Pump up your mind with 'Brain Age 2'

In 2006, Nintendo revolutionized video gaming with Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. The Nintendo DS game contained a series of mini-brainteasers to put your mind through a workout. The game was a hit, selling more than 8 million units worldwide.

Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, the famous floating head from the original Brain Age is back with 15 new gray-matter flexing puzzles in Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day!

During your first training session, Kawashima measures your current brain age by having you play a variation of the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, using the Nintendo DS microphone to respond. If you aren't in a quiet place, you can opt to take the non-verbal Serial Subtraction test where you start with a two-digit number (like 71) and continuously subtract a smaller number (say 7) by writing your answers on the touch-sensitive screen. After this first test, Kawashima assigns an age to your brain. The ideal brain age is 20, but you are likely to start out with something substantially higher, particularly because the voice recognition is somewhat spotty.

The idea behind Brain Age 2 is that you should play a few of the 15 brain games every day to keep your cortex sharp. From the main menu, you can access Daily Training. If you play one game a day, you will earn a stamp on the doctor's calendar. Each day you can also re-test your brain age by playing three randomly selected games. The doctor will keep your progress on a chart. At first, you will have to play for several days before all the content is unlocked.

The brain games are intriguing and very different from the group introduced in the first Brain Age game. Here you will make change, solve word scrambles, learn to read music to play the piano and see how many numbers you can memorize in two minutes. In one of the more challenging games you listen as two or more words are spoken at once and then try to write down the words that you hear.

The software can keep statistics on up to four players for a year. That way whole families can compete, by comparing scores for individual brain games.

Brain Age 2 is also fun to explore with others using the wireless download feature of the DS. Up to 16 people can compete using only one game card if they own separate DS units. There are three brain games available for this multiperson brain bash.

In addition to the brain games, Brain Age 2 comes with 100 Sudoku puzzles, making it a great game to have when you have time to kill. You can unlock other goodies including Virus Buster, a match-the-color-type game.

While inconsistent voice recognition can mess up the initial brain age testing, the rest of the games work well using writing recognition. Kids have to be old enough to know how to make change, spell well, tell time and compute math facts to play these games. Everyone from Grandma down to Junior will enjoy this one.

Gudmundsen is the editor of Computing With Kids magazine (www.ComputingWithKids.com). Contact her at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.