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When I was at school I had a maths teacher who used to enjoy subjecting me and my fellow classmates to a weekly 'mental arithmetic' test.
As much as I loved maths, working out sums in my head was never my strong point and I wore the dunces hat so often that when we left school he asked if I wanted to take it with me! With this in mind I shouldn't really have been too surprised when I picked up a copy of Brain Training on the DS, and was told my brain age was well into the 70's (I'm only 31). Of course this prompted copious laughter from Lee who is some kind of mental arithmetic genius - well he'd like to think so.
As with most video games Brain Training gives you access to a handful of tests when you first start playing, and unlocks further tests and difficulty levels over a period of days. Your performance is measured in speeds, from walking through to rocket speed and Dr Kawashima is always on hand to spur you on.
Like asking you to remember what you ate for breakfast three weeks ago.
One thing that can take some getting used to is the controls - many of the tests require you to write your answer on the screen - which can cause issues if you're handwriting is less than neat. The other tests require you to speak the answers which can be frustrating at times. One of the brain tests requires you to announce a series of colours; picture Lee in hysterics while I continually shout the word ‘blue' in as many different tones and voices as I can to get Kawashima to recognise me, apparently it has trouble recognising the female voice, the tip being to talk in a deep voice but maybe that's the real reason for my aging brain!
The tests cover different skills, ranging from mental arithmetic to reading aloud and a memory game requiring you to recount a list of words that you are asked to memorise. Although sometimes taxing, the games are fun and the instructions are easy to follow.
Have you ever tried drawing King Henry the Eighth or Rodin's The Thinker?
As well as the tests Kawashima offers up random tasks, like asking you to remember what you ate for breakfast three weeks ago, or giving you a series of pictures to draw. Have you ever tried drawing King Henry the Eighth or Rodin's The Thinker? And to add to the humiliation Kawashima presents your drawings side by side with other users so that you can discuss them with each other - another source of great amusement.I think the accessibility of this game, and the ability to train your brain on a regular basis, is one of the reasons why the DS appeals to the older audience. I never thought I'd see the day my dad played a video game - but he's a fan of the Doctor. Of course cynics may say that a computer game can't possibly improve your memory, but Dr Kawashima is a real doctor, and tests have proven that regular use does indeed improve your memory - my only problem is remembering to play it!
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: