Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? took the world by storm alongside the Nintendo DS back in the mid-2000s. With Nintendo’s marketing machine in full flow for the DS Lite, you had celebrities giving it a quick whirl in TV adverts, and it was one of those games that you could happily hand the console to your mum for a daily selection of mini-games.
Given the first two games’ popularity, it’s staggering how long it’s taken for the third game to release. It’s been a decade since Brain Training 2 in the West, but that’s not the whole story, because a third game has actually been out in Japan since 2012 and the US since 2013. Finally that game is coming to Europe today. Known in other regions quite simply as Brain Age: Concentration Training, is called Dr. Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training: Can You Stay Focused? in Europe, and it lives up to its name.
Instead of a strict and formal review, we’re doing something a little different for this game. The actual medically proven benefits might be disputed, but it’s a game that looks to try and improve your cognition over time, giving you a ranking over time. Unlike the original games, this is a letter ranking as opposed to a dismay inducing brain age rating. You start at an F and work your way up, unlocking new mini-games as you go.
However, we’re also curious how the games relate to each other. Does playing Devilish Brain Training help you out in the original? As we play Devilish Brain Training over the next month, we’ll also be delving back into the original Brain Training each week to see if it can help reduce my brain age in that game. Considering that game says I’ve got the brain of a 44 year old, it looks like I need it!
The mini-games in Devilish Brain Training all work to emphasise your ability to concentrate and hold things in your memory. Devilish Calculations, for example, has you remember the solution to a simple maths problem from at least one problem ago. This was the most challenging one for me, and it was a triumph to get to 3-back calculations, remembering the previous three problems as a fourth one appeared.
Concentration Challenge is similar in that it sees how long you can remembering the number of boxes on display before, but Devilish Mice is completely different as it has mice scurry around a 3×3 grid and you need to keep track of where all the mice are. The challenge is that sometimes they can go out of bounds and you need to see where they reenter the grid.
Devilish Reading is probably my favourite in that you read a small passage out loud, remembering the underlined word for each, then write down the increasing number of words you need to remember.
There’s also lots of training supplements, such as Brain Training’s Calculations x20 that can aid you, as well as new Brain Training exercises that include Klondike – a classic solo card game – as well as Block Head which challenges you to beat Dr Kawashima in taking the most territory. Time Out games are there to help you unwind and relax, in contrast to the rest of the game., with Blubber Blast being a rather simple puzzle game in which you match bombs to blobs and blow them up.
It was curious that the original two games were mentioned in a Brain News section, because after playing for a week, I’m not entirely sure there’s much correlation. After all, this one is about concentration and improving your working memory, while the old games were about solving problems. I did improve my Brain Age in the original game to 37 after a week’s worth of Devilish Brain Training, but that felt more like exposure to the format of problems rather than Devilish Brain Training having any proper effect. Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case down the line.
One thing I can definitely say about Devilish Brain Training is that it feels like it’s helping me concentrate more. I’ve currently worked my way up to rank B, unlocking new mini-games, Time Out sessions and things to do on the way, but I still have lots to unlock and I look forward to seeing what the full suite has to offer.