Nintendo is bringing back the Brain Training franchise, which is also known as Brain Age in certain territories, with a new entry in the series that will launch on Switch early next year. Den Of Geek went along to a rather unlikely location – an ice bar in the centre of London – to pick up a copy of the game and get some early hands-on time with it.
It’s immediately clear that Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training For Nintendo Switch, to give the game its full title, is working on two levels: on one hand, it’s a faithful tribute to the unexpected franchise that kicked off in 2005 on DS; but on the other, it’s a massive expansion for the brand that makes the most of the Switch console’s many neat features. However, it is worth mentioning up top that it is hard to see how a lot of these new tricks could work on the stripped-down Nintendo Switch Light.
Let’s start with the simple stuff, though. If you fondly remember tackling Sudokus, doing mental maths and playing with words on the original DS game, you can still do all of that stuff on the Switch version. The physical release of the game even comes with a nifty little stylus, which adds to that sense of DS-era nostalgia whilst also allowing for more precise touchscreen control than you’d get with tapping your fingers.
The classic Brain Training gameplay loop is present and correct here, as well, with players encouraged to pick up the game every day, complete a few challenges and put a stamp in their digital calendar. There’s a nice little endorphin rush that comes with this tiny signifier of achievement, and there are bigger ones to be had if you see your scores improving on a graph and/or watch your Brain Age get younger. Ours went from 80 down to 71 during the ice bar event, which felt like a big achievement at the time.
The minigame challenges that the game offers are split into two main categories, with the more traditional Brain Training experiences falling under the ‘Daily Training’ banner. Everything on offer is explained in nice simple terms, even age-old games like Sudoku, meaning that pretty much anyone could pick up and play. Whether you’re doing some quick maths or trying to pick out words from a rotating selection of letters, you’ll feel like you’re completing a fun kind of homework where no challenge sticks around long enough to get boring. There’s even a match-three type game that looks a lot like Dr Mario hiding in here to keep you occupied.
It’s under the ‘Quick Play’ category that you’ll find some big evolutions of what this franchise can do. There are six multiplayer minigames in here that allow you to challenge your friends or family and make use of the Switch console’s specific features. A couple of these challenges get you to detach a JoyCon controller and use its infrared camera to track your hand movements. Others encourage you and a friend to take a JoyCon each and use its shoulder buttons to count things, calculate sums or show off your memory skills. These quick brain battles can be really fun, as is comparing your scores afterwards.
It’s worth mentioning that there were a couple of tiny technical flubs during our early experiences with the game – including a segment where the game didn’t seem to recognise our hand-drawn number fives – but we’re assured that a day-one patch will iron out those sorts of issues. Here’s hoping that does happen, even though these little mistakes didn’t do much to hinder our enjoyment of the game.
Whether you’re playing it solo or in multiplayer mode, Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training For Nintendo Switch is exactly what you’d expect from a Switch version of this singular gaming franchise. It remains reverent to the original at the same time as trying some new things, and, despite those minor pre-release issues, we’ve had nothing but a good time with it so far. It’s hard to know how you’d rate or score a game like this, but we’re confident enough to say that returning fans will like it and newcomers will pick it up quickly. Only time will tell if it’s one for ages, but this is an enjoyable slice of mind-bothering fun.
Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training For Nintendo Switch launches on 3 January 2020.