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My five year old daughter is mad, mad, mad about her Nintendo DS, she literally never puts it down, therefore in a vain attempt to get her LEARNING whilst she plays on it I bought Junior Brain Trainer 2.
I didn't really know what to expect but I was more than a little disappointed that this failed to maintain my Daughters attention for more than three minutes... she does all her homework (yes... I know... Homework at five years old!) on a web based platform and loves it, therefore I was hopeful that this would further emphasize the 'fun' in fundamental education.
The puzzles and challenges in the game are drab and to be honest, I struggle with half of them as the objective is often lost. It may be that the games are fully explained in the booklet but which five year old wants to read that before diving into a 'game'?
This may be a great learning tool for an older child and I may have been misled by the '3' rating (which probably just means there is no sex, violence or bad language!) but it's been placed firmly at the back of my Daughters cupboard and probably won't see the light of day for quite some time!
Nintendo have been marketing the ds as having an educational aspect in their latest campaign on UK TV - I'd vaguely noticed an advert with a maths teacher singing the praises of the ds, and it was perhaps this that subconsciously influenced me to add this game to my basket on Amazon, along with a couple of more frivolous games when stocking up for my 7 year old's birthday. Oh, how I was soon to wish I'd bought something (anything) else, as soon as I tried out this game before giving it to her I realised that it probably wasn't very good, and further experience of this game has only served to strengthen this view.
The premise of this game, like I assume its adult counterpart, is that you complete a series of challenges, 5 in total per day. Succeeding in them allows you to unlock some mini-games. There are, apparently, 2 ways of playing with either "pot luck" or progressively difficult challenges, I say "apparently" as in our experience both ways of playing are identical and see children being presented with activities that vary only in how annoying or frustrating they are. Some are a little pointless, whilst others roam into the realms of actually probably undoing anything useful they may have actually learned at school. Allow me to explain....
The 5 activities are presented on the lower screen and are completed using the stylus pen. The first issue I have with the activities is that, graphically, they are pretty poor - it's like going back 10 years and, then some. They aren't attractive particularly to children (this game is apparently aimed at 6-11) and consist of poor clip art and unfeasibly small letters and numbers that have to be dragged to complete answers. There are games when you have to advance the hands of a clock to display the time - this is given as 6:50 rather than ten to seven, having taught children the time (albeit in French) more times than I can remember, I know how unhelpful this is, and it's certainly not the way my daughter is being encouraged to learn the time.
Other activities seem to feature rather poor English - children are encouraged to unscramble rather meaningless sentences or guess which letters go in blanks - eg they are presented with b_ _ b and expected to know what letters go in the middle (and it's bulb and NOT what some of you might be thinking, by the way). In other games the words seem to have come from a poor 1950's French text book of how to learn English - children are supposed to know that a non-smiling face is "so-so", it's all pretty random and, essentially pointless. This isn't helped any by poor music and an annoying little squirrel who pops up now and then when you do actually finish a task, luckily on the top screen or I think we would have tried to squish him.
Changing the age of the child playing on the first screen where you can input their name and age has no impact on the difficulty or complexity of these activities - we tried taking a year or two off our child's actual age, only to find that she was still expected to work out 1,270 x 340. Perhaps I haven't bred a family of geniuses, or maybe this was a little optimistic on the developers' part.
The other thing that I have to condemn this game for, as a mum and also as a teacher, is that there's no way of knowing where you are going wrong or what you should be doing. Should you fail to understand one of the more bizarre activities, bar a strange bleeping there's nothing to guide you. "Progress" is measured by how many mini-games you have unlocked, and it's hard to see any logical progression in the game or point to many of the activities, bar a few mental arithmetic activities probably equally easily done with a piece of paper and a pen. The writing section consists of them being encouraged to copy ridiculously curly letters that are barely recognisable as the alphabet - why, I'm not sure.
Pedagogically it's very, very poor and I can only assume it didn't have the input of any actual teachers, in actual fact should you wish to get your child to play educational games, content on the bbc or from quia or other programs online such as "hot potatoes" have produced a whole range of web activities for this age range that are not only much, much, better but also free and might actually involve some learning. All that I think you can learn from this game is that life can be frustrating.
I can't find any reason really to recommend this game, my daughter, bless her, was far more patient than I was with it and by dint of sheer determination to unlock a few mini-games, only to face the harsh reality that her "reward" didn't get any more exciting than a poor version of space invaders, solitaire or "snake" - as last seen on the phone I owned before her birth I think. None of the features have been well designed and some of the games are quite frankly shockingly bad. Some of the reviews I read on amazon suggested that this was a good game for older children - I seriously doubt any respecting 11 year old would want to spend any time playing this at all, there's nothing remotely fun or interesting to make it worth their while.
I paid £12.99 for this game and that was, if you haven't guessed, far too much. I can't compare this to "Junior Brain Trainer" which I suppose must have preceded this failure of a game, all I can say is that, frankly, I am shocked that there is a sequel. Not recommended in any shape or form, and with regret, I would have to say, avoid this game at all costs.