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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 00:58:45     -    Brain Boost: Gamma Wave (DS)

    “Brain Boost: Gamma Wave” (Nintendo DS)

    Gamelog entry #2:

    GAMEPLAY

    After playing through the five games in Training mode, I tried Challenge mode. This is essentially the same as Training mode with three primary differences: there is a juvenile narrative involving the lost memory bank of Dino (who, it turns out, has a soy sauce-flavored rice cracker instead of a memory disk) which the player (Mickey) must recover by journeying across four continents of the planet Ronnoc; the minimum clearance is 60% of the 20 problems on each of the five games; and there is no point total.

    I managed to complete Level 1, Clifford Continent, and four out of the five games of Level 2, Patrick Continent. Which of the five games was I struggling with? You guessed it, Remember Images.

    In the course of playing "Brain Boost: Gamma Wave," I have found some techniques that have helped me to succeed. The first, which applies to several of the mini-games, but most specifically to Numbers, involves a cheat in a way--if I am presented with an 8-digit number, I disregard the first several digits and concentrate on the last four or five. This is because in the game, the choices with which I am presented exhibit little variation in the end of the number, so that only one choice exhibits the correct last group of digits. Thus, I exploit a limitation in the game to my own advantage.

    The other, more useful technique, which the manual explicitly references, involves the ability for the right brain to recall images almost like a photograph (this is how some people are able to speed read). In Remember Circumstances, instead of my eye roaming about the screen from tile to tile in an impossible attempt to quickly memorize the images before they disappear, I have found that simply staring straight ahead in the center of the grid, eyes still, I am able to gain a better mental "image" of the whole layout, and it is easier and more intuitive to then select the tile that doesn't belong. So, I am making progress!

    DESIGN

    If I have a criticism of "Brain Boost: Gamma Wave," it is two-fold: there is not quite enough variation in the game to make it compelling to play for longer periods of time than an hour or so (fatigue quickly sets in); the weakest element of the game is the narrative, which is perfunctory and merely distracting. Still, it is "cute," and does provide younger players with more of a "motivation," if you will, to play.

    The lack of variation--the entire game is essentially the five mini-games, is perhaps what was intended, because it does make the game easier to pick up and play for forty minutes a day. I note that the manual says that in order to develop new neural pathways in my right brain, I must train daily for at least three months. In this sense, "Brain Boost: Gamma Wave" is more of a daily mental exercise tool than a traditional video game. This is not a bad thing, as it demonstrates that video games are at least diverse in their utility in the practice of everyday life. Now, if I could only remember all my Internet passwords...

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:02:21.

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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 00:57:28     -    Brain Boost: Gamma Wave (DS)

    “Brain Boost: Gamma Wave” (Nintendo DS)

    GameLog entry #1:

    SUMMARY (quotes taken from game manual)

    "Brain Boost: Gamma Wave" (2006) for Nintendo DS is one of several brain "improvement" games available for the handheld. It is "designed to improve memory, concentration, and judgment by utilizing Makoto Schichida's 'right brain development theory.'" This game, and "Brain Boost: Beta Wave," are implementations of the Schichida Method, which involves "repeated daily drills of viewing shapes and colors, absorbing large amounts of information in fast rhythms, and being able to accurately reproduce those images visually." According to the game manual, over 400 schools in Japan teach the Schichida Method to children through the Schichida Child Academy, and there are "printed materials for adults." The goal of the game, through daily training, is for the player to improve the functioning of his/her right brain.

    GAMEPLAY

    "Brain Boost: Gamma Wave" consists of five different brain training mini-games and two modes of play in which to access them, Training or Challenge. The game is controlled entirely with the DS stylus, and is very easy to pick up and play. There are four levels of difficulty that automatically increase within each of the five games, each of which has 20 problems. In order to clear the Training mode, a score of 50% or more (out of 1000 points total) is necessary; in the Challenge mode, it is 60% of the problems.

    In Remember Colors, Remember Numbers, and Remember Faces, an image of colored dots, a number, or a cartoon face is displayed for a few seconds before it disappears, and the player must then select what was displayed. In Remember Circumstances and Remember Images, the player must select what was NOT displayed. In Circumstances, which works like a traditional game of Memory, tiled images are displayed in a grid, then one imaged is changed, and the player must select the image/tile that was not displayed. In Remember Images, the tiled images are shown in a sequence, rather than arranged on a grid, and then the player must choose the image/tile that was not displayed in the sequence from the arrangement of images on the grid.

    Here are my scores for each of the five games during my first gameplay round:

    My Training Scores (out of 1000):
    Remember Colors 602 (game cleared)
    Remember Numbers 687 (game cleared)
    Remember Circumstances 628 (game cleared)
    Remember Faces 796 (game cleared)
    Remember Images 481 (not cleared)

    As you can see, I almost managed to clear the Remember Images mode. I find this game the hardest, for some reason. It seems I am best at remembering faces, followed by numbers. Certainly, with more practice there is room for me to improve.

    Other observations:

    The graphics in the five training games are adequate. The cartoon characters in the animated cutscenes (of the Challenge mode) are blandly appealing.

    The music is cute and repetitive, but also strangely hypnotic. This is good because if it were too complex or interesting, it could possibly distract players from achieving their best scores.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:07:35.

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    Feb 15th, 2008 at 05:22:25     -    Kirby's Adventure (NES)

    “Kirby's Adventure" (NES)

    GameLog entry #2:

    GAMEPLAY

    As I continued to play, I realized that what makes "Kirby's Adventure" special to me is Kirby and his game world. To play the game is to enter an innocent, delicate, magic circle that is quite enveloping. A world has been created here that exists entirely apart from reality, but that is as comforting as some fluffy dream you had when you were two.

    Something I noticed during this gameplay session is that, unlike some of the Mario games for the NES, one could conceivably play through the game, unlocking levels as fast as possible, attempting to avoid (rather than vanquish) enemies, but a lot of the fun of the game would be lost to the player who takes this approach. I note that this is possible because so far, the levels have been much less restrictive in terms of moving from beginning to end than any of the Mario games.

    DESIGN

    There are seven levels in the game, and within each are multiple sub-levels that must be completed in a linear fashion to unlock subsequent sub-levels. There are also bonus games sprinkled throughout "Kirby's Adventure." One of the more interesting design elements in the game is that Kirby can steal his enemy's abilities (there are dozens to acquire). The other design element that I found succeeded is Kirby's ability to inhale an enemy, then spit him out in the form of a star that can destroy another enemy or break a block. The boss design is particularly inspired--Kirby must usually use whatever the boss is hurling at him against him by inhaling the object and spitting it back at him (giving the boss a dose of his own medicine).

    Kirby can do so many things--fly, swim, jump, squat, slide--it's a wonder he manages to stay as round as he does. Actually, so many abilities--for Kirby, as well as abilities Kirby acquires from enemies--keep the game challenging, varied, and fun. This is a wonderful game.

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    Feb 15th, 2008 at 05:13:15     -    Kirby's Adventure (NES)

    “Kirby's Adventure” (NES)

    GameLog entry #1:

    SUMMARY (quotations taken from game manual)

    "Kirby's Adventure" (1993) for the Nintendo Entertainment System, by general consensus one of the best games published on the system, is a platform game in which the player controls Kirby, who looks like a cross between Pac-Man and a creampuff, but cuter. It seems Kirby, along with other inhabitants of Dream Land, have been unable to dream of late. Upon investigating the cause by visiting the Dream Spring, which powers the Star Rod (it created the Dream Spring and is the symbol of Dream Land), Kirby discovers King Dedede (whose last name sounds like my childhood word for cookie, minus an extra "de") "in the middle of the Dream Spring, in place of the Star Rod,...covered with bubble bath." (Shocking, I know.) More troubling, Dedede broke the Star Rod into seven pieces, each of which he gave to one of his friends (who naturally must be Kirby's enemies). The goal of the game is to recover the pieces of the Star Rod, so Kirby can "return the sparkle to the Dream Spring so that the people of Dream Land [can] again enjoy their happy midday naps."

    GAMEPLAY

    I have played many NES games over the years, but I'd not been familiar with any games starring Kirby. I enjoy games that possess the imagination and perspicacity to avoid repetitive violence or nihilism, and "Kirby's Adventure" is such a game. It is whimsical and charming, and very cute. The designers of this game must love children (and their inner child) as much as I do; I imagine Kirby appealing to pre-toddlers and grandparents alike, reaching children even younger than another venerable Nintendo mascot, yes--Mario.

    The gameplay so far seems like fairly typical Nintendo platform fare, which is to say--challenging. Controls are simple, but timing, as in most platform games, is crucial. The enemies are varied, and the game is enchanting so far.

    Other observations:

    As has been reported, the graphics of "Kirby's Adventure" are some of the best on the 8-bit NES. By 1993, when the game was released, the NES had been superseded by the SNES, had been on the market for nearly eight years, and developers knew how to exploit the full potential of the hardware. Kirby's game world is bright, colorful, and imaginative.

    The music is eagerly whimsical, and is a big contributor to the innocent, upbeat tone of the game. It also does a good job of sticking in your head while you're playing, and sometimes while you're not.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Feb 15th, 2008 at 05:18:05.

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    1Brain Boost: Gamma Wave (DS)Stopped playing - Something better came along
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    4Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)Stopped playing - Something better came along
    5The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)Stopped playing - Got frustrated

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