Dr Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training: Can you stay focused? review

There’s a moment early on in every Brain Training game that just crushes your spirit. After trying its base challenge, the game tells you how old it thinks you are based on your performance. Inevitably, it tells you that you have the faculties of a septuagenarian and that by making the game a part of your daily ritual, you can sharpen your brain.

After trying Devilish Brain training’s Devilish Calculations, my bruised and deflated ego were apparently attached to the brain of somebody in their seventies. You’re a bastard, Dr Kawashima.

Originally released to the rest of the world in 2013, Dr Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training is now finally coming to Europe. It was released at a time when information overload and addiction were new – and people were losing focus as they spent too much time with their faces affixed to their phones. Four years later, and little has really changed. We probably spend too much time staring at little screens, as our phones become an extension of our businesses and our lives.

So what better way to fix that, than by staring at another tiny screen and have it utterly humiliate you? Devilish Brain Training, as its name suggests, takes the same idea behind Brain Training but ramps up the challenge with tasks specifically designed to keep you focused. It’s tough, maybe because I’m unfocused to begin with, or because my brain just doesn’t work that way but I really struggled with a number of its challenges.

The core one, Devilish Calculations, made me feel like my brain had been replaced with playdough. It’s a simple enough idea. All you have to do is answer simple mathematical questions – but in a delayed, deferred way. It will ask you to answer questions that popped on the screen two, three and four questions previously while bombarding you with new ones. Was the last one 2+5, or 7-3 or was that 9-9? Oh god, make it stop.

Devilish Brain training does things a little bit differently though, by capping how much you’re able to play each of the training exercises on offer. As you play and return daily, new exercises unlock, but you’re given just five minutes per day with each before the demonic, disembodied floating polygonal head of Dr Kawashima tells you to wrap it up and stop for the day.

It does a good job of getting you invested in trying to better yourself, even if it doesn’t constantly remind you of your with a “brain age” all the time. It’s got a dynamic difficulty, so it increases (or decreases) its level of challenge based on how well you do. Naturally, I’m far better at its word games than its number ones – and I have no problem remembering long words or their spelling, but falter when it comes to tracking the movements of little pictures of mice moving through a cascading grid of squares.

There’s a little more to round out the package, including a series of “Brain Training” exercises that are moulded from the games in previous incarnations. It’s your usual fare, with stuff like regular calculations. Also a “Relaxation mode” features smaller, traditional video games like match-three puzzler Blob Blast, a Dr Mario clone and good ol’ Solitaire.

For a month I’ve been using it daily, and I genuinely feel that it has helped improve my…oh look, balloons!

How much you’ll get out of Devilish Brain Training is really up to you. Put in the effort every day and you’ll certainly see improvement in your cognitive abilities, at least as far as they relate to the games on hand. The steady progress is palpable – but as studies have shown, games like this may not actually make much difference beyond the suite of mini-games within them.

Last Updated: July 28, 2017

It’s a fun diversion, but I think that four years on it’s a case of too little, too late and Brain Training’s lost much of its charm. If you feel that information addiction has gotten the better of you or that you need to improve your focus, Devilish Brain training may be worthwhile – but it’s both tedious and sparse. Dr Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training: Can you stay focused? was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS

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