It has been obvious since 2017 that Nintendo wants to attract both core and non-gamers to its new platform. After having released its major franchises, Nintendo slowly began to experiment and also released games for people who played games less often. With the success of Ring Fit Adventure at the end of 2019, it is now time to bring back Dr. Kawashima to the scene and see if everyone’s brain skills are still in order.
Do simple daily exercises make brain cells really more active? As is so often the case, opinions and neuroscientists differ in this area. A well-known prominent face (in this case a floating head), Dr. Kawashima leads the Functional Brain Imaging Center at the University of Tohoku – and of course appears in the Switch edition of his training program. His job is not only to be a mascot with his stretchy angular face, but moreover he gives conscientious sources of information on which area of your brain is tortured particularly thoroughly before almost every exercise, according to which research. So you would never think that only a very small piece, or just about all channels, of your brain is used for a certain exercise.
Here too, a little relaxation is welcome between the sometimes boring tasks: this time it is a mix of familiar and new language, math and thinking exercises. In the classic Sudoku you are carefully introduced with different tools and automatic markers: we didn’t really enjoy it – if we wanted to be creative we would still complete a less abstract crossword puzzle! We really enjoyed training the photographic memory with relief images, some of which are reflected in an annoying way and spread on the screen. The double challenge, where you jump over obstacles in the upper part of the photo (by tapping a jump field) while touching moving numbers below, is also pleasantly challenging.
A nice change is also the counting of spatial crates, which are sometimes visible for a damn short time: it is one of the three multiplayer tests for two participants in Quick Game, which “possibly” activates the prefrontal cortex and trains memory and concentration. Even a little bit of “virus hunting” is a nice change, but due to the relaxed nature you can only start after the daily training work. Here you move two-color pills in the style of Dr. Mario – unfortunately only with relatively simple rules.
That the game is too simple unfortunately is seeable shortly after playing, which is perhaps strange for a game that needs to train your brain. Within a few days you can be decades younger in terms of brain age and criticism came from other professors such as Lutz Jäncke, who has announced that brain training only improves those functions that are very similar to those trained – but not to general intelligence or other brain functions. In addition, another downside is that the stylus included with the physical edition is almost required to play the game easily. Not all styluses of other tablets work and working with your fingers is not always easy either. Also the infrared sensor that is used for, for example, “Rock Paper Scissors” does not always immediately understand what you are showing with your hand, that way you simply sometimes lose time in tests where time plays a crucial role.
Nintendo is (at least for the time being) stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to network connectivity. Compared to other games, you must currently be satisfied with a leaderboard and possibly automatically send record emails to friends. There seems to be something special planned from Nintendo with a world championship that is currently not yet available in the game. However, the developers are still silent about the details of the date and how it will play out. It will take a few days before you unlock all the training sessions, because you can only play and unlock certain challenges per day.
We misled the system a little with the date function of the Switch, so that we could try out more disciplines before unlocking them daily. The disadvantage of this: as soon as we went back to the real date, the progress of the “future” naturally disappeared. If you wish, you can be reminded of the training with the integrated calendar. In the end, we would recommend this game more for at home or in quiet environments, because the soundtrack can start to irritate and with certain training sessions you don’t want to be bothered by ambient noise, unless of course you take the ‘newspaper reading’ challenge and simply do some cheating.
Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training is sadly not as revolutionary as when it first released, but you can still have a good time. Just don’t think that these tests will actually make you smarter.