Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Neil Flynn 01.01.2020 5

Review for Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch  on Nintendo Switch

If it has been said once, it has been said a thousand times, Nintendo knows how to appeal to a casual crowd. The enormous popularity of Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain? for the Nintendo DS still evokes memories of a craze that helped Nintendo diversify the gaming market. Now, the Big N hopes to replicate that success with the latest entry to the series, this time on the Nintendo Switch.

It is quite harrowing to think that a sequel to a game that stirred up such a sensation just over a decade ago would launch with very little hype or attention. While Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch is the fourth in the series, it is launching when Nintendo has re-entered the popular vernacular yet again. Sequels such as More Brain Training from Dr. Kawashima: How Old Is Your Brain? and Dr Kawashima's Devilish Brain Training: Can You Stay Focused? moved the original formula incrementally by introducing more of the same types of puzzles, while quenching that thirst all the same. Nintendo has another innovative trick in the bag now, but how does this add to the experience?

To freshen up the gameplay a new novel brain puzzling innovation has been added to the repertoire of brain teasers by way of adding in IR sensor support. Joycon R houses a very under-utilised IR sensor which has only really been taken advantage of in titles such as Nintendo Labo and Resident Evil: Revelations 1 & 2. In this instance the IR sensor is used as a camera to identify hand signals such as those used in rock, paper, scissors, or numerical counting from zero to five. The IR sensor does not like areas of bright light, however, so playing outdoors or next to windows is not recommended.

Screenshot for Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch  on Nintendo Switch

By detaching the Joy-Con from the console it can be held horizontally with the bottom part of the sensor pointing towards your other hand. The Nintendo Switch screen shows an image from the IR camera which relays any hand shapes players are making. The main exercises that utilise the IR sensor are: 'Finger Calculations,' where players need to calculate the correct equation by using hand signs from zero to five as fast as possible, 'Finger Drills,' which asks to mimic the hand shapes seen on screen, and, finally, rock paper scissors.

At times the responsiveness of the camera can be functional, and at others it can be slightly delayed, which is a problem when getting a good score is dependent on fast reactions. The other side of looking at this is that the system is open to cheating, as throwing up a number of random hand signals will eventually get the correct answer. There is definitely an art to cheating in the IR motion games, but it can be done. Furthermore, those with either disabilities such as carpal tunnel or anyone susceptible to repetitive strain injury may want to avoid these altogether, as playing Finger Drills once or twice in quick succession can definitely cause quite a bit of an ache.

Newcomers to the series will wonder what the fuss is about. Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch is intended to be used daily, with the idea that frequent brain exercise is vital for a long healthy life style. By using a series of random tests, a 'brain age' score can be calculated that is based on processing speed, short-term memory, and self-control. To help train for this daily score, there are a bunch of tests to sharpen up that brain. These include a number of returning puzzles such as maths calculations, word scramble and the ever popular sudoku.

Screenshot for Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch  on Nintendo Switch

Each of these mini-games offer a challenge that Brain Training fans will be all too familiar with - in fact too familiar. The problem is that while Nintendo gives with one hand, another one was taken away. A number of exercises that were also quite challenging, such as the Stroop test, have been removed, namely because of the lack of the microphone feature on the Nintendo Switch. Even still, there are a number of exercises from the other titles that could have easily worked on the Nintendo Switch, such as Triangle Maths, Syllable count, Time lapse, Change Maker, and the list goes on. There are no news about any post launch DLC or update to include more mini-games, but it would be quite disappointing if this was it, even if Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch is a budget title.

On the upside the mini-games that are on show are still well worth a good play-through, such as Dual Task, which displays a stick man on the upper half of the screen who needs to be tapped to hurdle objects while at the same time using the lower half of the screen to discern the highest number. This sounds relatively easy at first glance, but can prove to be tricky when numbers are changing font sizes and moving. Photographic memory displays a photo which then needs to be identified on the next screen - again, simple in nature but when adding multiple options and mirror images into the mix, it's not as easy as it sounds.

Calculations is a speedy calculation time attack mode which sees players completing a number of simple maths equations as quickly as possible. A huge issue here is that for some reason the Nintendo Switch has a range of difficulties recognising certain numbers based on the way they are written. Numbers 4, 5 and 9, can trip up a good run because for one reason or another it doesn't get recognised. This will hopefully be fixed in subsequent post launch updates, as it is quite a bit of a blight on these modes at the moment.

Screenshot for Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch  on Nintendo Switch

To circumvent the need for a dual screen approach from the Nintendo DS and 3DS prequels, Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch takes the rather obscure approach of being held vertically rather than the orthodox horizontal method. The physical version does come with a stylus included, but it is possible to use the Super Mario Maker 2 mobile phone stylus, or even a finger to operate the touch screen controls. This does somewhat restrict the manner of play, namely by the fact that the Daily Training mode cannot be played, while docking the console.

Adding further fuel to the fire is the addition of the Nintendo Switch Lite, which will need to have an extra Joycon to be able to play the IR sensor games, as the Switch Lite does not feature an IR sensor on the system. By no means is it easy to play the IR sensor games while on the go either, as the system itself would need to either be rested on the lap while being played, or put into tabletop mode. An exception to playing in portable or tabletop mode is in Quick mode, which enables players to dock the Switch to play the aforementioned IR sensor games (but not as part of recordable Daily Training), and a few multiplayer games, which is a first for the series.

There are three multiplayer games. 'Birdwatching' and 'Box Counting' utilise a single Joycon held vertically, with players using ZL and ZR respectively to count the number of Birds or Boxes on screen. 'Flag Raising' is a memory based competitive mode where players need to memorise the directions the flags were waved in a preceding video. These multiplayer modes are somewhat fun for a short period of time, but do not add a considerable amount of value to the package given their throw-away nature in the long term. Once again, Nintendo Switch Lite users will need additional Joycon to participate in this mode, and ideally a Nintendo Switch Adjustable Charging Stand to play comfortably.

Screenshot for Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch  on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch is a missed opportunity to throw together a comprehensive package of mini-games from past entries on a hugely successful console. There are appealing factors such as the fact that sudoku and a number of puzzles can now be done on the Nintendo Switch, along with its budget price point. However, with the janky accessibility issues for Switch Lite users, and clumsy handwriting recognition skills for the maths calculations, it is hard to say it improves upon its predecessors.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date TBA   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date Out now   


Has the handwriting recognition quality dropped from previous versions?

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

It just doesn't like a whole host of numbers or letters. There is one task where you need to remember and recite as many 4 letter words as you can and there are certain letters that you have to write out multiple times just to get recognised. It is quite frustrating when you know you are up against the clock.

I don't remember having this issue on the original DS version.

Ah, I had that issue on the DS with... I think it was 5 as it thought it was an S... or maybe it was the way I wrote 4 because I write it as an L with a small line crossing the bottom part, rather than the joined version Smilie

( Edited 04.01.2020 11:39 by jesusraz )

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Our member of the week

jesusraz said:
Ah, I had that issue on the DS with... I think it was 5 as it thought it was an S... or maybe it was the way I wrote 4 because I write it as an L with a small line crossing the bottom part, rather than the joined version Smilie

As I'm playing Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the very first time these last few days, I am confronted with the same problem in getting 4 to be recognised XD (except it gets mistaken for a 9 as far as I'm concerned).

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Ah yes, the same issues are persisting here then!

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