More Brain Training from Dr. Kawashima Review - 06/03/2008

Okay, this might not be as action packed as CoD or as visually effective as Final Fantasy, but this intriguing little DS sequel is certainly more addictive. It provides fantastic pocket sized entertainment while apparently keeping your brain sharp at the same time.

Personally, I just like pretending that I’ve got an amazing score on word scramble, by cheating and aggravating all my family who are frantically trying to work out how I've done so well. However, on to more important matters, and the game boasts 10 captivating miniature brain-teasing games that you’re meant to solve everyday to keep your wits in tip-top condition and improve your intelligence over a period of time. You can detect if your brain is improving by taking the Brain Age check every now and again which puts you through your paces by testing you on three different mini games, with some that are not included in your normal daily brain training. For example Rock, Paper, Scissors, a mind boggling puzzle testing your alertness to differentiate between visual and audio aspects (this game is advertised in the Nicole Kidman advert).

You can actually choose which three games you want to participate in for the Brain Age check by holding down the select button whilst touching the Brain Age check option. This means you can concentrate on the modes which you're best at, instead of coming unstuck on puzzles you find trickier. It seems a bit cheeky, but we like it.

This could be considered pretty offensive.

After each puzzle you accomplish in daily training it provides you with your score which is decided by time taken and how many puzzles/questions that you answered correctly. It also says what speed you did it at, in relation to transport, for example walking speed being the slowest and rocket speed being the highest. This extra little addition is a bit of a let down as it's not very effective or reliable; a lot of the time you’re left guessing why you only got cycling speed when in ‘Missing symbols’ you got all the answers correct and completed it in two seconds. I’m exaggerating of course, but to be honest it’s not far off. A graph is also supplied to let you know if you’re improving in that particular puzzle and of course, Dr. Kawashima himself always has to come in with a quirky, annoying comment like ‘a little tired are we?’ just to really infuriate you and make you want to break your DS in two.

The head of Dr. Kawashima is what makes and breaks this intriguing little game. We always think of the charismatic face of the doctor whenever we imagine brain training and that’s how we identify the game. However, it’s like Marmite, you can either love him or hate him, and the dodgy co-ordination in his face and his sarcastic comments can really cast a downer on the overall complexity of the game. Nintendo also thought that it would brighten the game up a bit if you could speak to the doctor and get a reaction, but they only allow this with two phrases and it makes you wonder what’s the point of it all. For example if you were to say the word ‘Coriander’ twice on the title screen Dr. Kawashima would pretend to gag. Ok what else! Apparently there are three words which if you say one after another on the title screen they’ll make the doctor chuckle. How the hell are you meant to work that one out!

There's decent variety on offer.

However, apart from these minor annoyances the game achieves what it was meant set out to. After the 10 puzzles in your daily training there is also an option to relax your brain (although I don’t see how) as it’s more stressful than any of the other games. This supplement is called ‘Germ buster’ and consists of a series of coloured blocks that you have to collect in a row to clear them all. This is quite an addictive puzzle that you might end up playing more than your daily training activities, which will really upset the doctor. Tut Tut! Mr. Kawashima expects you to do a little bit of training everyday where you can gain a stamp; the more stamps you receive the more things you can unlock. For example games like ‘calculate the height’ and harder options on originals. You can actually create your own stamp in the options menu which is quite a quirky insert. The game also allows more users to play the game on one DS cart, making it more of a social game and more family/friend orientated. Meaning you can compete with each other at training games and gain new records; you can also try to beat each other at lowering your brain age.

Then there is the option of drawing different settings for a fellow user to guess what they are, allowing you to communicate; apparently communication is good for the brain. Throughout the game Dr. Kawashima provides you with tips for helping and improving your mind. He also refers to the fact that different exercises help different areas of the brain. There are also quick play options in the game meaning your stats are not affected if you just want to complete a quick puzzle. The game also provides many Sudoku puzzles that you can complete and it even allows you to do multiplayer training in download play where you can connect to other DS users with just one DS card, which is a fantastic boost and progression for the game. Also download play has the option of being able to send a quick play demo to other DS users.

Make sure you have your sound turned up…

Overall, this game is a must have if you own a Nintendo DS, its charming puzzles and totally original gaming gives a fantastic option for portable-fun and even if Nintendo does go overboard with games like ‘Sight training’ and ‘Big brain academy’ the ‘Brain training’ series will always be a chart-topping winner.

- Ryan Cherrington