Brain Age 2 Review
The first Brain Age game was an undeniable hit for Nintendo. It put the DS into the hands of gamers and non-gamers alike and did a good job of helping to popularize the “Touch Generations” line from Nintendo. The first game of its type, it took simple mini-games that anyone could get into and play and wrapped them up in a game that was supposed to help you keep your brain active. While the idea of minigames wasn't anything new for the DS, wrapping them up in a package that made it approachable for both a young kid, his mom and his grandma was what made the game successful. Now, Nintendo has released the sequel for Brain Age, with new games but the same idea of training your brain.
Brain Age 2 is an interesting sequel. On one hand, the game is really no different than its predecessor, save for some new games and more Sudoku puzzles. On the other hand, those that enjoy this style of game don't really want much more than this new stuff – and the game is still only 20 dollars. The sequel doesn't change the Brain Age formula at all. The first time you start the game up, Dr. Kawashima still greets you. You still put your name in, and occasionally do some sort of activity before going into the Brain Age check. This time, you do an acrostic or connect some dots into a picture instead of talking about what you had for breakfast.
So, then, just what is really different? Well, the fact that none of the games are repeated from the first one is probably the biggest difference. Instead of counting the amount of red numbers, for example, you'll instead have to identify the largest number among a pile of other numbers. The games have a wide mix of difficulty this time around, from the easier ones like symbol match to the harder word-based ones. However, all of these games still have one of the major problems that the original Brain Age had – the pickup on what numbers/letters you write still isn't too great. While it has gotten better from the last iteration of the series, there are still a lot of mixups. More often than not, I'd try to write a 2 and have it pick up as a 7, or a 5 would pick up as a 9 (despite them being written very clearly). Eventually, you'll figure out the right way to write the numbers, but your scores in the games will be lower than they should be until then. I'm not really sure if this is a limitation of the DS itself or the software Brain Age 2 uses to detect writing, but I think it could be improved either way. Maybe give an option to tap a virtual calculator pad to put in the answers like Big Brain Academy did?
Outside of the Brain Age check (which is three randomly chosen games), you can also pick from the minigames and train on them each day. You'll want to make sure to do this too, since training on one of them each day gets you a stamp for your calendar, which is how you unlock more games for training. What I don't get is that, more often than not, the games you'll be tested on are not available for training. If the purpose of this training is to help you work at these activities, why are you tested on ones you can't practice? It didn't make sense to me in Brain Age 1 and it still doesn't make sense to me in Brain Age 2. Let me practice on the games that I'm going to be tested on, please.
Overall, Brain Age 2 is really just more like an expansion pack for the original Brain Age. There's no change whatsoever in the Brain Age formula, just an expansion on what made the original fun and entertaining. You'll have new games to play, some of which are far more difficult than any of the others in the past game. There are 100 new Sudoku puzzles to mess with if that's your thing. You can still have your friends do quick Brain Age checks to compare with each other. Really, this is a whole lot of the same thing you experienced last year with the original. If you enjoyed the last run through with Dr. Kawashima, there is enough new stuff here for you to enjoy – heck, you'll even be used to the particular ways that you have to write the numbers. If you didn't enjoy the last entry in the series, though, nothing here is going to change that for you. And hey, if you're trying to find a birthday/Christmas/anniversary/Festivus present for someone in your life without the Nintendo DS Lite, there's always the newly-released Brain Age 2 and snazzy red and black DS Lite bundle available.
Sure, Brain Age 2 may be more of the same, but if the formula worked the first time, there isn't much reason to change it. I would, however, like to see better handwriting recognition and the ability to train on any of games that will be tossed at me in a Brain Age test.