Game Review

Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Brain Age: Arts & Letters manages to capture the brain teasing appeal of the retail releases, just in a smaller dose.

Nintendo's Brain Age releases have already been hugely successful for their DS system, so it should come as no real surprise to see them releasing small groups of these exercises as individual DSiWare releases on their fledgling download service. Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters marks the second package of Brain Age challenges and this time focuses more on picture and letter recognition. But is this small group of brain teasers taken directly from the retail releases really worth your time and valuable DSi Points?

The meat of the game is the Training mode, which offers up seven different brain challenges for you to play through. The first three are unlocked when you first begin the game, but you'll have to earn a few stamps in order to unlock the remaining four games. And since these four unlockable modes are easily the most enjoyable ones in the package, you'll have plenty of incentive to do so.

Read Aloud is pretty much what it sounds like. You'll be presented with several pages of reading material that you must try to read through as quickly as possible. The faster you're able to read through the particular selection, the better your speed result will be. Since there is no quiz on the material, you'll have to hold yourself to the honor system as to whether or not you really ready the material or just shoot for a super-fast time.

Word Scramble is also fairly self-explanatory and presents you with a group of letters that are rotating around in a circular motion. You have to unscramble the letters to find out what word they form. While this starts out quite easy with only four letters, the increasing number of letters, not to mention more difficult hidden words, becomes more difficult as you progress through the challenge. Once again time is the main grading factor in this exercise.

Photo Recall will present you with a photo or group of photos on the left screen and you'll then have to choose the photo that you last saw from a group of photos on the right screen. This is quite easy at first, but soon the game will begin to put up mirror images and you'll have to make sure you choose the correct version of the photo in which things are facing in the same direction as they were in the original photo.

Word Attack is an exercise that requires you to memorize words that are quickly flashed on the left screen. You'll then have to remember the words and correctly spell them out on the right screen. You can also unlock a Space version of this game that will place a spaceship at the bottom of the left screen. Words will then quickly flash at the top of the screen and then turn into black blocks that will begin to descend towards your space ship; you'll have to quickly spell them out on the right screen in order to shoot the individual letters in each word down before they crash into your ship. This is another exercise than can get very hectic when you begin to have multiple words popping up at once.

Piano Player is probably the most enjoyable of the challenges in this package and offers up a fairly tricky exercise. You'll be presented with a small piano keyboard complete with properly-labeled notes on your right touch screen. You'll then see a set of red arrows that will progress along a piece of sheet music on the left screen. When the arrows hit a particular note on the staff, you must attempt to play that note on the piano. The more you stay in tempo and rhythm, the more points you'll score. The songs start off quite easy, with simple tunes like "Home on the Range", but soon they'll become much more intricate and will require you to really pay attention to both screens in order to successfully play your way through the various tunes. As you earn stamps, you'll be able to unlock newer and more challenging tunes to play.

Meet and Greet is another challenge that will require you to really pay attention and memorize certain criteria in a short amount of time. You'll be presented with a person's face along with their occupation and name. You'll have to quickly memorize what their face looks like along with their personal information. You'll then be quizzed on various pieces of information as you go along. The game will constantly introduce you to new people and you'll have to make sure you're paying attention, especially when the game begins to introduce you to multiple people at once. You'll find out just how much you pay attention to trivial things by taking on this challenge.

Virus Buster isn't really a brain challenge, rather more of a relaxation game to give your brain a rest after all of your brain training for the day. Once you've earned a stamp for the day, you can then take on what is basically a slight variation of the Dr. Mario game. You'll be presented with varying amounts of viruses and you must then carefully position the multi-colored capsules in order to form vertical or horizontal rows of four like colors. Your goal is to eradicate all of the viruses in each stage. There's nothing really new here if you've already played the Dr. Mario series of games, but it's still a nice diversion once you've finished taking on the game's other challenges.

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 slide show 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.

The game also offers up a wealth of Brain Age quizzes and extra options to enhance the overall experience should you choose to take advantage of them. You can do everything from chart your progress using the Graph function, to viewing the various Theme Albums or even comparing your brain age to other users who have a Brain Age Express profile on your DSi system. You can even change the pen type you use to write with or design your own customized stamp if you're feeling adventurous.

When it comes to the audio/visual presentation, you certainly won't find a lot of flashy visuals or orchestrated musical tracks in this Brain Age Express package - but that's not what these games are about anyway. They're about creating a simple and easy-to-use interface to execute the many brain teasing exercises the program offers up. Sure, you'll get a cute little animation or photo from time to time, but the simple visual layout and subtle musical presentation function perfectly together and are more than adequate for the type of gaming experience offered up here.


Much like the first Brain Age Express DSiWare release, Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters once again manages to offer up a small sampling of brain training exercises from the retail title in a more condensed DSiWare package. If you already own the Brain Age retail releases, you've probably already experienced much of what this title has to offer, but if you've ever been curious about the series or just want something you can kill a little time with, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity to do so than the one found in this DSiWare release. While Brain Age Express: Math was a good release, this package just feels a bit more well-rounded than its predecessor and ultimately offers up a slightly more enjoyable gameplay experience.

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User Comments (21)



Kirk said:

I usually really enjoy the Brain Age games for what they are, and for people that have not played the originals this seems like a cheap and easy way to try the basic concept out in a simple fun little package.

I kinda like how WiiWare/DSiWare is becoming home to these more simple types of games/toys because in all honesty I always thought they were a little too basic/simple and therefor too expensive as full retail releases.

I say keep releasing all the big epic masterpieces as full boxed titles, since they more often that not justify the extra cost, and continue to make all these more simple toys/playtainment experiences available as downloadable titles and we should have a really good balance between full retail release games and downloadable content.

The one thing I would say however is that this type of game/software should really only be costing a couple of pound a pop and imo Nintendo is still overcharging just a little bit.



warioswoods said:

Ooh, Word Scramble was my favorite part of the second retail game. I wish they would just put out a collection of word games, but I suppose this package looks pretty good overall.

Meet & Greet, however, sounds like something I'd be absolutely terrible at; I can never remember names of those I meet, sometimes even after I've met and conversed with them 5 or 10 times.



LinktotheFuture said:

I don't think the Meet and Greet and Photo Recall are on either of the retail Brain Age games. This sounds a lot better than the Math one.



Supermarioman said:

IF you don't already have Brain Age 2 or any Dr. Mario games, its worth it for virus buster!.



Darknyht said:

While I enjoyed the Math version this one is a pass, I already have virus buster and Dr. Mario.



aoeder said:

Great review, although I thought it would've scored lower... it just doesn't match up with the Math version content wise, in my opinion...



Grumble said:

Ok. I loved Brain Age Express: Math (I don't own the Brain Age series itself) so I will def be getting this. Thanks for the great review, Corb!



Corbs said:

I think this version is better than the Math version. But that's just me.




BT Sudoku and Maths were good. I'll be downloading this as well me thinks. Cheers Corbs, good review.

I used to have both retail BT games but now just own the first.



DK_vs_KK said:

Thanks for the review, Corbie! I like reviews on this website because all of the editors that review the games aren't biased at all (at least they don't portray it in their reviews). I can honestly say, if I had a DSi, I would pick this up. Thanks again!




May trade in my Brain Training and just download and keep these "hybrid" dsiware ones. I have the other two BT downlaods too



Dodger said:

This came with my DSi as I got the white DSi bundle. It is fun. The training is often better then the brain age tests but it is a really great game. I am not as fond of the math one due to this really hard test in the brain age test that gets me near to 80 every time but the training on the math one is good too. From what I have seen, the sudoku one is the best sudoku game out there. These may not be the ones that would catch my eye in the DSiware shop but they were free and now that I have them, I would pay for them. For each day you do something, you get a stamp, get enough stamps and you unlock a new feature. This may be a little thing or a new setting but some really fun games can be unlocked and Virus Buster is a lot like Dr. Mario. This is not for everyone but I would get at least Sudoku and Arts and Letters. If they still sell the White DSi bundle and you are getting a DSi, I would get the bundle, it comes with these games, the Photo Clock and the Clubhouse Games Card Game pack.



Kyloctopus said:

I could see the letter game being boring after days unlike the math brain age. The only reason I'd get that brain age is if I'm thinking of completing my brain age collection.



darlenevile said:

whoa, i'm a bit shocked at the high number of positive reviews. much of the games are too rigid, too short, and too dependant on your ability to write numbers and letters perfectly. ugh, I got so many wrong because it translated my 'c' as an 'o', and whatnot. the game that tells you to draw a certain object is kinda fun, but flawed as well, since your answer depends on your perception. what you see as the most important visual feature of an object might be way different than someone else's idea.
anyway, there are so many other puzzle games you could play that sharpen your mind that are much more entertaining than the brain age games.

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