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Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training For Nintendo Switch

Posted by GG Goblin On January - 28 - 2020

Dr Kawashima returns to train your brain.

 
15 years ago, the gaming landscape was very different. There was a firm distinction between those who played video games and those who didn’t. Discussing our hobby with a non-gaming relative was often greeted with looks of bewilderment. Of course, this was before smart phones made the big leap into everybody’s hands and gave everyone the gift of gaming. However, the beginnings of change actually came before the smart phone, when Nintendo decided to start catering to the non-gamers. The Nintendo Wii was the real star of this movement, with games like Wii Sports catching the imagination of the more casual crowd. One year before the arrival of the Wii though, Nintendo released Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training on the Nintendo DS handheld, which proved to be hugely popular among non-gamers. While it may have had its time, Nintendo have seen fit to release Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch as their first game of this new decade. Let’s shake the cobwebs from the noggin and take a look.

 


 
The reality is that not much has changed from the 2005 release on Nintendo DS, but why would it? The idea behind the game is that the user would complete a few simple tasks, the results of which would indicate the users brain age. Shocking as it may be, I would imagine that most new users would discover their brain age to be 80, which seems to be the starting point for the software. Then, by completing daily challenges, the user could then see their brain age come down as they presumably improve. I can’t say anything about the scientific proof behind this process, but if you enjoy the types of tasks and tests on offer, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

 
So, what of the tests and puzzles included with the game? Well, everyone will recognise Sudoku, the puzzle game where players have to insert numbers into a 9×9 grid without repeating any number in any column, row or 3×3 block. If you enjoy Sudoku, then there will be plenty here to keep you entertained. There are also a multitude of other tasks to enjoy, some returning and some new. Math problems are common, as are memory puzzles where the user will be charged with remembering as much on the screen as they can, and reflex tests in which things have to be done as quickly as possible. Going through the training tasks each day will reward the player by unlocking a small selection of mini games to play around with, such as a Dr Mario spin off.

 
Most of the games are played with the Switch held vertically and the user writing their answers on the touchscreen. The physical version of the game comes with a stylus to make writing on the screen a little more natural, but using a finger will have pretty much the same effect. Some of the new games make use of the IR sensor on the Joy-Con in interesting ways, such as trying to detect the shape of a players hand when playing Rock, Paper, Scissors. There are also a few games that can be played head to head with another player, bringing some competitive multiplayer into the bundle.

 


 
In all, it is not a bad little bundle if this type of mental workout is what you are looking for on your Nintendo Switch. Given Nintendo’s usual over-inflated prices for the Switch software, Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch is not so bad at around £25. However, there are a few issues with the game that need to be explained.

 
Holding the Switch vertically with one hand while writing with the other is not especially comfortable, or at least not as comfortable as playing the game used to be on the DS. Holding the Joy-Con and pointing the IR sensor towards the other hand, with which the player is supposed to make shapes, also feels slightly awkward and, honestly, doesn’t work that well. There are some things the player can do to improve the response of the IR sensor, such as avoiding bright light, but it is still frustrating to be penalised when the sensor fails to perform.

 
Which brings up the Switch Lite. Obviously, Nintendo’s latest revision of the Switch console doesn’t have removable Joy-Cons or an IR sensor. Because of this, the Switch Lite actively misses out on some of the tests in the game, something which is not made apparent to potential buyers.

 
Then there is the handwriting recognition. Speed and accuracy has an effect on how well the player does in many of the tests, so again it is frustrating when the player is penalised over something that isn’t their fault. Whether using the stylus or a finger, the game doesn’t do a bad job of recognising what the player is writing, be it a number or letter. However, it does fail far more often than it should, either registering the wrong number or letter, or not registering anything legible at all.

 


 
As I said at the beginning, I think Brain Training has had its day, at least as a paid for console title. Everyone has a smart phone now, and everyone has access to the type of puzzles and tests available here through their phone, probably at a much lower price. And the game does have a few issues on the Switch, such as it not working in its entirety on the Switch Lite, and the handwriting recognition. However, with all of that said, Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch is a nice bundle of mini games that will give the user a mental workout. Will they get smarter? I doubt it. But it is compelling enough to keep the player coming back for more.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 



 

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