Going back to school isn’t something that most of us would relish. The awkwardness, teenage angst and homework are experiences better left in the past.
But in all of those there was, perhaps surprisingly, learning happening. What if you could take just the learning part and distill it into a video game? That’s what Dr. Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training sets out to achieve.
Devilish Brain Training is a new, successor version of the original Nintendo DS Brain Training. Released in Japan nearly five years ago, it has finally made its way to Australia and New Zealand. It’s not just another version of what came before however; Devilish Brain Training is significantly more difficult than the previous two games in the series, but as Dr. Kawashima constantly reminds you: no pain, no gain. To prove the point, the game starts you off at an “F” ranking, and you must prove yourself by completing activities to work your way to something less humiliating.
There are a variety of new brain training tools, supplements and other activities. The hardest are broken up into five minute chunks. These activities are released over the course of a few days, starting with basic ones to get you hooked, then slowly ramping up in difficulty over time.
Now I always preferred English, History and Geography to Maths, and fortunately Devilish Brain Training offers a variety of word-based, and numbers based training sessions. That’s not to say they were easy. By the time you’re a few days in, all the different activities strained my reasoning and recall abilities. You can really get into a flow with some of these,and when I was sometimes jolted out of this flow they became much harder. Devilish Brain Training really is best experienced in quiet solitude, without the distractions of public transport, or, well, other people in general. For example, Devilish Reading requires you to read a passage of text out loud, and goes so far as to make you confirm you’re in a quiet environment before starting.
There’s also a match-three game to help you “rest” between training sessions. It is curiously played vertically, holding the 3DS on its side (something I can imagine 2DS owners not appreciating). It’s a curious addition given my 3DS is full of other“easier” games, but it’s welcome nonetheless.
In addition to the activities, Dr. Kawashima occasionally gives you lectures and quizzes designed to give you some greater detail on the science and purpose of the activities that he wants you to do. Sometimes Dr. Kawashima’s explanations and lectures can go on for a little too long, but you can optionally skip most of them or watch them on fast forward.
Brain Training encourages consecutive days of ‘play’ through certificates, awards and by filling out a daily attendance sheet. It felt rewarding to receive these platitudes, but without a way to share them with the wide world outside the game they were little more than entries buried under submenus.
The game mainly uses the stylus to enter text, and select options on the screen. Just as in Hey! Pikmin, I would have liked some sort of fallback that doesn’t require the stylus, but at least its not as unfriendly to left-handers as that game is.
I cannot speak to the medical efficacy of Brain Training, but it certainly made me feel like I was firing up old skills that had become rusty since high school. Putting aside the science of brain training, I enjoyed my time with Dr. Kawashima. The more I played the better I got at those activities, and that’s not nothing. Not your traditional game, Devilish Brain Training will challenge you more than almost any other game on the system, and I know that some of you will relish in that challenge.
Released: July 2017
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Puzzle / Quizz