The Dr Kawashima Brain Training series has been one of the Nintendo DS’ most famous success stories. Not only has the series sold millions of copies but it is said to be the main reason for the success of Nintendo’s blue ocean strategy. Of course this success saw literally gazillions of clones; everywhere you looked games that supposedly can train your brain, eyes and even your untrained psychic powers appeared on the shop shelves.
There have been many discussions asking how viable or useful Brain Training software is. On one hand you’ll have some Professor who happens to be on the receiving end of a Nintendo pay check saying that the software is beneficial and on the other hand, they’ll be a stuffy old git who only believes in learning from a Chalkboard saying that it’s not beneficial at all. Personally I tend to lie somewhere in the middle. I don’t think playing Brain Training games is going to make anyone a genius and I don’t subscribe to the thought that you can only learn from copying textbooks. Now that the major fuss over Training Games has died down we can at least play them without having to worry about our IQ going up or down.
Junior Brain Trainer 2 from Avanquest doesn’t try to pretend it’s going to make anyone smart. Instead it’s a simple piece of software aimed at 6-11 year olds that is full of school type activities that they can practice at home. Simple and to the point, I like it.
Unlike your traditional IQ guessing game; Junior Brain Trainer 2 (or JBT2 for short) is designed to be more like an educational course. Rather than just throw random activities at the player every time it’s booted, JBT2 is designed to be played once a day, every day for around a month. This is achieved by giving you 5 small activities to perform per day and if you succeed in completing them, you’ll be rewarded with a prize. Ok so it’s not like the national lottery, these prizes won’t buy you friends or take you on a world cruise. They’re just simple things like a round of the classic word game Hangman or an unlockable game of Solitaire.
Now because I am not a registered school teacher I can’t really say for certain how close Junior Brain Trainer 2 sticks to modern schooling methods or the current national curriculum. What I can say though is that there appears to be a good wealth of diverse activities here. Some days I have been doing mathematical sums and sorting sentences into Past, Present and Future. On others I’ve been matching pictures to words and even working out the area of basic shapes. All of the basic skills I learned at junior school are being covered here, if they’re being covered well enough – that’s something I can’t comment on with any real authority.
So as mentioned previously, if the player is successful in completing the daily set of 5 mini activities, they are awarded with a prize. The collection of unlockable games isn’t stunning but I feel they are good enough and should keep kids entertained. My favourite is called Tank Attack which is reminds me of Space Invaders. Players can also be rewarded with a quiz rounds that test their knowledge with 10 random questions on a given topic, an example being the Animal Kingdom or Sport.
Whilst you can only play the main brain training test once per day, all other games and activities (once unlocked) can be played as many as times as you wish. Personally I would have liked a bit more freedom here; I think perhaps a parent mode or special code that allowed me to view the whole game in one sitting would have been a nice feature.
Not being the target audience for Junior Brain Trainer 2 for DS means that I’m never going to be the best one to judge it. Yes I found the collection of educational tests interesting and the games fun if a little basic. I of course can’t go back in time and forget my fantastic state education and experience many of these skills for the first time.
Whilst the presentation for Junior Brain Trainer 2 is a little lacking with low quality visuals and sound effects, I can’t say it detracted anything from the educational experience. I had fun playing through the software and it’s surprising to be reminded of the amount of interesting and useful things you learn at school and how much of it isn’t needed in today’s society when you’re encouraged to eat potato chips and watch TV.
If I was a parent I think the first thing I would do is ban junk food and TV then follow that up with a good dose of Junior Brain Trainer 2 – it gets 7 out of 10.
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