Fifty-six. That's the average age we editors at GamesRadar are getting when we first fire up the mind-twisting Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. While our memories of the average '80s weekend may vary, none of us quite hits that age bracket just yet (and in fact, our scores seem to get better quickly, at least at first). But it doesn't matter - this mental Twister mat isn't about competition.
We recently had a chat with two guys responsible for translating and porting Brain Age to an American audience (their last project? Animal Crossing). They say the software is more like yoga, asking you to strive for a personal best each day. Scot Ritchey, bilingual product specialist for Brain Age, says even if you totally bomb the daily tests (math problems, memorization and the like) the game's playful tone will always offer positive reinforcement. When you get things correct, there's usually a tactile reward, some kind of "Ping!" sound effect that quickly becomes as important to you as food, sex and sleep.
Above: The meandering line shows the average person's path from letter to number ... this guy's not messing around.
There's already a trio of these noggin-numbing titles out in Japan, and they're tearing up retail shelves left and right. The three games have sold about five million copies, but will it be the same Nintendogs-sized hit in the US?
Both Ritchey and fellow localizer Alan Averill think so. Tailoring this completely hellish-sounding digital workbook to fit the American audience posed its own set of complicated problems. For instance, many of Brain Age's daily tasks involve you writing answers with the stylus. In Japan, there's a very uniform way of writing - over here, we all slap garbage on paper like we learned it yesterday. Brain Age features some fairly competent handwriting recognition, but the developers can't predict every possible offshoot of the English language.