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DS  header logo

MinDStorm: Train Your Brain

For: DS

It's a brain drain

Product: MinDStorm: Train Your Brain | Developer: ASK Co. Ltd. | Publisher: 505 Games | Format: DS | Genre: Brain training | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
MinDStorm: Train Your Brain DS, thumbnail 1
For a gooey grey mass that sits on top of your body, the human brain is a remarkably dense object. At least that seems to be the assumption of the developers behind MinDStorm: Train Your Brain, who have decided we need to get our grey matter into gear once more.

One of a multitude of releases that's followed in the wake of the eight million-selling Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training, MinDStorm superficially does its best to ape the template provided by Nintendo's seminal title. Switch on and you're immediately asked to fill in your age and gender, while a quirky in-game professor-type figure, who has more than a hint of a blonde Einstein about him, witters on, calling you 'Old Bean'. It's not annoying for, oh, about 30 seconds.

Next you're dropped uncomfortably into the game's main menu. And this is your first puzzle; it's not clear what you're supposed to do as there are a number of options. Eventually you'll work out that the first, Scene, lets you go through the various mini-games in sequence, depending either on their level of difficulty and/or controlled by whether you're 'In Transit' (so no touchscreen games), or 'During Breaks' (quick games).

The other main option is the Free mode, where the game's ten timed tasks are available singularly. These are (with our brackets): (follow the) Maze, (fill in the number) Pattern, Block (manipulation), Search (for shapes), Coin (shifting), Logic, 15 Puzzle, Divide (up the coins), Map Puzzle, and Spot (the difference).

These correspond to the five brain functions the game is supposed to improve – Reasoning, Endurance, Analysis, Intuition, and Observation – and to further confuse your opening moments, it becomes apparent that each function is directly linked to two of the tasks. For example, you can only level up in the Analysis category by succeeding in the Divide or 15 Puzzle mini-games.

Demonstrating something of MinDStorm's waywardness, 15 Puzzle is a touchscreen version of the kids' 4 x 4 grid sliding picture game, where you have to recreate an image by sliding around 15 muddled up squares with your stylus to recreate the image. The other Analysis option is Divide (up the coins), in which you have to draw lines to divide up a number of coins so all the coins are separated (check out the screenshots for more details).

Frankly, compared to Dr. Kawashima's tasks such as speed reading or the Stroop Test, these seem almost idiotic, and it's a similar situation in most of the other categories.

Endurance is the easiest, as Maze just involves tracing the route through a maze without touching the walls or the moving obstacles with your stylus. Observation is also as straightforward as the Spot (the difference) title might suggest. Map Puzzle is more interesting, as you have to place various countries and US states in the right locations on a map. It only really gets taxing though thanks to the tiny size of some of the countries and the less than ample map you have to place them on.

By far the least-fun category is Reasoning, which involves either playing the Logic or the Pattern mini-games. These are perhaps the most obvious brain training tasks, with Logic requiring you to fill in the gap in a sequence of numbers. Typically these involve spotting that the sequence is going up (or down) by a regular amount each time. Doing well would be relatively easy if the game's number recognition system could work out the difference between a '5', an '8', and a '9'. In the end, it proved easier to just draw a '5' when the answer was '8', and give up when the answer was actually '5'.

Pattern is, ironically, more logical, as you have to use your deductive skills to work out which one of three statements is correct, given some earlier information such as 'if C is older than B, but A isn't the oldest or the youngest...' and so on. Difficult without the aid of paper and pen, it is often easier to rely on the 33 percent correctness of guessing.

More than the percularities of the tasks themselves however is the lack of integration in terms of letting you know how you're progressing. Sure, the more successfully you play the mini-games, the more you level up in each category – the game maxes out at level 20 for each category, giving a theoretical combined ceiling of level 100 – but without the daily restrictions enforced in Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training, the yo-yo-ing graphs of your brain age, or even the humorous feedback of the Dr. himself, MinDStorm quickly becomes an endurance test in playing a badly-designed game.

It's hard to consider MinDStorm: Train Your Brain as anything other than a cynical attempt to cash in on a hugely popular genre. Buy this, and you'll need your head examined.
MinDStorm: Train Your Brain
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 23 May 2007
A dreadful mishmash of mini-games, MinDStorm has almost no redeeming features and instead of making you smarter will simply frustrate you
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