"Smartphones, tablets, laptops... A world of information at your fingertips! How convenient! Or so you might think," a voice-over intones as "Brain Age: Concentration Training" begins. Then the mascot of the "Brain Age" series, Ryuta Kawashima, appears on the screen, revealing himself as the source of the improbably Western-sounding voice the player is hearing. "Is there a downside?" he asks. "I think so! These modern devices, always connected... They may be eroding our ability to concentrate!"
It's rich for Nintendo, maker of the "Brain Age" series -- and the hand-held 3DS that "Brain Age: Concentration Training" is played on -- to come out against "these modern devices," but it's oddly appropriate, too. Nintendo is having its lunch eaten by Apple, whose App Store has a plethora of good games for just a buck or few each. Against countless cheap brain-training apps, in addition to websites like Luminosity that offer similar brainteasers for free, Nintendo is, ironically, following the Apple model: put the best product out there, and charge way more.
Thus this $30 game. After some sudoku- and math-specific spinoffs, "Concentration Training" returns the "Brain Age" series to the genre it more or less invented with the 2006 DS game "Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!" "Concentration Training" is a suite of minigames, from math challenges to card games to reasoning problems, that you're supposed to practice every day. Based on your performance, the game calculates your brain's "real age," like Dr. Oz does with your body.
This installment's "Devilish Training" theme, complete with Kawashima turning red and growing horns, is a little silly, but the level of challenge here is no joke. It's unclear that doing multiplication problems while playing a memory game at the same time will improve your concentration at work or school, as the game implies, but it doesn't matter. "Concentration Training" works as a pure game. Its activities, though they sound like work, are fun, and it's satisfying to see yourself improve at anything, useful or not.
|'Brain Age: Concentration Training'|
|» System: 3DS|
|» Price: $29.99|
|» Rating: 3 out of 5 stars|
Besides, there's a Relaxation Mode, with diversions like a "Tetris"-style puzzle game. Isn't that what these "modern devices" are really for?