Since we all know video games make you dumb and lazy, Nintendo decided to target a more sophisticated and educational minded audience with two of its biggest selling titles for the Nintendo DS, “Big Brain Academy” and “Brain Age”. Both were developed and published by Nintendo, saw their respective releases in 2006, and sold millions of copies worldwide. What is it about these puzzle/educational games that compelled millions of DS owners to allow a video game to tell them how dumb they are?
First of all, it should be no surprise that these games were successful. Nintendo’s best selling Gameboy title, Tetris, was essentially a brain twisting puzzler and everyone loved that game. Both of these titles included numerous mini-games meant to challenge your memory, reflexes, reading, math & reasoning skills while keeping track of progress either by informing you of your “brain age” or by “brain weight”. “Brain Age” is most remembered for the introduction of Dr. Kawashima, the disembodied head that informed you of your progress, berated you for taking too much time off between training sessions, and generally provided guidance and advice. Both games were brilliant means to keep players interested in playing and progressing through the challenges in order to see incremental progress. The goal of the games were to keep players minds sharp while offering motivation through progress reports in an effort to maintain interest months after starting play. These games aren’t very different from the other popular non-traditional video games Nintendo was releasing through the Wii at the time, such as “Wii Fitness”. These games sharpen your brain about as much as Wii Fitness makes you skinny…tangentially at best.
Just like any fad, I really enjoyed these games when they first came out and spent quite a bit of time in between “New Super Mario Bros.” sessions trying to make myself smarter but to the surprise of no one, it not workeded. I eventually lost interest and haven’t played either one in many years. Nevertheless, they were important pieces of the DS history and since they sold very well, I’m sure either title could be picked up cheaply today.
“Professor Layton & the Curious Village” doesn’t exactly fit the brain teasing educational mold of “Brain Age” or “Big Brain Academy” but it still has plenty in common with other puzzle and problem solving games of the genre. You play as Professor Layton aided by his trusty sidekick Luke and you must find the missing Golden Apple somewhere in the village. You travel around the “curious” village gaining clues, information and plenty of puzzles to solve. Professor Layton is a game developed with kids in mind but the puzzles are not so simple that an adult or older teenager wouldn’t enjoy working on them. “The Curious Village” was the first of the series that got its start on the DS in 2008 and it’s easy to see why it has been very successful. The game’s animation is sharp and colorful and the gameplay is appealing enough for all ages.
Currently in my collection:
Big Brain Academy – game, manual, case
Brain Age – game, manual, case
Professor Layton & the Curious Village – game, manual, case