Review: Brain Age Express: Math (DSiWare)

It may be a stripped-down version of the original retail release, but Brain Age Express: Math retains much of the charm and fun from past titles.

Nintendo's Brain Age DS releases were very successful titles, so it comes as no real surprise to see them releasing a trimmed-down version of the games for their brand new DSiWare service. Whereas the original Brain Age titles featured a wide range of brain-training exercises, Brain Age Express: Math focuses much of its attention on various mathematical-style challenges, many of which are taken directly from the retail releases.

There are eight different math exercises to choose from, although only three of these are open when you begin the game for the first time (as you play through these exercises, you'll eventually unlock the remaining challenges). The exercises themselves range from simple math calculations – addition, subtraction, and multiplication – to adding up whole chunks of numbers, or choosing one specific number from an assorted group. If you've played the original Brain Age games, you should feel right at home with these challenges, as they haven't changed much in the transition to this DSiWare title.

To add a little variety to the package, Nintendo has also tossed in a group of exercises called Themes, which involve various tasks: from acting out scenes from an imaginary movie, to having to draw out specific objects assigned you by the game. The acting challenges allow you to use the DSi system's built-in camera and microphone to input your answers, and the game will even allow you to save your creations to the DSi system's SD card for later viewing via the slideshow option. The downside to these themed challenges is that there are only seven of them and, once completed, there's little reason to come back to them.

Much like its big brothers, Brain Age Express: Math will keep a log of your progress as you take on the various challenges each day in an effort to improve your brain age – it even charts this out on graphs for you to view at any time. There's also the distraction of the game's Slideshow and Theme Album sections to toy around with if you find yourself tiring of the various brain exercises.

If you're looking for a lot of eye candy and fancy music, you've come to wrong place. The musical and visual styles in the game are very basic, as you'd expect from a title like this. You'll get a few black and white drawings and a coloured block here and there – not to mention a handful of catchy sound effects – but other than that, the audio/visual experience in Brain Age is minimalist at best. In fact, the polygonal version of Dr. Kawashima's head is probably the most impressive visual feat in the entire game, if that tells you anything.

Conclusion

If Nintendo had created a demo for their retail DS Brain Age titles, Brain Age Express: Math would have been it. It features the fun and charm of the full versions, just in much smaller doses. In short, if you've already experienced Brain Age, you've essentially experienced this DSiWare release, but if for some reason you've never gotten around to giving the original Brain Age titles a try, Brain Age Express might be the perfect opportunity to do so.

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