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Brain Age: Concentration Training

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Brain Age: Concentration Training

Brain Age: Concentration Training

Image © Nintendo
The original Brain Age for the Nintendo DS boasted about how its menagerie of puzzles and math problems could “train” your brain to be more fit and quick, not unlike how regular exercise conditions a flabby body. The science driving the idea of “brain training” is still dubious at best, but Brain Age was a massive hit on the Nintendo DS, and it still continues to breed imitators on other platforms. Brain Age: Concentration Training for the Nintendo 3DS follows up with a promise to improve your concentration and multitasking abilities. Again, the science is a little spotty, but there’s no arguing that Concentration Training is a great package of brain-stretching puzzles, problems, and mini-games.

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS
Price: $34.99 (Also downloadable from the Nintendo 3DS eShop)

GOOD: Plenty of engaging content that’ll sharpen up your thought process.

BAD: The science behind the game is fuzzy at best. Content is gradually unlocked. Game occasionally can’t read the numbers you write with the stylus.

THE BASICS: An Exercise for the Easily Distracted

Our wired world makes it possible for us to find the answer to any question in a matter of seconds. We also have access to unlimited stores of cheap entertainment. The trade-off is that it’s incredibly easy to become distracted from our day-to-day tasks and chores. In fact, if you’ve read this far into this review without once checking your phone, email, or Facebook: Bravo. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Brain Age: Concentration Training is a collection of puzzles and games that are meant to improve your “working memory,” which, in turn, is supposed to help you stay focused on work and other important tasks.

Neuroscientist Dr Kawashima reprises his role as a floating head for Concentration Training. He walks you through each game and even offers lectures about working memory and how it can be improved with concentration-based games. When it’s time to get down to “Devilish Training,” he even dons a pair of horns and turns beet-red, so you know it’s time to get serious.

GAMEPLAY: Numbers, Letters, Devils

“Devilish Training” is the meat of Concentration Training. There are several games in the Devilish Training category, and each one involves hanging onto pieces of information and recalling them later. For instance, “Devilish Calculations” asks you to solve a simple sum, but you don’t write down the answer until the next sum is presented. “Devilish Mice” is a moving picture puzzle that requires you to keep an eye on the location of several mice as they slip in and out of opaque boxes. There are also basic Memory and word games that ask you to match up numbers or recall words.

Devilish Training is broken up into five minute segments that require intense concentration, so doing one daily session is supposed to be sufficient for improving your working memory. Devilish Training’s difficulty increases or decreases depending on how well you can handle a particular skill level. While the first round of Devilish Calculations requires you to write down the previous answer, you’ll be asked to do “two-back” or “three-back” if you score consistently well. The other Devilish games adjust accordingly, too: You’re required to find more mice, or match up more numbers, and so on. If you fail to keep up your high score, you go down a level. High scores are necessary for unlocking some content, so the more you play, the better your brain performs, and the more you’re rewarded for your efforts.

And chances are you will noticed a marked improvement in your concentration the more you play with the Devilish games. There’s no guarantee that you won’t ache to check Twitter while you’re slogging your way through a textbook, but you probably won’t even think about your phone when the heat is on during your daily five minutes of training. Moreover, if you’re poor with numbers, Concentration Training can help you learn how to perform basic operations more quickly. Fortunately, Concentration Training has a “Supplemental Training” section that contains many of the classic exercises from the original Brain Age, including its reams of mathematical calculations.

Finally, if you need to take a break from numbers, letters, and mice, Concentration Training’s “Relaxation Mode” has a collection of fun distractions that you can cool off with, including a Dr Mario-style puzzle game and a block-jumping game that’s not as easy as it looks.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND: Pleasingly Laconic

Like its predecessor, Brain Age: Concentration Training features very bare-bones aesthetics, but that’s not a bad thing. The clean white puzzle backgrounds keep you becoming distracted, and almost feel iconic even though Brain Age is still a relatively new series. The numbers, words, and puzzles are laid out cleanly, and legibility is never an issue. The game might have occasional trouble reading your own stylus input, but it generally seems capable of reading all kinds of chickenscratch.

There is one major audio change from the original Brain Age: Dr Kawashima talks through the whole experience and doles out advice, instructions, and lectures. His voice is, in a word, soothing.

CONCLUSION: Concentrate!

Brain Age: Concentration Training isn’t a magic game that will automatically grant you the willpower necessary to put down your phone and pick up your homework. That said, it’s still a nice bundle of brain-honing puzzles and mini-games. If there’s one major drawback to Concentration Training, it’s that you have to keep playing to unlock content—but to be fair, it is a game that’s supposed to teach you that you can’t grab everything you want all the time.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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