Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nintendo, for Nintendo DS
rated E for Everyone, $19.99.

Trivia time. What’s the most popular DS game in Japan?

No, not Mario. Not Zelda either.

Give up? The answer is "Brain Training," a collection of logic puzzles that has sold millions and has become something of a cultural phenom.

Now the West gets a chance to improve its mental prowess as "Brain Age," the Americanized version of the game, hit stores last week.

The game is simple to grasp. Flaunting the notion that your brain needs exercise as much as your muscles do, "Brain Age" throws a variety of short, simple challenges, like doing a series of math problems, counting the number of syllables in a sentence or memorizing a list of words.

According to professor Ryuta Kawashima, whose floating, pixilated head guides you through the game, these challenges are designed to get the blood flowing to your brain’s prefrontal cortex, which handles memory, communication and self-control.

Doing these activities won’t necessarily make you any smarter, but it could improve your memory and articulation.

Each day Kawashima will ask you to spend a few minutes training your brain. Doing so earns you a stamp on the calendar and unlocks new training games.

After you’ve finished your daily regimen, you can check your "brain age" by performing a series of quick exercises. Remember, the lower your score, the better.

In addition to the various minigames, there also are a number of Sudoku puzzles to try out, and you can download new challenges off of the Internet.

The game makes good use of the DS’s capabilities. Players use the touch pad to write in answers or speak them into the microphone.

Occasionally the machine misinterprets your handwriting or voiced answer, but for the most part it did a good job of interpreting my childish scrawl.

Essentially, "Brain Age" is a virtual version of the puzzle books your grandmother used to have lying around on her coffee table. As such, it has a wide appeal; anyone from a 4-year-old to your father-in-law can enjoy the game.

"Brain Age" isn’t a game you’ll be playing for hours upon hours. More than 15 minutes a day will be stretching it. However, if you’ve had trouble remembering where you put your car keys lately, this might be the game for you.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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