In an age where Jade Goody commands celebrity status, the Crazy Frog song sells by the truckload and '80s fashion makes a comeback, it's somewhat ironic to note that this is the same decade that has seen the nation hooked on brain training games.
The original DS game, Dr Kawashima's Brain Training, and its many subsequent clones form part of a fad that seems far from ending. Who knows, it may yet topple the mighty sudoku as the mental exercise of choice for fashionable young professionals, hip-and-with-it senior citizens and the rest of Joe and Jane public alike.
Of course, not all of these clones are worth the effort, with some more likely to offend your mental palate than hone your cognitive dexterity. Brain Coach, thankfully, appears intent on doing the latter, such is its elegant, clean design, tasteful execution and addictive exercises.
The set-up is simple. Upon loading the game, you are presented with the option to take a daily test or do some training. You can take as many daily tests as you like, but only the first test taken every 24 hours will count towards your statistics (more on these later).
There are four different categories involved – logic, math, memory and visual – each of which offers different timed tests. These are varied and range from filling in the mathematical symbols in equations, to counting the number of moving objects depending on shape or colour, to name two examples.
There are eight tests in total – four are available initially, with the remaining being unlocked via the process of winning medals throughout the daily tests. To improve your chances, the Training mode enables you to play any of the unlocked tests in order to swot up.
After each daily test your results are logged on a graph tracking your progress. You are shown a line that runs between one axis marked Days and the other marked Score, with a separate line present for each category, as well as an average that gives you an instant measure of your overall progress. In addition to this, any medals you win for high-scores achieved during tests is logged in a separate table.
Other little touches, such as presenting the categories randomly throughout the daily tests and the unpredictability of the tests themselves within each category, go a long way to distinguish Brain Coach from the average brain training experience.
That said, the game is not without its flaws. The presentation, though clean and generally unfussy, may feel a little childish to some and the cartoon-like professor that plagues the front-end also seems at odds with the audience this title is presumably appealing to.
To be honest, that's just nit-picking. From the way in which your progress is tracked on a day-to-day basis, to the 'simple to understand, challenging to master' tests, Brain Coach is a game with a core that is hard to fault. It won't consume you for hours at a time, but it is perfectly suited to regular commuting-based grey matter work-outs.