Brain Age 2

The Nintendo DS has become the stepping stone for educational and self-improvement games to make the transition from web toys and diet books into console video games. This game, the follow up to the original Brain Age, continues what we called dubbed the “personal narrative.” This self-created story is one which exists for any reader or player when approaching a text like this. Instead of having a story laid out for you, the details of the narrative happen to you in real time as you either succeed in the personal development or don’t. What differentiates Brain Age 2 from its predecessor is the inclusion of more cultural references which enhance the narrative and the experience.

I’ve Done This

One of the reasons the exercises in this title are so accessible and popular among a wide range of people is that they mimic real world situations. In the previous game, you performed activities like doing head counts on party-goers, simple math problems, or calculating how much time had passed between two clocks. While these exercises were fun and engaging, the new game features puzzles with more real world flavor. In some, you judge which place a runner finished at in a foot race, you make the correct change for a given amount of money, decipher scrambled words, or try to hear more than two things at once. The games are more challenging and the only experience needed to excel at them is life itself.

Call the Doctor

Another interesting addition to this sequel is the cultural references that were scarce in the first. One of the exercises involves playing a piano to a preset tune. The songs are taken from popular/folk culture and are often just classics that the user is probably already familiar with. Knowing the song not only invokes the memories associated with it, but helps the player to perform the task using more parts of the brain.

Another, more surprising, addition is the inclusion of “Virus Buster,” a low-key version of the popular puzzle game, Dr. Mario. This game is enhanced by the DS touch screen, and as Dr. Kawashima points out, is included to allow your brain to rest and recharge, versus spin up and work harder. The game is almost identical to its predecessor in terms of sound, art, and game play. Nintendo must not have wanted to disturb a winning formula, or intimidate casual players by shaking up the interface too much.

Another aspect of this game which remains from the previous, is the reversed timeline. Since the score in Brain Age and Brain Age 2 is calculated based upon age, with 20 being the best and 80 being the worst, one must grow younger– rather than older and more experienced– to attain a high score and achieve a success. This reverse places emphasis on youth over age, but presents the notion that age really is just a number– one that you can adjust with a healthy lifestyle.

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