[Review] Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Switch

Written by Kieran Fifield
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Release date: 03/01/2020
  • Price: £24.29 Physical: £24.99
  • Review unit provided by Nintendo UK

Brain Training

I remember when Brain Training launched back in 2006 and I picked it up on my Nintendo DS. While I wasn’t overly enamoured by it, my parents would take any opportunity where I would leave my DS unattended, to do their daily training. They explained that, as you get older and the rigours of adult life grind you down, things like short term memory can really suffer and these simple exercises really helped them remember basic things, such as picking up some milk on the way home from work. I always found this ridiculous. Now I always forget the milk..

When I eventually moved out, to make my own way in this terrifying world, they even bought themselves a Nintendo DS and of course, a copy of BT. Now, some 15 years later, and with the release of Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training on Nintendo Switch, it’s my turn to see if they were onto something. After all, I’m the parent now. Not just any parent mind, I’m Nintendad!!

Git good, brain!!

The first thing that became apparent when booting up Brain Training was just how familiar everything is. Having not likely dabbled with the series in over a decade, I quickly found myself navigating the menus and getting stuck into some daily training in no time at all. Apart from the new IR tests, that we’ll go into greater depth later, this is a greatest hits of the franchise, with a lot of the classic tests returning. Whether you are a fan of quick-fire equations, unwinding with some Sudoku or trying something new like Dual Task, Brain Training covers all the bases. The good Doc is back to act as your guide, and he’s as kooky as he ever was.

Once you’ve had your fill of basic training exercises, you are encouraged to perform a daily Brain Training program. This consists of 3 random exercises and will calculate your Brain Age based off of those combined results. In theory, this is all well and dandy, however this I where the shortcomings of this modern iteration became glaringly obvious. The first wall I had to scale was the game’s sheer disdain for the way I draw the humble number 5. As I sprinted through a round of calculations, I was presented with 7×5, so instantly entered 35.
‘No response, no green tick. Clear, retype slowly – 3, 5…..

Writing curses in cursive

After sharing a clip of this moment on Twitter, someone pointed out that I write my 5’s incorrectly. I immediately went back in and attempted to try the correct way. Lo and behold, the 5 registered perfectly. As well as every time since.

Perhaps it would have been beneficial for there to have been a section at the start where you were asked to write from 0-9. This way, the game could better understand how you wrote and allowed for a more organic experience when trying to achieve the best possible Brain Age. Through discourse on Twitter, I discovered that 5 was a common problem but people were also having issues with their 3’s and 9’s rather commonly too.

It still feels as though this could be patched out. Whether this is a viable option for Nintendo remains to be seen. Is there enough demand, beside the ramblings of an eccentric bunch of Twitter enthusiasts?

I think I might have brained my damage

The range of game modes is probably the highlight of Brain Training. The new and improved Masterpiece Recital mode is a real treat. The ability to play chords as opposed to single notes really adds to the experience. It was pleasing to discover my limited musical ability translated into this mode. Sudoku is always a treat and whilst it probably didn’t balance my brain, was my first port of call. The evidence pointed to my need to work on my short term memory, as my scores were always lacking. Photographic memory provided a frustrating, yet rewarding way to do so.

Germ Buster makes a welcome return to the fold, offering Dr. Mario Lite-like frolics aplenty. Apparently Germ Buster is meant to provide respite for your brain in between training. Guess I missed the memo there! Dr. Mario has always been a favourite at Nintendad Manor, but it has always been a nefarious affair.

Dual Task is a wild ride and really got my brain working in ways that I genuinely noticed. I could literally feel the cogs turning. Essentially, the aim of the (mini) game is to simultaneously carry out two tasks. You must navigate a stick man over hurdles with a tap of the screen. All whilst choosing the highest number from an ever more sporadic display. Sounds simple but it really gets the ol’ cerebrum working overtime. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a Nintendo title without some zany and out there new game modes.

IRked

All new to the first Nintendo Switch entry of this franchise are IR tests, that utilise the IR camera in the right Joy-Con. The idea is that the camera will be able to differentiate between simple shapes, such as rock, paper and scissors or the number of fingers you are holding up. In theory, the logic is sound and is classic Nintendo, however in practice it quickly proves tiresome.

Simple factors such as a room being to bright make the whole experience untenable and to put that in perspective, this feature was tested in the middle of a dreary British winter, in an unlit room during the day.

It’s also worth noting that, for obvious reasons, if playing on a Nintendo Switch Lite, you will need an additional set (or at least a right) set of Joy-Con to experience this mode.

Something, something Stylus…..

The stylus that comes bundled with every physical copy of the game (also available for purchase separately) is a thing of beauty. Whilst not overly obtrusive, it has a certain weight about it, that adds precision when in use. It simply feels fantastic and it’s soft tip applies pressure that, were it not for the games shortcomings, would perform amicably. For Super Mario Maker 2 it is absolutely perfect, and elevates that experience altogether. This however is neither the time nor the place to discuss that.

Neuronal Firing

Brain Training ultimately succeeds at stimulating the brain, but unfortunately due to technical hiccups, falls short of being a seamless experience. What it does achieve however is demonstrate yet another ‘way to play’ on the already versatile Nintendo Switch. In doing so, it opens the door to additional 3DS titles appearing on Nintendo’s hefty hybrid. Brain Training has enough about it to keep your attention every day, but you’ll likely put it down soon after. Until tomorrow at least. However, with a gargantuan Nintendo IP soon to release that offers daily go-to play, how much use you get from it a few month from now remains to be seen.

Pros

  • Succeeds in stimulating the brain through a variety of interesting and testing challenges
  • Keeps you coming back for more
  • The stylus is a handy accessory for Switch enthusiasts
  • Dr. Kawashima is as charismatic as ever

Cons

  • Training exercises are unlocked gradually
  • Input problems mar enjoyment
  • IR is hit and miss
  • Might not keep you coming back, months from now

Verdict

Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training is blighted by annoying input niggles. These problems aside, it still offers charm and purpose. Above all else, you’ll find yourself making sure you check in with the Dr. every day to improve your brain score. For now at least.

3/5

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