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on April 17, 2006
I'm not entirely sure whether I can call a game like Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day a video game. Its graphics are hardly groundbreaking, its audios are almost monotonous, and its core gameplay involves reading aloud, counting syllables and solving mathematical problems. Surely, that's not what video gaming is all about, is it? Well, not if you hail from the Nintendo school of gaming, no. As mundane as Brain Age sounds, it's actually strangely addictive, and once you begin your journey of improving your brain age, you'll find yourself deeply immersed in the various activities aimed at giving your brain a daily workout.

The primary objective of Brain Age is to "exercise your brain". This is done through doing activities that are designed to stimulate your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that influences how you apply what you've learnt (whatever). It's believed that doing these activities on a regular basis will have a positive effect on your brain. Whether or not this holds any truth, I'm not sure. But with 15 activities to choose from, at least the game can keep you occupied for quite a while, even though some of these activities are less desirable to do than others.

Some of these activities include a calculation game, which puts you through a series of simple mathematical problems. 2+6, anyone? Or 8x7, for that matter? Well, you get the picture. The idea is basically to get the brain to start thinking quickly with a succession of simple questions, instead of forcing the player to spend too much time dwelling on one. There're different variations of this calculation module, but the underlying gameplay doesn't divert from the idea of rapidly solving a problem.

Reading aloud is another activity in Brain Age. Obviously, this makes use of the DS' mic, and it basically requires you to read through an article as quickly as possible. While you may have problems pronouncing words like "epoch", you can actually breeze through this activity by simply bulldozing through without pronouncing the words properly. Just remember to wipe the saliva off your DS screens. Syllables counting is another mini-game on Brain Age. This one requires you to count the number of syllables in a short sentence, and then write the answer down on the touch screen. If you're not exactly sure about what is a "syllable", just remember that the word "syllable" itself has three syllables, and you should be fine.

Of course, there're more to just calculation, reading aloud, or counting syllables in Brain Age, but as you can see, the activities in the game are not exactly the "saving the world from an evil force" kind. Yet, the game's appeal comes in the form of its simplicity. At times, when playing this game, I feel like I'm doing one of those online IQ tests, and the eagerness to score well is impetus enough for me to keep going despite the dryness of the questions. This basically sums up the charm of Brain Age.

To spice things up a little, Brain Age also included a substantial amount of Sudoku puzzles. Now, if you can believe my wife, Sudoku is the best thing on Earth since sliced bread. The popularity of this grid-based puzzle game is immense, and it's not surprising to see it being included in the game. As with the usual Sudoku books, the Sudoku puzzles in Brain Age are sorted according to difficulty. The easy ones are, well, pretty easy to solve, while the advanced ones require more logical thinking. Anyhow, Brain Age contains more than 100 Sudoku puzzles, which should keep fans of Sudoku occupied for quite some time. Having Sudoku as one of the 15 activities in Brain Age basically provides additional value for an already value-for-money budget game.

And, to top it up, Brain Age also has a multiplayer mode, which allows you to host up to an amazing 15 players with one cartridge. Unfortunately, the only playable activity in this mode is the calculation module, which lets you take on others in 30 mathematics questions. This gets old really quickly. It'd be fun if you can challenge your friends to a game of Sudoku (duh!), really.

Brain Age also requires a unique way of playing. You play it with the DS being held vertically, much like reading a book, with the touch screen on the right. The concept is to recreate the scenario of solving puzzles in a puzzle book, and to a certain extent, this blends in very nicely with the objective of the game. And, true to the game's out-of-the-box nature, Brain Age is played entirely with the DS' features. That is, via the touch screen and the mic. These make the game more "book-like" than the usual DS games. The game also caters to left-handers. If you're a leftie like me, simply tell the game so, and you can turn the DS "the other way round" so that the touch screen switches to the left. This is a nice touch, or the game may just lose a lot of potential buyers!

The problem with how the game plays, however, lies in the sensitivity of the touch screen and the mic. Somehow, it seems to have problem registering my pronunciation of "black", and doesn't really recognize my "8" on the touch screen properly. As a result, I've an initial brain age of 76 (!) because of unnecessary errors. It appears that players will need to adapt to how the game receives input to do well in their own results. This is not exactly a big issue, but it could be frustrating when you're trying to beat a certain timing, only to be let down by your poor handwriting or diction.

In conclusion, Brain Age is a very different sort of game, even by the DS' selection of quirky titles. It may not boast the usual features that sell a video game, but in their place, we've something that is simple, unassuming, and ultimately very addictive. Moreover, the game is supposed to improve the functionality of your brain, so what's there to lose? Brain Age is highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon October 25, 2006
Thinking. Analyzing. Solving Problems. Reading. Logic. These are just some of the skills that Brain Age will help you develop (or re-develop).

No, it's not Resident Evil or Splinter Cell. But it is as fun and addictive; it's certainly as challenging if not more challenging, and it's a nice pallet cleanser from the plethora of pure entertainment value games that my kids and I play.

Brain Age is a bit advanced at times for my grade schoolers, but the parts that they do get really help them develop the skills that they are concurrently working on in school. Big Brain Academy is a much easier (not better) alternative for younger children.

There's a daily training area that gives your skills a workout. And there's a test area that challenges you to quickly and accurately work through various tasks, then provides you with a calculation of your Brain Age based on how well you did on the test. Sudoku has it's own area to train the brain on number logic.

Kids reading this will NO vote me to death for saying this, but this is a great game for parents to get for their kids. It's one of the only ones (Big Brain Academy is the other) that I never take away from my own kids when they've misbehaved or simply just had too much video gaming. They never complain.

One word of advice: Brain Age has a hard time recognizing an "8" if you write it the way you'd skate a figure 8; it likes it better when you draw an 8 as two circles on top of each other.

Addictive fun. Buy it.
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on May 2, 2006
From the moment you begin playing Brain Age you'll realise that it's unlike any other experience. It's probably the only game ever made that begins with a doctor addressing you - a prominent Japanese neuroscientist to be exact. He asks a few quick questions to get the ball rolling as he scopes out your "brain age". It's kind of unnerving actually. After displaying a couple of brain scans in various states of activity (or inactivity), the doctor explains that your brain is like any muscle and will shrivel without exercise. Old brains are bad, young brains are good.

Once you pass the opening formalities the doctor runs you through a more rigourous series of tests (math problems, memorization drills, concentration sets...). The good doctor then assigns you your first daily brain age rank. If it's good (low) he'll congratulate you and encourage you to keep working hard. If it's bad (high) he'll chide you and issue a warning about the dangers of aging brains. As the game progresses he'll ask you random questions which contribute to your overall profile. This is where the genius of this game truly shines. Anyone could assemble a collection of mini math games and assorted brain teasers. Nintendo however has wrapped this all up in a diagnostic package. It feels like the game is studying you. Each day you log in the goal is clear and the feedback perfect. The interface is quick and simple, the touch screen works remarkably well and the voice recognition is a nice touch too.

I must lower my brain age!
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on November 10, 2006
I purchased a Nintendo DS specifically for this game and was not disappointed. I'm 65 and on a good day can get my "brain age" into the 30s. I gave the game and a DS to an 80 year-old friend, and she can get into the 40s. We both struggle with the test that calls for memorizing from a list of words.

After learning to play Sudoku in Brain Age, I switched to playing it on my Palm Pilot (game from Astraware) which lets me enter the game from the daily newspaper. I've recently lent my DS to a 6th grader who is learning Sudoku. (By the way, avoid the DS game called "Sudoku". It's unnecessarily clunky for entering data.)

This is an appropriate game for seniors who like math/logic challenges even if they've never used a computer. Plan to spend some time tutoring a newbie, and then watch as he or she enjoys the challenge.
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There isn't so much when it really comes to mental games for consoles or handhelds, unless it is something you'd see in the newspapers like the typical crossword puzzle, or the recently popular numbers game sudoku. They all have been so well-rendered to keep your mind in tip top shape. As for Nintendo, they have also made their mark with the way we play video games on the home market, and the handhelds with the Game Boy rendiditons, and the Nintendo DS nearly over a year ago. Well, Nintendo has put that mental challenge to the extremes for the DS in more ways than one.

Brain Age for the Nintendo DS, is a compilation of all different kinds of games and puzzles that test your ability to read, and apply yourself mentally. The game consists of certain evaluations that reflect on how you remember words, simple math problems, and how fast you can also read. The game also includes sudoku on it, and it tells you how you are with the game, and what you need to do better. The stylus is really used quite well, and much better than most of the other games that rely on it. There also are challenges that test you verbally as well, like the stroop exam where you have to read the color of the text of a word, instead of the word itself. There is one big disadvantage, you have to say the words clearly through the stroop exam, because there are times where you may get the answer right, it might not be registered properly and your score may be affected.

Despite a few flaws on the microphone, Brain Age really is a great mental challenge for Nintendo DS. It is a must buy for the mind as well as the pockets. I love how stimulating the challenges are, and there is so much to go around. I just hope there are more of these mental games for other systems like this one soon, it is definitely something missing for the video game market.

Graphics: B+

Sound: A-

Price: A-

Microphone use: C+

Control: B 1/2+

Fun & Enjoyment: B

Overall: B 1/2+
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on July 2, 2006
I'm a 50 year old woman - and probably in the age range of people that this product is supposed to help. Like my friends, I complain of forgetting names, and other memory lapses that undermine my confidence. Brain Age is a program that touts working your brain's pre-frontal cortex - to keep your brain in good shape.

The first time I did this program it said that my Brain Age was 80! After a few days I got my Brain Age down to 28. (20 is the "best" age you can get.) My 9 and 12 year old sons' first Brain Ages were also in the 80s, though it told them that players under age 20 should take the results "with a grain of salt."

There are two categories of activities in Brain Age. You can choose "Brain Age Check" or "Training." If you choose "Brain Age," you first answer if you are in an environment where you can speak. Then you are given three tests chosen at random, and your Brain Age is calculated based on how well you performed on the three tests. Examples of Brain Age Check tests are:

Stroop Test - This test shows you names of colors. Each name is in a different color, and you are to name the color that the word is written in. You may see the word "Blue" and it can be written in Yellow, Black, Blue or Red, and you are to say the color it is written in. (This is harder than you think!)

Counting - This test asks you to count, as quickly as possible, without slurring, from 1 to 120.

Connect the numbers-and-letters. In this test one screen has the letters A through M, and the numbers 1 through 13, each circled, randomly placed on the screen. Your task is to take the stylus and make one long line, connecting A with 1, then moving to B and 2, then C and 3, etc., until you end with M and 13.

Word Memory. In this test you are shown 30 words on the 2 screens and given 2 minutes to memorize them. You then are given 3 minutes to write down as many as you can remember.

Counting numbers. On one screen you are shown different numbers in different colors, some of the numbers may be pulsing, rotating and/or sliding. The program will ask you things like "How many blue #s?" or "How many sliding numbers?"

The other part of the program is Daily Training exercises. At first not all of the exercises are available to you, more become available as you use the program. Some examples of the Daily Training activities are:

Calculations X 20. You are given 20 easy calculations, like 5-2, 7X8, 6+3. You try to complete these as quickly and accurately as possible, with penalties for inaccurate answers.

Calculations X100. Same as above, with 100 calculations.

Low to High Number Memory. One screen flashes four to eight numbers. Then, on the other screen, you are shown spots in the same formation, and you are to tap, in order, where the lowest to highest numbers were. The screen may flash up to 8 numbers at a time.

Head Count. On one screen you are shown a number of people figures. Next, a house comes down and hides them. Figures then enter and exit the house, and, after a few, you are asked how many figures are left in the house. The training exercise has you do this 5 times, it starts out very easy and gets very hard.

Reading Aloud. You are timed as you read a short passage aloud. Passages are interesting, and include sections of Dracula, Jack London, the Constitution, etc.

Syllable Count. You are shown a number of short phrases, like "A penny saved is a penny earned." and asked to count the number of syllables in each.

There are other games, and more games become "unlocked" as you use the program.

Plusses and the minuses:

I like this program a lot - and I do think that it has helped my attention to detail. I'm getting better at all the activities - I can remember up to 18 words on Word Memory, when I started playing I remembered only 10.

The Voice Recognition and writing recognition are better than I expected, but they are far from perfect, and that is the most frustrating thing about the program. For example, in the Stroop Test the DS never understands when I say the word "Blue" (and I am a native English speaker.) So I use 2 player files: one where I say I can speak when I do the Brain Age Check, and one where I say I can't. The age difference in the Brain Age is about 20 years.

Also, many times I will write a number or a letter and the DS will think I've written a different number or letter. Many of these tasks are timed, so I am trying to write quickly, and it'll think, for example, that a "5" is a "4", or an "L" is a "C", and then I get penalized for wrong answers. (On the bright side: this is a good exercise in persevering in the face of frustration! A whole new product line idea!)

Bottom Line: This game is fun, addictive, and might actually have lasting benefits. Not bad for $19.95!
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on June 22, 2006
I know what all of you hardcore videogamers are thinking... MATH! In a video game?!?! I myself LOVE to play video games, and Brain Age is pretty different from the games I play. It interested me though, and I took the plunge and got it. After the first 10 minutes I was addicted. Whether you're reading out loud, memorizing numbers or counting syllables, Brain Age is a great game. Training your brain isn't TOO stressful, and you get to see how old your brain is compared to your real age! Sorry to say, but I was the oldest you can be, 80, on the first day! Now I am 22, the best age is 20, and getting better all the time! As a bonus you can play suduko, a fun game involving numbers and grids.

Hope this helps you make your decision! TTFN!
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on May 24, 2006
My job doesn't require a whole lot of thought and I felt that my brain was getting lazy. I bought this game for the Sudoku, but ended up really enjoying the rest of it, too. It really is addicting. The first time I tested my brain it was an 80, the highest you can get. Now I'm down to a 22.

I've noticed changes in other areas of my life after playing for a while. My attention span seems to be longer, I'm able to focus on things more intently, and since my brain is "warmed up" after playing first thing in the morning, I'm less groggy and more productive during the day.

The game keeps you interested, especially if you're competitive. If you have more than one person playing the game on a daily basis, after you finish an exercise it will tell you if you beat someone else for that day. My whole family plays. Another part of the game is it asks you to draw pictures of every day objects from memory. After everyone has drawn, when you log in you get to see them all side by side. It can be very funny and it's a nice way to encourage communication in the family. It would probably even be good to pass around in the office.

If you have a job that doesn't require recalling facts or much meorization, I highly recommend this game. I've recommended it to my grandmother as well, because she wants to keep her mind sharp.
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I really enjoy doing this game; however, I am taking the "brain age" score with a grain of salt. There is a Stroop Test, where a color name appears on the screen and it may, or may not, be a different color than the word (i.s. "Yellow" is colored blue). You need to say the actual color of the word. Everytime a word comes up in blue, the game doesn't recognize it and slows me down. I waste a good 5 seconds trying to get the game to understand me. And I speak clear English! I'm trying to figure out just the right amount of "BL" to use to get it to work.

Also, there is a Word Memory test where you're given a long list of 4-letter words to memorize in 2 minutes. Then you write as many of them as you can in 3 minutes. The game doesn't pick up your handwriting well. It returns an "X" when you write a "K", etc. AND it said a word I had wasn't on the list when it was!!!! You spend so much time trying to get it to recognize your letters and accept words that are there, that you forget all the words you had remembered!

The Suduko puzzles are great and I really like doing the speed "math" (simple addition, subtraction and multiplication).
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on May 28, 2006
This game is based on research that shows that we can keep our brains in good shape by exercising them for just a few minutes a day. The game therefore contains a number of exercises that the player is encouraged to perform at least once a day, including simple calculations, reading aloud, counting syllables, and counting the number of people going in and out of a house. You are also encouraged to test your "brain age" daily to see your progress. The test will include activities similar to the ones described above. The ideal brain age, according to research, is 20. The game also includes about 100 sudoku puzzles of varying difficulty levels to work on.

Although I tried following the training program for about a week and a half, it quickly became boring and monotonous. As there isn't much motivation to play the game for more than about 10-15 minutes per day since the game will only save one score per day for each activity, it is easy to lose interest. And though the game teases you the first few days by rewarding your daily training by opening up new activities, after a few days you stop unlocking new things. So after playing for 10 straight days and still seeing activities on my screen yet to be unlocked, I was rather frustrated.

In addition, there were a few frustrating glitches in the game. One of the tests for brain age requires you to speak into the DS's microphone and name the color of the words printed on the screen. While not a particularly difficulty activity, the DS had a great deal of difficulty recognizing when I said "blue" or "black" so I had to keep repeating it, sometimes costing me several valuable seconds. Even more frustrating was the fact that I found it very difficult to write the number 5 so that the computer would recognize it. So in calculations, I would write a correct answer, but the computer would think my 5 was a nine so I would get the wrong answer and lose huge points.

The main redeeming quality of this game is the included sudoku. The system they used was practically perfect. You are able to put in up to 9 possible numbers in a space and then write a large number over them when you are sure of the correct number. And the fact that you can use the stylus to play it just like a regular pen and pencil puzzle without having to constantly erase numbers was nice.
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