Review: Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day

BrainAge2.jpg

Platform: DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 8/20/07
Genre: Mental Training
Players: 1-16

Beginning last year with Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, Nintendo’s Touch Generations line of DS titles really provided the initial spark that jumpstarted the casual gaming scene (which the Wii has since driven to even greater heights). Over a year later now, the brain training fun inspired by the theories of Dr. Kawashima has returned in Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day, this time offering a new regiment of mind-busting activities to help returning players continue their training.

Like the first Brain Age, Brain Age 2 starts you off setting up a personal profile and taking an initial test to calculate your starting brain age. From there you are challenged to complete a daily workout of various mini-game activities designed to get your brain matter firing on all cylinders and build your brain power to the max, with a system of graphs constantly tracking your progress and an unlocking system that rewards your daily efforts with new training games and other extra content. In terms of play mechanics and presentation, everything is virtually identical, be it the unique control style of holding the DS sideways or the basic menus and clean interface.

What is new is the fresh collection of 15 training activities that, while not drastically different, are a shade more advanced compared to those in the first game. Some of the standouts include Memory Sprint, in which you track a shaded figure as he competes in a footrace and write down his finishing position, Word Blend, in which a few words are spoken simultaneously and it’s up to you to decipher the garbled speech and jot down each of the words, and the always-popular and self-explanatory Word Scramble. In addition to those are a variety of math and number challenges, such as figuring out the correct amount of change from the total money paid, looking at an equation and entering in the mathematical symbol that leads to the given sum, and memorizing numbers before they get blacked out to solve the given equations.

Over 100 new Sudoku puzzles have been packed into Brain Age 2 too, and like the first game it showcases the best representation of Sudoku on the DS. There’s even a cool touch screen clone of Dr. Mario called Virus Buster to be found – it’s dumbed down some from Dr. Mario, but still good fun. And speaking of good fun, the 16-player single-card download play and demo sharing features from the original also make a return, and it’s always much more entertaining to train and compete with friends and family rather than going at it alone.

Unfortunately, the main drawback that hampered the first Brain Age wasn’t addressed in this sequel. The handwriting and voice recognition simply isn’t as optimized as it needs to be. Letters, numbers and words need to be written and/or spoken perfectly in order to register properly, and even then the game still doesn’t recognize the input sometimes. If you take the time to write neatly and pronunciate in a deliberate fashion, the input will register fine. But the problem is that the training events calculate your brain age based on how fast you solve them, so having to take time to make sure your answer is recognized correctly takes away from your final rating. It’s just frustrating to know the answer to a problem yet get hung up because what you’re writing or saying isn’t accepted.

Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day is essentially an expansion pack type of experience rather than a full-fledged sequel. The new training activities and Sudoku puzzles are every bit as fun and accessible as the original (and a bit more challenging too), but little has been done to improve the shaky handwriting and voice recognition technology, and overall the entire package just feels like more of the same. Brain Age 2 takes a few baby steps up from the original, but in the end it probably won’t appeal to anyone who wasn’t a Brain Age nut already.

TryIt.jpg

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!