July 29, 2017
Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development
Dr Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training: Can you stay focused? is the latest offering of the Nintendo Brain Age games.
Can you stay focused? promises to improve your working memory and improve concentration through a series of daily mental exercises. These involve simple maths calculations and puzzles that focus on using your short-term memory and concentration in rapid repetitive tasks conducted over a short five-minute duration.
I put my hand up for this review as I know I have a very short attention span. I am the kind of guy who, at work, has 50 windows open on his computer and who needs to write a multitude of to-do lists otherwise I forget to do the most basic and routine tasks. For example, today I forgot my lunch at home (yet again) as I forgot to include it in my to-do list.
I am also easily distracted, and start to write about my lunch when I should be reviewing a game.
So pretty much, I need more focus – help me Dr Kawashima!
When you first start up Can you stay focused? you encounter the dismembered floating head representing Dr Kawashima himself. Being “devilish” brain training, the head promptly turns red and gains horns. Trust me, he was scary enough without the added props. Just try moving the 3DS screen around and his head moves to face you.
I am not so sure I wanted floaty head guy to be helping me.
The freaky head then explains the premise of the game – to overcome what they refer to as ‘information addiction’. I very much like this term as it is completely true, and is essentially what I just described about myself. I now have a term for my condition: I am an information addict.
Now to get cured.
I am rather skeptical of brain improvement games as it was recently reported that other ‘brain training’ games only serve to make you better at playing brain training games. Other research has shown that playing certain types of games can increase grey matter as well as increasing attention skills, motor control and short-term memory.
But at least this game doesn’t have such grand claims to make you smarter – just to help you focus on tasks at hand.
The game starts out simple enough, then plunges you deep into frantic frustrations if you do well at the previous challenge. There is even a button to call it quits if you have had enough. The incentive of the game is that you need to play every day and you can monitor your progression.
This game is perfect for those who like to solve maths or memory puzzles on the go. Each training session is limited to five minutes, perfect for public transport travel. Well, as long as you are not the type to be easily distracted. But I guess that is what this game is trying to help you overcome.
While some of the games are frustrating and not very fun, the classic memory games are simple and satisfying when completed. The games you can play to unwind are more enjoyable, and serve to keep your brain active. It’s a shame that the graphics are just a bit basic and repetitive.
I have two major bugbears with this game – both design elements that themselves cause distractions whilst playing. The first is the host. With all due respect to Dr Kawashima and the work his team does, I found his tone condescending rather than encouraging. And as you may have guessed I am not a fan of the floating head from hell and while it may have been appropriate in the introduction, to have the head constantly around is quite a distraction. Stop hitting my screen floaty head guy!
The second annoyance of the game is the need to use a stylus, particularly to write. Now my writing style is probably one step behind a doctor in terms of neatness, particularly when writing fast. And although the AI was quite clever in deciphering my scribble as the number 9, there were times when it just didn’t register, forcing my eyes to wander off the main screen and of course I tended to more often than not lose my concentration in the process. And skipping doesn’t help if you need to remember a calculation two turns earlier.
Perhaps this is more of a reflection of me and how much of an information addict I am, constantly distracted and unable to focus to the task at hand.
Did I find this brain training helpful in overcoming this? Well no, I don’t think I have seen any improvement in the relatively short time playing, and perhaps if I played diligently for a longer time span I would notice an improvement in my daily habits.
I guess then the answer to the question is whether I can stay focused is a big fat NO. I am being hard on myself as I didn’t do that badly, but the game makes you feel a bit like a failure.
And I just don’t see that as an incentive to keep playing.
- Short memory games designed for a busy lifestyle
- Monitoring of progress over time
- Unlike other brain games does not make any grand claims
- Writing with a stylus without looking is a skill of its own
- Narration and head animation are distracting
- Games are quite bland visually
Dr Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training: Can you stay focused? is essentially a collection of memory games that are limited in visual aesthetic. Some are fun, some are challenging, and some are just frustrating. This game is perfect for the kind of individual who likes to monitor their progress; think of it as a Wii Fit for your concentration. If you do not have the long-term endurance and do not like daily routine, this is probably not the game for you.