. That makes it difficult to distinguish the detailed Kanji characters from one another.
Thereís also Dots, where a group of dots appear on the screen and you must correctly count them before choosing the correct number. Moving Dots is the similar but more challenging, since the dots are mobile. Additional counting games include Total Amount of Money, which brings back memories from elementary school math. Here, thereís you must count change to determine a total value before selecting the correct choice from the list that appears at the bottom of the screen. Then thereís Addition, where numbered cards appear and you must add together their numerical values. Finally, my personal favorite mini-game is Find the Goal, where a spaceship is floating in the air and a line appears below the ship. You must trace its path through corns and turners that lead to the ground below, then select the true destination. Itís like the Pipe Maze mini-game from the first Mario Party.
Aside from improving your score, there isnít much reason to replay these games after youíve initially completed them. This game doesnít keep a daily record of your brain development like Brain Age does, which is somewhat disappointing. Sure, a tree icon appears and flourishes as you improve, but thatís all there really is to accomplish in these games unless you take advantage of the multi-player option (if your friends also own a copy of the game).
Like the Brain Age games, Mega Brain Boost isnít graphic-intensive. Of course, these games were never meant to be visual juggernauts. Brain Age had a creepy Dr. Kawashima head floating around, monitoring your progress. Mega Brain Boost, in turn, offers a crackhead clown professor that always looks depressed. One unimpressive tune plays throughout the game and there are the typical sounds when you give correct and incorrect answers, but overall the presentation isn't really anything special.
In general, I suggest passing on Mega Brain Boost since it offers less content than the Brain Age games it imitates. It is nice to get all three Brain Boost games in one cartridge, rather than buying them all separately, but the limited variety and number of mini-games compiled here doesnít quite add up to the sticker price. If more challenges were included there were an incentive to improve your progress, perhaps then it could stand a chance against other brainteaser games on the handheld.
Freelance review by Matt Olsen (February 28, 2008)
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