Junior Brain Trainer - Maths Edition (Nintendo DS) - Review by chris
Having started with the Dr. Kawashima titles several years ago, the brain training genre has blossomed and become one of the biggest selling on any console in recent years and shows little chance of slowing down. Yet in a now crowded market and with evidence showing that the games don't actually improve your mental capacities, is there really any need for more titles? Avanquest Software believes so and returns with a new entry in the Junior Brain Trainer series of games, this time focusing on providing maths problems to help with younger gamers mathematic skills. Is there enough to this game to make it worthwhile or is it another late arrival to a genre now past saturation point?
As with every other brain training game, Junior Brain Trainer: Maths Edition is all about presenting the gamer with a series of short but enjoyable mini-games which they can play in short bursts and come back to time and again. While most of these games have simply opted to present you with the mini-games and give little context for you to progress through, here the developers have worked in a simplistic and strange story which will appeal to the demographic of younger gamers whom the game is aimed at. A mad scientist has kidnapped a group of hamsters and is holding them hostage on his flying laboratory. Seeing this, a friend of the hamsters climbs onto the aircraft and befriends an aged mechanics and enlists you to help complete a series of mathematics based mini-games so as to be able to get hold of items needed to make an escape craft and liberate your locked up hamster brethren. It's not much, but provides just enough context to keep kids entertained.
As mentioned, all of the mini-games contained within the game are mathematics based. From simple games of having to solve problems by inputting the required symbol or numbers to manipulating abacuses to represent a number or guessing which of a series of animals weighs the most based on a set of 3 scales, the games are all simplistic in their premise and are definitely in place so as to help improve the maths skills of kids. You'll have access to three initial games and successfully meeting certain criteria, such as getting high scores or successfully scoring over 1000 points to unlock one of the items needed for your getaway craft, allots you more games to play, with 15 in total for you to work your way through.
The issue, however, is not only the amount of content on the cartridge, as 15 games falls short of other games in the genre as well as some being secondary versions of other games included, but also the longevity of the title. The games provide a fleeting sense of enjoyment from their initial unlock but playing them more than a few times quickly shows you how limited they are, and how limited the game is in general. Things quickly stagnate and feel tired and even the inclusion of 3 different difficulty settings will do little to keep the game going for anything longer than a few days at most. There isn't anything to do beyond playing the mini-games to get the 15 needed items or getting high scores but because, in most cases, you'll be able to do both of these things on the first go, you'll be finished with the game before you know it.
As an alternative to sitting learning mathematics from a textbook, the game will provide something basic for the youngest of gamers starting school but there just isn't enough here to keep their attention or justify it as an aside to proper learning.
Everything is touch screen based, meaning you'll never touch any of the face buttons or d-pad outside of the start button to bring up the menu during play.
Where most brain training games present themselves in a sterile and very basic aesthetic, here the game ably manages to create its own personality through its visuals with an almost steam punk inspired look that is definitely interesting. The majority of what is on show is designed in simple 2D, sticking to a handful of colours so as not to complicate the overall look further, and although far from matching the best 2D work on the console, the developers have done an amicable job of making everything look clean and accessible, although some items could do with some increased scaling to minimise the detection issues in certain mini-games.
Some light 3D work also makes it into the game, mainly for the hamster character models which make up the game's protagonists. Again, they're not the most detailed you'll find on the console but they're far from being the worst and generally look nice within the context of the game, with some good texture work and simplistic but well achieved animation.
Audio is kept to a minimal in the overall package and outside of the main menus, you'll rarely encounter much beyond the irritating buzzer sound which signals the impending end of the mini-game you're playing or the a few clangs and flutters for the changing game boards on the top screen. Needless to say, this is one game where turning off the sound altogether will benefit you seeing as you won't have to put up with the repetitive and irritating sound effects.
Good use has been made of both screens, with the interaction between the two during play handled extremely well. The touch screen is generally used to solve the math problem presented on the top screen, but there are some slight issues with the touch screen mechanics that make some of the games where you have to write out numbers a bit troublesome. It's manageable but it will undoubtedly frustrate younger gamers.
Junior Brain Trainer: Maths Edition is a rather bare bones brain training game coming late to a party that has long since seen its hay day. There's little here that makes it stand out and while there may be some initial enjoyment and helpfulness for young gamers in the early primary school years, they'll quickly tire of the limited and often repetitive content on offer. With much better games available at the budget price this stands at, including better games within this very genre, your best bet is to invest in one of those titles as this'll quickly become clutter on your shelf after a few days.
Pro: Initially enjoyable gameplay, can provide some mathematics help for those just starting school
Con: Quickly becomes repetitive and boring, little in the way of sustainable content, some slight touch screen issues
Final score: 4.1
|Publisher:||Avanquest Software Publishing|