163rd played so far

Genre: Puzzle/Strategy
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

We have been focusing a lot on arcade shoot ’em ups lately. Due to this we have really fallen behind on handheld games for the sheer reason that… well I don’t really know why to be perfectly honest they just never seem to come to mind when we talk about what games we should do. Possibly because it can feel less convenient than picking up a controller or starting the PC, especially when we want to play together.

Still, here we go… a step closer to that goal.

Our Thoughts

It really has been a long time since we did a truly casual game (One-Dot Heroes) or a game where calling it a game is stretching things a little bit (Wii Fit).

You will need to have lived under a rock for years if the whole idea of ‘brain training’ had passed you by. The fact that it has been called out as absolute baloney doesn’t really matter one iota since this game still ended up shifting over 8 million copies worldwide leading it to becoming one of the biggest selling titles on the DS. It was also a ‘gateway game’ for many people. I am shamed to say that one of the first games I got for my DS was competing title Big Brain Academy (in my defense it was packaged with both that and Super Mario 64 DS so it isn’t too bad).

Another interesting experience related to this happened the first time I visited people. We met up and had our DSes out playing Mario Kart DS in a pub (we had our reasons) and while one of my friends was being bored with stories of the intricate details of Fire Emblem or Advance Wars or something similar, one of the barmaids came up to us and asked whether getting one was worth it, citing this game as one of the reasons she was interested in.

There is not too much to this game to be honest. There are a number of mini-games masqueraded as ‘brain building’ exercises which included things as banal as mental arithmetic and counting syllables. All of these are accompanied by the disembodied polygon head of Dr Kawashima himself which scares me in ways that resemble the mild horror that is the baby sun in Teletubbies.

Whilst the idea of preventing the eventual atrophy of your brain probably sold a large number of this game another big feature of this was the prominence of Sudoku puzzles. Back in 2005 Sudoku was huge (you remember, you were there) so the fact that this game was able to take advantage of this fad at it’s height (I remember doing Sudokus in competition with a mate in the library at morning break… wow I’m a geek) probably helped it shift a million copies or two.

In the end, you do get slightly better at the mini games and I’m sure that might have somewhat of a positive effect (even if the brain age thing doesn’t make much sense).

The game isn’t without its flaws however, particularly when it comes to controls. One small thing to commend them on is the lefthanded support. The game requires you to hold the DS like a book – rotated 90 degrees from the usual. While many games then often forget the plight of the left handed person like myself, with your hand getting in the way, this game adjusted early on to take care of that.

The main flaw is the game’s handwriting recognition. Sure, it’s nice enough they can do the basics, but it can be incredibly fiddly. The game has a lot of difficulty, for example, recognising my k’s, and with the speed you have to write the digits at to get a good ‘age’, it’s easy to be a bit sloppy, where the game messes up. Furthermore, even when you see your mistake, the game has often already moved on to the next assignment and counts your answer as wrong. It actually feels quite bad at times. A real shame, as beyond that it’s a fun puzzle-like game. Even if they don’t all feel like they actually help you train.

Final Thoughts

Game or not. Game or not. I have no clue. But this is not the place to solve that, for it is time for me to start on another game for this blog. Borderlands.

Okay, while the game might not be good training, I’d say that the going for a score pushes it quite a bit further. Not sure what the whole strategy thing is about though… I think the game is slightly misclassified here. Ah well. Not top of the list, but the goals of the game are more lofty than most, which makes it worth it as something better, I suppose. In influence, source of sales and how it feels less relevant now… I mean, this or Professor Layton, what would you really prefer, right?