Brain Age Express: Arts and Letters DS Review
The Brain Age Express rolls on. Weeks after testing Nintendo DSi users with a separate downloadable Math pack, Nintendo now offers a new Arts and Letters package, containing many games from the retail releases along with a few new tweaks and additions. It's not as heavily loaded on features as the full-priced Brain Age and its sequel, but if you like talking, reading and playing piano, it's fun to mess around with.
Arts and Letters contains several familiar games. Reading Aloud is a program where you read highlighted passages as clearly and quickly as possible. Word Scramble, on the other hand, challenges you to write words from letters moving around the screen. Word Attack requires you to identify flashing words and write them, while Piano Player teaches you how to play particular songs by hitting the right keys with your stylus (The picture recognition game Photo Recall and face-matching Meet and Greet are also here). Finally, there's Virus Buster, a clone of the popular Dr. Mario games; you drop pills on similarly colored viruses to eliminate them from the playfield.
Although these games aren't new, there are some features worth pointing out. Voice functionality and handwriting recognition are more accurate in this release. Where previous Brain Age games could barely understand the pronunciation of the word "blue", Arts and Letters gets it right. Reading Aloud is especially more enjoyable, since you aren't stuck on troublesome words anymore.
There is also a new Themes mode. Here, you'll put your acting and drawing skills to the test. You'll record voice samples and take pictures using the DSi camera, matching up specific tempos, poses and photographs to the best of your ability. New challenges open each day you play, so it's a good idea to keep coming back on a daily basis.
Aside from that, there's really not much else to Arts and Letters. It's a Brain Age release, so the presentation lacks pizzazz. The background tunes sound like elevator music and the graphics fail to impress. On the bright side, it's easy to navigate through menus and activities.
If you're not in the mood for a full Brain Age release, Arts and Letters is worth messing around with. The main games are fun and the addition of Themes mode prolongs the replay value better than we expected. We're all for new downloadable Brain Age releases, as long as they work as well as this one.
What's Hot: Improved voice and handwriting recognition, enjoyable activities, the new Themes mode adds voice recording and camera functionality, good value for eight bucks.
What's Not: Most of the activities are from previous Brain Age games, drab presentation.