- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2009

Professor Ryuta Kawashima celebrates the release of Nintendo’s new hand-held entertainment system, the DSi, with the best of his numerical conundrums in Brain Age Express: Math (downloadable game, 800 points).

For more about the DSi, read my full review below, but for now, let’s focus on the selection of minigames culled, in part, from the first two Brain Age titles.

After a painless download via a wireless connection, the DSi is turned on its side like a book and the student gets a full discourse from the professor on the importance of exercising the brain, complete with some of his research results.

Then, the student sets up a profile (including a photo, no less) and it’s test time to calculate one’s brain age. Perform a slightly complex subtraction or memorization problem and get a numerical starting point that acts as a barometer for improvement. Mine was 38 years old — better than my actual age, but not at the optimal 20-year-old mark.

Now comes the noggin-sharpening part of the show. Each day, the host’s floating head cajoles the student to choose from a selection of challenges; eventually eight are available. All deal mainly with addition, subtraction and multiplication in various permutations.

For example, in Calculation x20, a mainstay from the first Brain Age, a player must write answers to 20 math problems on the touch screen as quickly and as accurately as possible.

One of my favorites is Sum Totaled. A selection of numbers floats on the screen and they must be added correctly to move on to the next set. It’s a great, strategic way to explore numerical groupings.

The software does a great job of detecting an individual’s handwriting style on the touch screen and offers easy navigation and monitoring of an individual’s progress.

For eight bucks, especially if I had never played Brain Age, that’s enough to keep me satisfied and, as a parent, keep my offspring solving problems. However, the wily researcher has thrown in another set of fun activities called Themes that are tied to the DSi’s major attributes.

Professor Kawashima explains there are many methods to stimulate the brain, and being creative and communicative is an important way to keep the brain active.

A player now can become a voice-over actor in a Western scene, make dramatic faces for the onboard camera to match certain situations and even practice drawing to test memory of common personalities and animals.

The Themes also take on a social element as multiple guests can give each a go with the data saved so folks can compare performances and drawing styles.

Overall, Brain Age Express: Math offers another great way Nintendo has managed to make learning fun.

Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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