Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch review: entertaining and useful - but doesn't live up to the original game

With many of us looking set to reluctantly spend more time at home in the coming weeks and months due to the coronavirus pandemic, one Nintendo Switch game I have been reviewing might just come into its own.

Video game fans - and even those who aren't frequent gamers - will remember Nintendo's famous Brain Training games.

Who is Dr Kawashima?

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Brain Age, also known as Dr Kawashima's Brain Training, is a series of video games developed and published by Nintendo, based on the work of Japanese neuroscientist, Ryuta Kawashima.

But for those who are perhaps not as familiar, Brain Training presents you set of mini games that are designed to help improve your mental processes, strength and agility.

The activities were designed by Dr Kawashima, with the idea of stimulating multiple parts of the brain and therefore help improve the gamer's abilities while also combatting normal aging affects on your noggin. Activities are generally based on two or more mental stimuli, and are to be completed as fast and as correctly as possible.

For example, common activities include calculations - where the user is presented with a list of single-operator math operations and must utilise the system's touch screen to write their answer to each question - and a Stroop Test, based on the Stroop effect, where players must say into the unit's microphone the color of the text of a color name that appears on screen.

New features

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It is very much more of the same in the Nintendo's new Brain Training title for the Switch, titled Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch.

The game uses some of the new features of the Switch (including the gyroscope and infrared camera in the Joy-Con units) as part of the input into the activities, alongside other returning training activities. A Switch-compatible stylus is also available in some regions and online to support some of those activities, including scribbling answers in the quick-fire maths equations section.

Brain Training was a worldwide phenomenon, selling 33 million units globally. It effectively made the Nintendo DS, as people who had never had any interest in video games suddenly rushed out to get one just to play Brain Training.

Now, in these troubled times, it could be just what we need to keep our brains ticking and occupied when the boredom of potential quarantine and lockdown kicks in.

But not much has changed

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The first thing to say is that this game is very much meant to be played in handheld mode, as nearly all of the activities require it.

The gaming world and landscape has changed immeasurably since Brain Training first launched over 15 years ago. So does Brain Training even still work for modern gamers?

Well, the truth is, not much has changed. The main thrust is the game's claim that it can calculate (and improve over time) your brain age. It does this by analysing three key areas - self-control, processing speed and short-term memory. The average result is presented as your brain age and the lower that is the better.

The activities are random, and you also have daily brain training tests.

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The Switch doesn't have a mic like the DS, so instead uses some of the other gimmicks, such as infrared on the JoyCons. These can be very frustrating, as they don't always work, or they work, but not quickly enough, thus lowering your score.

Lacking longevity

Nintendo have perhaps missed a trick here by not putting more effort into overhauling Brain Training for the new era. After all, the advent of smartphones since the original release means these kind of brain and puzzle games are widespread.

Brain Training is entertaining and useful - perhaps now more than ever, but it won't provide the longevity of the original, or come anywhere close.

If you are locked down any time soon, you may find yourself a touch sick of Dr Kawashima, even if there are a few quirky additions to the activity roster.

Out: NowRating: 6.5/10

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