Brain Age 2 - Does it Really Work?
Brain Age 2 for the Nintendo DS is an incredibly fun game that has the added feature of improving the speed and function of your brain - supposedly. It uses voice responses and written responses to score your brain in several different areas using mini games. It also includes Sudoku puzzles!
Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day is a game designed to help your brain to operate more youthfully. Utilizing a series of tests that measure your reaction speed, memory, and thinking speed, Brain Age 2 can give you its best estimation of how "old" your brain is. The game's creator, Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, maintains that the ideal age for brains is 20 years old, and that as people age beyond that their brains slow down and stop developing. He claims that by "exercising" certain areas of the brain even an older person can achieve the brain performance of a 20 year old.
Does it Work?
While the theory of whether doing little puzzles and other simple tasks to improve the speed of your brain may be true (though the testing is, of course, still in progress), I have trouble accepting the age rating that the system uses. The first time I played Brain Age 2 and took the Age test I scored an age 72. Guess how old I was when I took the test? 20. How was my 20 year old brain supposed to be operating 52 years slower than the supposed "normal" speed for my age? I'm not particularly unintelligent (I like to think the opposite) and I do use my brain quite a lot for a variety of things - even many things included in this little game - yet for some reason or another it decided that I had a brain older than my grandma.
I was never able to get into a habit of playing daily, yet one day out of the blue, after letting the game and my DS sit in a box for months after moving, I picked up the game and managed to score in the 20's. I really can't attribute any improvement in score to the game's training since I wasn't following the regimen. I really can't attribute it to anything, really. It would make sense that my being familiar with the games, though, allowed me to do them faster and more accurate. That is my best guess, and it would seem that it is that way with everyone, but who knows.
Regardless of whether it really does serve the purpose of making you "smarter", the game can be incredibly fun, and competing for brain age scores against your friends is comparable to trying to beat their Tetris score. As you use the game, you earn daily stamps that unlock more and more mini tests or games. There are a variety of games, like music, memory, math, patterns, picking things out on the screen, or just trying to track things with your eyes - and that is only in the training and testing section.
The game also comes packed with hundreds of Sudoku puzzles of all difficulty levels. As a big Sudoku fan, that was reason enough for me to buy it. You can also unlock a "just for fun" game that the Dr. Kawashima claims is designed to relax you. While I never feel particularly relaxed while playing it, I do find it incredibly enjoyable (reminds me a lot of Tetris) and it helps me to focus.
Brain Age 2 uses the typical DS touch stylus and with voice for game responses, and many of them require you to actually write in letters or numbers. For the most part it does a good job, but it always wants to turn my "4"s into "9"s. There are also a few hidden "easter eggs" in the game, like saying certain words can make the little floating head grimace. It also attempts to have a sense of humor. The first time I scored in the low 20's on my Brain Age test I broke several of my previous records, and then the floating head proudly announced that my brain age was 78 and played the sad "failure" music. Annoyed, I started to tell my husband how dumb the game was when I clicked to the next screen and realized it was "just kidding". I must admit, my video games trying to play pranks on me is a bit unnerving.
On the whole, I think Brain Age 2 is an incredibly fun game and a great addition to anyone's DS game collection. If for nothing else, it can be amusing on long car trips, and it offers an extensive store of Sudoku puzzles that aren't in disposable books. I'd call that a win all around, even if it insults me by telling me I have a granny brain.