Three weeks of Brain Training

Our rollercoaster ride with Nintendo's test-your-age video game

Three weeks of Brain Training

As with all exercise, the point of Nintendo's revolutionary game Professor Kawashiwa's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain? is to do a little bit every day. And setting aside ten minutes daily for the past three weeks to work on my little grey cells has certainly been an interesting experience.

But as you can see from the graph on the right, according to the Professor I haven't been an ideal student. The best score achievable in Professor Kawashiwa's Brain Training is a brain age of 20, but thanks to the variety of the tests (and some occasional score-sapping stroppiness on my part), my brain's age seems to ping pong between 20 and 35. The latter is at least in the right ballpark, but at his worst the Professor has found my mind to be truly middle-aged!

In order to calculate your brain age, the game sets you three short, timed tests, chosen randomly from a selection of around a dozen, and split into spoken and non-spoken categories.

Before you start the tests, the disembodied head of the Professor – who is always on hand to explain what's going on – asks whether you're in an environment where you can speak or not. If you're in a noisy place, the DS console's in-built microphone won't be able to pick up what you're saying, so you'll want to take the written tests – not to mention that it's potentially rather embarrassing to be seen talking to a video game in public!

That said, some of the spoken tests don't actually require you to speak into the microphone. For example, one of the tests I enjoy most is speed counting from one to 120. Here the game trusts you to complete the exercise properly and to press the 'done' button when you've said all the numbers – it doesn't actually listen to you counting.

There is a degree of trust to many of the other tests. It's very tempting to cheat in the word memory game, for instance, where you're given two minutes to memorise 30 words, and then three minutes to write down as many as you can remember using the DS' touchscreen and stylus.

Frankly, this memory game is my least favourite test (of course it's purely coincidental that it's also the one I'm least good at), and it would be all too easy to make notes. But really, what's the point? To coin a phrase I'd long-forgotten, I'd only be cheating myself.

Besides, I'd soon be uncovered by the Professor; the majority of the tests can't be cheated, since they see you entering results such as the answers to simple maths sums or joining up numbers and letters in the right order, always as quickly as possible.

On the basis of such challenges the game rather mysteriously calculates your brain age. It's not always clear how it does it so – doing badly in one test seems to be more significant than doing well in the other two. But over time your brain should become younger.

To help you find your inner youth, the game also has a training area that contains many tests – some of the same ones used to calculate your brain age, and some new ones – and practising these should improve your general performance. As you complete more daily workouts, the game unlocks new tests for you to train with.

So, will Professor Kawashiwa's Brain Training transform us into a nation of geniuses? Maybe, although we should say we have a few gripes. Sometimes the number recognition system gets it wrong (it mixes up certain numbers) and there are other quirks that occasionally annoy. In general though, it's a surprisingly enjoyable experience, even when the brain age you're given seems a bit off.

I still aspire to have the brain of a young Oxbridge student, so my daily work outs are going to continue for at least another month – Professor Kawashiwa's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain? isn't released in the UK until the 9th June, and I want to be thinking my very best when I review it for the nation.

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