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Impressions: Brain Age: Concentration Training Demo

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Fiendishly focused

Inspired by the work of famed neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, Nintendo's Brain Age games aim to keep players' minds sharp through daily mental exercises, and have proven popular since the DS original, Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!. The first 3DS entry in the series, Brain Age: Concentration Training focuses its efforts on improving players' concentration, making it especially relevant in the age of constant multitasking and information addiction. A demo has been added to the North American eShop ahead of the game's release on 10th February (8th March in Europe), and we spent some time with the brain-training trial to bring you our impressions.

The game's Japanese title (Dr. Kawashima's Devilish Brain Training) helps explains why the charmingly animated — and seemingly mild-mannered — Professor Kawashima turns red and grows horns before introducing players to the demo's three-round bout of Devilish Calculations, one of many Devilish Training exercises available in the final game. The demonic theme is a reference to the fact that these mental gymnastics are designed to be difficult: while the calculations on offer are simple arithmetic problems, the considerable challenge lies in how they're presented.

After an excellent and fully-voiced tutorial, the first round starts trainees in the "1-Back" mode, where players are shown a series of calculations in sequence and asked to give the answer for the preceding problem, rather than the one currently on the screen. It's actually easier than it sounds, and boils down to memorizing the answer to one problem before viewing the second, but it still requires a commendable level of concentration.

The "2-Back" mode, however, is where these calculations truly earn their "Devilish" descriptor. Here players need to provide the answer for the equation two back in the sequence, which means juggling two previous answers and solving the problem on screen all at once. It's seriously challenging — feeling a bit like the mathematical equivalent of patting your head while rubbing your belly — but it's incredibly satisfying to keep a chain going for as long as possible, and becomes easier to wrap your head around after a few rounds.

Serving the game's "Devilish" aim of training your brain at the very edge of your ability, the difficulty level changes between rounds based on your performance: score 85% or higher and you'll go up a level, while finishing the round with under 65% will see your level will drop by one. In the demo's Devilish Calculations, that means moving from 1-Back to 2-Back, or vice-versa. The dynamic difficulty definitely keeps trainees on their toes, and continually working at your limit makes even incremental improvements feel triumphant.

At the end of the third round, Dr. Kawashima pulls back his horns, returns to his natural colour, and assesses the player's performance in terms of their "Brain Age" (which may or may not have been septuagenarian in our case). Games in the Brain Age series are meant to be played a little bit each day, so the demo's 30-use limit should give players a solid month to work towards a younger brain.

Brain Age: Concentration Training's exercises might be fiendishly tough, but the game itself is a pleasure to deal with. Handwriting recognition is quick and accurate — even with the hastily scrawled input that high-pressure Devilish Training seems to inspire — and the presentation carries the high level of polish typical of Nintendo's output, including excellent use of the 3D effect on the disembodied Dr. Kawashima.

The full version of Brain Age: Concentration Training will feature more Devilish Training modes, along with new and returning Brain Training exercises and a Relaxation Mode for post-conditioning cerebral cool-downs. It launches on 10th February in North America and 8th March in Europe, and players looking to ensure their brains (and bodies) are ready for the game's release can grab the demo from the North American eShop now.

Have you tried the demo and, if so, what did you think?

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User Comments (21)

rayword45

#2

rayword45 said:

I enjoyed the demo, but like past Brain Ages (and BBA) I'm gonna wait for this to go on sale. I can't see myself paying $40 for this.

HandheldGuru97

#3

HandheldGuru97 said:

Play the 1 back demo at Sundance and it works well, not my type of game though, but maybe if I see it cheap one day I may pick it up.

Aqueous

#4

Aqueous said:

He was better without a voice. Also it still mistakes numbers. I wrote a 2, it though it was 1. That seriously is annoying and has been like that since the first one. I've had to write symbols and numbers backwards to help the past versions and won't be touching this one as it seems it is still an issue.

Moorpheel

#6

Moorpheel said:

It was pretty hard, his spanish voice was devilishsly boring though.

@Aqueous: I think the game is trying to tell you something about the way you write the number 2.

Kyloctopus

#7

Kyloctopus said:

Despite it being short. I enjoyed it. I still can't master the 3-back however.
I still enjoy playing the Brainage I have from DSiware. I am concidering getting this concidering, it is also $30.

ShadJV

#8

ShadJV said:

I aced 1-back and 2-back but 3-back killed me. That was devilish.

IsawYoshi

#9

IsawYoshi said:

I got one of these games with my dsi xl. I quite enjoyed it, but there were some places were I had to draw the numbers or punctuation marks, and the game never managed to get the difference on some numbers and marks (7 and 9, exclamation and question marks)

idork99

#10

idork99 said:

I believe this game will sell the same as Nintendogs+Cats. It's a good game with great exercises but will not sell much due to the price and the fact that there are a handful of "brain exercise" for many smart phones at a much cheaper price. You have to recall that the Brain Age series did sell a significant amount of copies when first introduced on the DS. But that was also during the time when smartphones weren't pop like they are now.

Kholdstare

#13

Kholdstare said:

Hopefully you can turn his voice off or at least back to Japanese...
It bugged me that it's not Kawashima-san's voice.

ArcanaXVI

#14

ArcanaXVI said:

The demo is alright, but I doubt I'll use it again before the full game comes out. I experienced solid results from the first Brain Age, so I'm looking forward to downloading this for brain training on the go.

DashDG

#15

DashDG said:

The Spanish voice is a crap!!! I hope theres a way to mute that awful voice!!!

Arren

#16

Arren said:

I cant get a result where im not 60 years old! Too mad to buy it.

Ickaser

#17

Ickaser said:

Hmm. Intriguing. I might end up buying this- that sounds like a worthy challenge.

allav866

#20

allav866 said:

@Ickaser ^this. 3-back is as devilish as it gets. I hope going up a level doesn't make you play a "4-Back" mode. that would be awful.
Anyways, I might get this, but I'm gonna wait to find a used copy.

rayword45

#21

rayword45 said:

1-back and 2-back were piss easy, and this is coming from a lazy high school student.

3-back was pretty freaking challenging though. Got a 76 on that compared to 100s for the others.

Also, since I looked again and saw Dr. Mario, my value of this game went up $4. Still waiting for a sale though.

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