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Review: Brain Age: Concentration TrainingBrain Age Concentration Training Dr. Kawashima Nintendo 3DS Devilish Training Educational Supplemental Training Brain Training
Platform: 3DS (retail and eShop)
Release Date: February 10, 2013
ESRB: E for Everyone
Growing up, I can't say I've ever said, "Hm... I wonder what age my brain is..." But then Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day came along for the Nintendo DS and the question suddenly made sense to ask. With so many mind-boggling exercises, that game uses your results to determine what your “brain age” is, which in turn pushes you to do better and better as you train your brain every day. Then came its sequel, Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day, and my brain basically became a 20-year-old on steroids.
It’s been about 6 years since the last main Brain Age game was released to give our brains what-for, and with the Nintendo 3DS out and about, it’s about time we got another mind gym, don’t you think? Dr. Ryuta Kawashima thought so too, and so it’s time to train our brains even harder than before with Brain Age: Concentration Training. With Dr. Kawashima’s new “Devilish Training” regimen, among other things, never has my brain been pushed so far beyond its limits. But it’s so worth it, and while there may be a few noticeable flaws during your training, the end result of your daily workout will have you concentrating better than you ever thought possible.
Our favorite disembodied head-with-hands Dr. Kawashima is back for another round of brain training. Only this time, the game has changed. Rather than taking your typical Brain Age exercises, Brain Age: Concentration Training is all about the good doctor’s new brain training regimen: Devilish Training. This new technique of his is specially designed to train your working memory – that grey area of your brain where you store temporary information that you use immediately, such as following instructions. By training every day, Dr. Kawashima promises an improvement in the executive (used to do work), suppressive (used for self-control), and prediction/judgment functions of your brain.
Whenever you begin your daily Devilish Training, Dr. Kawashima gets a little bit on the dark side as he turns red and grows horns to become a highly-educated Lucifer. This emphasis on devilish themes is due to the extreme challenge this new brain training technique presents. There’s a reason these exercises have to be so devilishly tricky, though. Training your brain is one thing, but improving your working memory takes a serious amount of concentration. Especially in modern times, where much of society is suffering from Information Addiction, in which the conveniences of modern technology erode our ability to focus on the task at hand.
Of course, this constant hunger for information isn’t the only distraction in the world we live in, but regardless of where your distractions are coming from, Devilish Training will have you concentrating harder than ever as your working memory improves, whether you’re dealing with numbers, words, or...mice. Take it from me; I started writing this review day one of playing the game because the game made me want to write it immediately. This level of effectiveness is a devilish Godsend as I have always wanted something that could help me concentrate on my work.
Aside from Devilish Training, this game also offers two other training programs – Brain Training and Supplemental Training. In fact, I recommend jumping into these before your Devilish Training session, as Brain Training works on keeping your brain active while Supplemental Training challenges the speed of your working memory. By doing these two beforehand, I found that my performance in the big training session of the day improved quicker than if I skipped them. There is also Relaxation Mode, which is a great way to relax your brain after it melts from all the stress it endured through various activities, and Concentration Challenge, which is a sort of way to challenge your working memory and see how much the game is helping your concentration.
The game is fairly straightforward, since the majority of the game involves writing numbers and letters and tapping on things. Unfortunately, not everything you do is coherent to the game, which can get extremely frustrating. For example, the way I write the letter “P” doesn’t seem to register with the game, and sometimes when you write a certain number, the game reads it as something else. In fact, it’s pretty easy to cheat sometimes by simply writing a squiggly line and letting the game determine it as the correct answer. This stuff doesn’t happen all of the time, but it’s noticeable when it does and kinda hurts the effectiveness of the otherwise fantastic training program.
The graphics and art style in Concentration Training are about what you would expect from a Brain Age title, only slightly better than what you’ve seen in the past due to the transition onto the 3DS. There are some nice charts, graphs, and various pictures displayed during things like Brain Seminars that look nice. And the minimalism of most of the game’s exercises makes it easy to participate without getting distracted by flashy 3D effects. There are a few exercises that take advantage of the 3DS’s signature effect, though, such as one involving numbered balls under some cups. Then, of course, there’s the doctor himself, who doesn’t hesitate to show how well the game pulls the effect off whenever utilized.
Music isn’t exactly the main focus of the Brain Age series, but that doesn’t mean Concentration Training can’t have a decent soundtrack. While the majority of the game has you listening to the sounds of silence as you concentrate hard to get through your exercises, the music you do hear isn’t bad at all. You’ll hear tunes during Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Seminars, Brain News, and when simply viewing the menu screen.
Then there are things like varying sound effects, jingles, a remix of a Dr. Mario song, and a Brain Training exercise called Piano Player that has you playing classical compositions on a virtual piano. My personal favorite, though, is Music Appreciation – a Relaxation Mode activity that simply has you listen to 64 very soothing songs to a slideshow of beautiful photographs, which is meant to calm your brain after exercising (I also use it when I go to sleep now). When listening to all these songs, you come to realize just how wonderful the music in this game is.
A surprisingly good voiceover job is featured in this game as well. Of course, the only voice in the game is of Dr. Kawashima, but his voice actor has done remarkably well. The only downside to the voice is the fact that, well… Dr. Kawashima talks too much. Thanks to his having a voice, he can come off as distracting, ironically. It’s fine when he’s simply giving instructions and giving presentations, but he talks during your exercises too. And whether he tells you good things or says “whoops” when you make a mistake, his talking can get annoying, which can really break your concentration sometimes.
At the end of the day, Brain Age: Concentration Training is exactly what it sets out to be – A devilishly tricky game designed to boost brain activity and improve concentration. And as someone who felt a strong urge to start this review after my very first training session, I can vouch for its effectiveness. A flawless 3D effect, a surprisingly good soundtrack, and quality voice acting are just icing on this devilish cake, and while the game has some annoying downsides, the third iteration into the main Brain Age series is one brain-boosting tool you shouldn't miss out on if you want to keep your concentration in check.
+ Highly effective in increasing brain activity and boosting concentration
+ 3D effect works flawlessly when taken advantage of
+ Surprisingly good amount of quality music packed in
+ The voice acting for Dr. Kawashima is top-notch
- Doesn't understand what you're writing sometimes
- Dr. Kawashima can get annoying and break your concentration
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
With Dr. Kawashima's new Devilish Training regimen, Brain Age: Concentration Training does exactly what it tries to do - improve your concentration. If you care about your brain, don't miss this game.
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