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Brain Age (with Sudoku)

Video Game Reviews

Ratings are based on a five-point scale, in homage to the the late, great Next Generation Magazine.

Nintendo DS

Rating: * * * *
Brain Age - video game reviews

July 31, 2006

You know, when you get to this point, it's time to pack it in.

Who would have thought that my videogame obsession of the moment would be this? A Sudoku program, one that was hastily thrown together for the American version of Brain Age? Yet, it turns out to be yet another essential puzzler in the Nintendo DS library.

In every way, Brain Age Sudoku is functional, straight to the point, and stripped to the bone. The graphics could have come from the Atari Lynx - and the vertical arrangement is a real nostalgia trip for anyone who played Gauntlet 3 and Klax. Music is non-existant. The game itself is pure abstraction. And it's magnificent in every way.

I wouldn't change the look of this game for anything. Give me a clear field with numbers I can read, and let me draw and scribble and zoom in and out at will. There are already two more Sudoku cartridges available for the DS, including one from Nintendo. But you can keep those sloppy, inferior versions. This is the one you want to stay with. It's a classic example of the essential value of game design.

The puzzles are categorized into easy, medium, and hard, and I was surprised to discover that each level becomes steadily more challenging. It's a long, slow climb up a hill. So the final easy boards are about as tough to solve as the early medium ones.

Why Nintendo only included 100 boards is a mystery to me. Perhaps they didn't expect Brain Age Sudoku to be more than a stopgap, an extra bonus to sweeten the pot for the Americans. But it's essential to the larger Brain Age scheme, because it really calls upon those skills you hone for 15 minutes every day. Where else can you go after you've sharpened your mind on math drills? Heck, I can't believe a game composed of short math and reading drills would be so fun. It's almost like the Einstein's version of Wario Ware.

Oh, and by the way, I've already achieved the perfect brain age of "20." I win! Whoo-hoo! Take that, you stupid microphone! It's blue, blue! Blue, you freakin' morons!!

Ideally, Nintendo should take advantage of the excellent Sudoku program for the American version of Brain Age 2. Give us a random puzzle generator (how many minutes would that take to write?). Heck, give us a couple thousand puzzles. Offer downloadable boards over wi-fi. And keep the vertical viewpoint. It's essential.

In fact, somebody get off their lazy ass and bring back Gauntlet and Klax.

P.S. Yes, I know I should be writing more about Brain Age proper, instead of the Sudoku program. But, hey, it's my website and my review, so that means I get to pretty much to whatever the hell I want. Rest assured, Brain Age is a terrific little program, and it deserves to be part of your DS library.

To repeat: Brain Age is really good. Now get off my back; I'm in the middle of a really hard Sudoku puzzle, and this thing is giving me crazy, tripped-out nightmares. Like peering into the mind of God as he's contemplating the universe.

I need a stiff drink.