Among the “Brain Age,” “Brain Age 2” and “Big Brain Academy” games, Nintendo DS players must feel like their brains have been finely honed. What about your peripheral vision? Enter “Flash Focus,” a game published by Nintendo as a semi-spinoff of the “Brain Age” games. While it is worth a $20 investment, “Flash Focus” still lacks the charm that made the “Brain Age” games so endearing.
“Flash Focus” is part of the Touch series, a series developed by Nintendo focusing on interaction with the DS using the stylus and microphone. Games often require players to enter numerical values and touch buttons on screen and occasionally speak answers into the microphone. The “Brain Age” games were a huge success because they used a rewards system based on playing them on a daily basis as much as possible, and “Flash Focus” follows the same formula.
“Flash Focus” plays very much like the “Brain Age” games and was even developed in a similar manner. “Flash Focus” is based on the research of Hisao Ishigaki, a sports medicine professor who specializes in vision research. “Flash Focus” retains the same calendar interface and has an Eye Age Check, similar to Brain Age Check, where players measure how “old” their eyes are through the use of different exercises. There are a large number of exercises at the player’s disposal, divided between “Core Training” and “Sports Training.”
“Flash Focus” has many of the strengths that the “Brain Age” games have. Content slowly becomes available as you play, providing for high replay value. Harder difficulties are unlocked as you get higher scores on the games, which are fun, intuitive and do not require players to use the DS microphone, making “Flash Focus” more convenient to play on the go.
The games make excellent use of the stylus, and the sports games have surprisingly fluid graphic animations. Hitting a baseball at exactly the right moment is actually harder than it sounds. The games, while relatively quick, are entertaining and reasonably challenging.
What immediately makes “Flash Focus” less engrossing than “Brain Age” is the impersonal feel of it. You do not have a professor’s face guiding you and offering you tidbits of wisdom and humor throughout the game like you do in “Brain Age,” and the music has more of a mechanical feel to it. As a result, the game feels more formal, and it lacks the extra features that “Brain Age” had. There are no extra mini games, such as the Sudoku puzzles, from “Brain Age 2.” “Flash Focus” was on the right track to making a great game, but the developers did not seem to entirely grasp what it was that made “Brain Age” so popular.
The only extra feature seems silly and tacked on. The eye-relaxation session, as it is called, requires players to simply roll their eyes around. If this sounds ridiculous, it is—especially since the game has a voice to guide your eyes. Fortunately, it can be skipped.