Brain Training | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Brain Training | Review | Switch

by Danny Bivens

Do we need to train our brains in 2020?
Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training (Brain Age) was part of a push that helped kick off casual oriented games all the way back on the Nintendo DS back in 2005. The game started a series of games on Nintendo handhelds and helped inspire numerous casual titles that are played by millions around the world. In a day and age when Brain Training-like titles are available on phones for free, is a Brain Training for Nintendo Switch something that is relevant for gamers in 2020?

The concept with Brain Training for the Nintendo Switch remains very true to the titles from over a decade ago. Players are tasked with a variety of activities that endeavor to improve brain activity and combat “brain age” degradation. During your daily training, you’ll be doing things like simple calculations, reading out loud, solving simple puzzles and more. Of course, the Brain Age check is here, this time determining your Brain Age based on three criteria - Self Control, Processing Speed and Short Term Memory. Each section has you doing different kind of things. Self Control can have you picking the highest number among random other numbers, Processing Speed could have you doing the quick counting exercise and Short Term Memory could have you doing things like the Continuous Countdown Test.
Each week, your Brain Age will reset and you’ll be asked to do the test over again. You are able to do the test once per day. While I enjoyed the majority of the training for the testing, I found myself to be really bad when it comes to short term memory, particularly when the mode had me doing things like remembering a huge list of words or numbers. Regardless, and I’m no Dr. Kawashima here, the tests seem to be doing a good job at getting your brain working. With time and continuous use, your scores should go up. It’s all pretty well done.

One nice addition are the leaderboards. As long as you’re connected online, you will be able to see how your stack up against your friends. Other additions, such as an alarm on the Switch that will remind you to train and a Brain Training Email system (for emailing family and friends your daily results) are also here. Just to note, the majority of the activities in the game require you to play the game in handheld mode. However, there are some things that you can do on the big screen.
The newest addition to the series is the training that use the Joy Con IR camera. There are a good mix of things to do here, with a handful that you can play outside of daily training as well. A Quick Brain Age Check with rock paper scissors, Finger Calculations and Finger Drills make up the IR camera training modes. By and large, the camera works pretty well. I had little to no issue with the camera picking up my hand. While these all work very well and can be interesting, I couldn’t help but feel that these felt like left over concepts that Nintendo had for the Joy Con pre-Switch launch. Don’t get me wrong - they are fun. However, it almost seems like Nintendo thought they needed to have something like this in the series to differentiate it from previous Brain Training titles.

One not as exciting addition to Brain Training is the Head-to-Head Training that can be played with two players with separate Joy Con in the Quick Play mode. There are three mini games - Bird Watching, Flag Raising and Box Counting. Both Bird Watching and Box Counting have players compete by counting the number of items on the screen. If you get the right number and have the least amount of mistakes, you win. It’s pretty simple and actually kind of fun. Flag Raising, though, while good in concept, I found that initiating the actions was kind of broken. The game was constantly telling me to hold the Joy Con horizontally to get going. After holding the controllers in all sorts of ways, it would eventually let me do the training. It’s all gesture based, and when it works, it’s fine. Getting it to work was a bit of a pain in the neck, though. These competitive modes are fun but you will likely be spending most of your time with the single player training.
Writing detection in Brain Training is hit or miss. For my time in handheld mode, I was using a capacitive stylus. Sure, I’ll admit that it must be difficult to accurately determine different writing styles from all sorts of different people. Still, I found that the game had difficulty recognizing when I wrote 3s or 6s as well as a handful of words. It wasn’t terrible, but my calculation times were sometimes marred by the game’s inability to read my handwriting.

One thing I was interested in doing from the outset was to try my hand at training in Japanese. Like many games on the Switch, this is supported but you’ll have to change your system setting to change the game’s language, as expected. It’s interesting to note that if you do change between languages, your progress will carry over regardless of the language you play in. Obviously, with some of the training that is language specific (articles in Japanese are different from the ones in English and there are some variations on the writing portions), you’ll have to start from zero. The more universal things, like Calculations, Sudoku or Dual Task, will all be pretty much the same.
Brain Training for the Nintendo Switch is definitely more of the same. If you’ve played a game in the series, you’ll know what to expect. But it’s a long haul kind of game. Investing in it will ensure that you can enjoy and hopefully improve your brain activity over time. It does what it sets out to do pretty well in that regard. With the addition of the IR camera activities and competitive training, there is definitely something new here. On the other hand, these new additions feel a bit shallow. It’s a solid package overall but not for everyone.

Final Score: 7.0

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