Nintendo came out of left field with their wacky little "Touch Generations" DS title, Brain Age. Who could have expected a game that amounted to essentially doing grade school homework (and would often insult your intelligence by telling you about your wrinkly old brain) would manage to break sales records worldwide?
Last week, I found two games sitting on the shelves at my local game shop that had been off of my radar -- Brain Boost: Beta Wave and Brain Boost: Gamma Wave. Both priced at $19.99 (just like Brain Age), the Majesco-published titles are based on the work of Dr. Makoto Shichida (a man who doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry for God's sake). Founder of over 350 Preschool Child Academies in Japan, Shichida developed the "right brain development theory." The theory proposes that daily repeated drills of viewing shapes and colors will heighten your right brain's potential, thus increasing memory capacity; concentration; and possibly telekinesis (that last one is wishful thinking on my part).
So I was faced with a decision -- do I go Beta Wave or do I go Gamma Wave? Both boxes were essentially identical and offered little information. Each had a gigantic picture of a brain, each said Brain Boost, and both had the same wording on the back of the box. One was red and one was blue. One promised to increase my memory, the other my concentration. Tough choice. After flipping a coin, I decided to go with Gamma Wave. After saying a heart wrenching goodbye to Beta Wave, Gamma Wave and I took off into the sunset.
The first thing I noticed about the game itself is that it's significantly more colorful than Nintendo's noggin training games. There's also a lot of crazy s--t going on all over the place; particularly in cut scenes, which depict crudely drawn space ships; a wild haired professor with a sausage for a mouth; and a Sasquatch wearing an Abercombie & Fitch scarf. I'm pretty positive that a pre-schooler from one of Shichida's 350 academies was commissioned to create this game's art, but I'll let it slide (because I want to learn to move things with my mind).
After a simple registration, I was given the option to select from one of five different games -- Remember Colors, Remember Numbers, Remember Circumstances, Remember Faces and Remember Images. Unfortunately, all of the games boil down to doing the same God-damned thing. You're shown one image for a few seconds, then a few seconds later you're tasked with picking that same image from one of four. Sometimes you do it with colors, sometimes with numbers, and sometimes with awful police sketch faces. Each drill gives you 20 instances of remembering, and each with each passing drill, the fun factor progressively swirls down the toilet.
There's a challenge mode in which you battle monsters (yeah, I said it -- monsters), but it's pretty much just the same boring drills, only this time you get to look at even more poorly drawn creatures. These drills were so boring and repetitive, that even my desire to see just how stupid looking the illustrations could get was not enough to keep me playing. There was also no indication that I was developing any psychic abilities, or even the ability to remember where I left my car keys, so that's another strike right there.
So all in all, my experience with Brain Boost hasn't been one that I could easily recommend to anyone. Unless, of course, you're having trouble sleeping. Because as sleep research suggests, a good night's rest can have a significant effect on brain power and memory. Seeing as how I actually fell asleep playing Brain Boost: Gamma Wave, maybe it succeeds brilliantly after all.