"Feeling a bit stupid? Positive that the best way to fix your stupidity is with a videogame? Well then I suppose that Brain Age 2 would be one of your best options. But if you feel nice and smart, then there's an overbearing chance that you'll hate this game. If not right away, then in a few weeks. Why? It just gets boring and frustrating, that's why. I know it is an "educational" game, but it falls short even for this category with its lack of variety, overall brevity, and mind-numbing fl..."
Feeling a bit stupid? Positive that the best way to fix your stupidity is with a videogame? Well then I suppose that Brain Age 2 would be one of your best options. But if you feel nice and smart, then there's an overbearing chance that you'll hate this game. If not right away, then in a few weeks. Why? It just gets boring and frustrating, that's why. I know it is an "educational" game, but it falls short even for this category with its lack of variety, overall brevity, and mind-numbing flaws.
"Train your brain in minutes a day!", Dr. Ryu Long-last-name proclaims on the game box and television commercial. Your prefontal cortex, he'll remind you after EVERY game, is getting excellent exercise. Well that's awesome, I guess, except I don't remember ever having trouble with that part of my brain before. Dr. Ryu assures you that you'll see improved concentration among other benefits simply from playing the "games". This is assuming that "games" to you means tedious math problems, word de-scrambling, and near-impossible listening activities.
See, how it works is there's the Brain Age Check, which scores you based on three such "games" (20 is the "healthiest" age for your brain). Then there's Training mode, where you can play them separately. But what I find stupid is that Training mode has different games than the Brain Age Check. Therefore, you can't actually practice those games before being scored. Plus, you only have a few games unlocked at first and it takes weeks to unlock the others. That's right, unlockables are based on stamps, of which you can only get one a day. So regardless of how much you practice or how well you do on the tests, you still won't get rewarded with new games until you play a certain number of days.
I guess this is a bid to extend the game's life, which in a way it did, but not in a good way. Playing half-assed just to get your stamp for the day and finally unlock those last games is hardly replayability. Once you get the last games (if you were curious to collect the stamps for them), you'll be fed up with this game and let it collect dust. I suppose you could play it later on, but I don't see why you'd want to. It's just not fun. It's like doing schoolwork except you don't get any credit for it.
Now realize please that I'm not just saying that it's no-fun because it's an educational game. This would most likely be the argument of a child who hates school just because it's the cool thing to do. No, the game certainly could have been fun and brain-sharpening, but it just didn't offer enough. In total there's around a dozen games, and most only last 30 seconds long or less. A majority are far too simple to offer any sort of challenge that would make you want to play them again. For example, in Sign Finder, you must fill in the appropriate sign in an equation as quickly as possible. The challenge of doing this isn't in figuring out the sign fast enough, it's in writing neatly enough that the game understands what you wrote - a task which is much more tedious than it should be.
If you heard around that you wrote everything using the touch screen, well, you were informed correctly. You use the touch screen to enter in all your answers. Most of the time, it will know what you're trying to say, but there's a few symbols that the system will always stumble over. Even something as common as the difference between addition (+) and multiplication (x): if your plus sign is a bit slanty, there's a strong chance that it will register as a an "x", and that will earn buzz sound and a time penalty.
Aside from this issue with writing, which arises in nearly every game in some form, the other games just offer almost nothing in the way of depth. In Change Maker you are shown the price and the money from the customer, and you must quickly touch the dollars and coins the make the correct amount of change. However, they're so close together that mistakes are easily made just in the touching process. Occasionally a double-selection will occur when you swear you didn't double-tap. It's just simple subtraction, and the focus of the challenge again shifts to the errors of the touch screen and not the actual game.
This is how most of the games end up, and it takes a lot away from the potential entertainment factor of the game. As an educational game, it should be frustrating the gamer by its difficulty, not by its errors. But they're not all duds. One game will definitely provide a challenge to anyone without a photographic memory. It's Number Memory, a game in which you have to memorize the position of the numbers 1-25 in a square pattern. This will be a lot tougher than it sounds (even if it sounds pretty hard), and provides frustration in the way the game should provide frustration. After playing this particular game over the course of several weeks, I actually did see an improvement in score and in memory. This was cool, but it made me wonder why Brain Age didn't have more games like this one: it actually worked the way it was supposed to.
Another failure of a game forces you to speak aloud in a rock-paper-scissors match. The twist is that it will say on the screen whether you should win or lose. It's a bit trickier than it sounds, but not too difficult that you won't figure it out after playing once or twice. In the end, the real challenge again isn't mental strain, it's the flawed DS microphone. Getting "scissors" to register is a real pain, and it will usually take you several attempts. Luckily, you can skip this game by telling Dr. Ryu that you can't talk. And it's not the only game you'll want to avoid either, because Word Blend makes you listen to multiple voices talking at once and write what each one said. Sometimes this is just impossible, especially with three voices: you just can't hear what some of them are saying despite listening to it five or more times.
So in the end, I don't really know if it will make you any smarter. The only improvement that I personally saw in myself was with memory of number locations. All the other games are simple and flawed by the writing or speaking systems. While at first trying the games out was fun, they got old remarkably quickly, and after you unlock that last game, you'll have had enough "brain training" for a long time.
Community review by iamtheprodigy (September 24, 2007)
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