Gaming makes you smart, apparently; in fact you can read Tamsin's wonderful article on just how that happens right here. Alternatively you could pick up a copy of the game that brought the Nintendo DS to a whole new section of society and blasted gaming wide open to appeal to a range of people from those who wrote screenplays in coffee shops, to city slickers, to those who did the sudoku puzzle on discarded newspapers left on trains and subscribed to Reader's Digest.
If you fancy giving the old grey matter a bit of a work out and seeing what all the fuss was all about then the good news is that the conscientious people over at ShopTo are now offering Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for just £7.95, which happens to be over six pounds cheaper than the nearest competitor (CD Wow - £13.99).
Just a little disclaimer first so we don't get sued: this is not scientifically proven to make you a genius and should in no way be expected to help you pass exams or write essays. It is, however, based heavily on a load of research conducted by Professor Ryuta Kawashima, a leading Japanese neuroscientist.
What all of this makes for is an interactive puzzle collection built around the concept of determining and improving the 'age' of your brain. There are four modes to choose from: Brain Age Check, Training, Quick Play and Sudoku. The Brain Check involves a series of neurological aptitude mini-games, from a Stroop Test to speed counting, verbal memory exercises and numeracy challenges. The challenges theoretically push the DS's hardware to the max, incorporating stylus use, handwritten tasks and voice recognition. I say theoretically, though, because the some of the handwriting exercises, and the ever temperamental voice recognition, make for the occasional frustrated failure.
Training is much like a free play mode, where you can choose from nine different types of puzzle, again all tending towards numerical and verbal reasoning. Quick Play offers an easier pick-up-and-play preview mode to the rest of the game, and I reckon Sudoku is pretty self-explanatory. The puzzles are all generated from a long list of variables so replayability and the trademark Nintendo addictive quality really shines through. Plus when Dr Kawashima himself pops up to tell you to 'have heart' even though you're brain is apparently older than America, it's hard to say no to the bespectacled genius.
Nintendo were worried about this selling in the beginning, but they needn't have been as Dr Kawashima's Brain Training and it's sequel have shipped over 30 million units worldwide as folks have looked to increase their mental powers. Personally I have to say that I never really got into it (although I'm the only one in the family who didn't!), and with endless sudoku apps for the varying range of phones these days widely available I have to say that I don't really see the huge appeal aside from converting your coffee break into an aptitude test. However, if that appeals, if you are a keen puzzler, or if you just fancy keeping your brain active on those soporific long business flights, this would be well worth a look.
Thanks to Jake1983 at HotUKDeals