Junior Brain Trainer Review
Posted by Adam
Shaping the minds of tomorrow or simply boring them today?
Junior Brain Trainer is a learning game in a similar vein to the slew of other "brain training"' games released for the Nintendo DS. The genre was made famous with the massive popularity of Nintendo's Dr.Kawashima's Brain Training and many games since have attempted to capitalize on this popularity. Junior Brain Trainer is aimed at children from ages 6 - 11 and according to the Avanquest website "takes a fresh and fun approach to learning by teaching kids in ‘bitesize’ chunks and then rewarding them with unlockable mini-games." To a certain degree the game meets expectations and does exactly what it says on the tin: there are games to improve memory, spelling, numeracy and problem-solving and a whole host of mini-games are waiting to be unlocked throughout the course of the game.
The game has a staggered set-up and aims to make the player play once a day for around 10 - 20 minutes with five puzzles being offered and an unlockable mini-game on the successful completion of said puzzles. This offers quite a lot of value for money as the game should, if played as recommended, last for at least a month of play. However this in itself hinders the flow of gameplay as the player is all but forced to play in short bursts.
Moving on to describe the puzzles themselves there is a selection of different puzzles available based on the academia of a primary school child - basic numeracy, spelling and problem solving are all represented here. The puzzles however have no selectable difficulty level and are quite random in what you may be faced with. For a child past the age of 11 there is little to pose a problem here; I imagine a child of six years old however, faced with guessing the word "parasol" with only three given letters and no clue, might have a little difficulty. The spelling game taught little and was mainly a matter of uninformed guess work: there are unlimited chances and therefore trying every letter was enough to progress to the next puzzle.
The math puzzles worked to varying levels of success and I remember the set-up of most of the exercises from my own time in primary school - quite a long time ago. Therefore I think it is fair to say that the maths problems didn't offer much new in the way of intuitive learning. It's fair to say that maths can only have limited appeal for most children, and Juion Brain Trainer seemed to offer little in the way of fun in its math puzzles: they're to the point and without frills. Depending on your outlook this may a good or bad thing. Sadly this means the learning games, the bulk and indeed point of the game leave quite a bit to be desired. They are presented in a rather uninspiring way with little in the way of animation or sound effects. Furthermore there is no way to track your progress, no charts to show improvement and no way to set out personal goals - all of these leave the game feeling like an extremely impersonal experience.
The presentation of the game is sadly at best "colourful": the artwork is a little, for lack of a better word, lame. Even for an infant I imagine they may roll their eyes at the "cute forest critters" who are tasked with the teaching and presentation of the various puzzles and mini-games. That isn't to say that the graphics are awful or indeed overly unpleasant, it's just that they aren't particularly fresh or visually stimulating. Sadly much the same can be said about the music and sound-effects in the game. The music is standard of a budget kids title: it's cutesy, bouncy and overall a little annoying, it also looping quite frequently with little variation in the number of available tracks.
The incentive for studying each day is in the selection of unlockable mini games and other such accolades. However these, much like the bulk of the game, leave quite a lot to be desired and overall feel a little "cheap." Two of the mini-games I managed to unlock were the classic cellphone game "Snake" and an animal-themed Hangman. Both of these were extremely simple and did not deviate from the classic games on which they are based, although they were a reasonably fun distraction - for five minutes.
Junior Brain Trainer is truly a budget title that does exactly what it sets out to, albeit to the bare minimum. The main content of the game achieves only what is to be expected from an educational title and no more. The unlockables are sub-par and to a certain degree aren't any more fun than the puzzles themselves. Overall it would appear as though Avanquest was cashing in on the recent popularity of "brain trainers" and this game is commonly sold for as little as £10.00 on online retailers and in stores. Must try harder.