There are lots of running and cycling apps to keep your body fit, but what about your brain? That needs exercising too. Brain training apps are great for this and you just can’t have too many. Here is NeuroNation and Brain Wars.
These two free Android apps are great for keeping your mind in good shape and with daily training, you can keep it sharp and active. The key is to use them daily, even if it is only for a few minutes.
NeuroNation is a popular app with lots of users and a high score on the Google Play Store. It has a great interface that looks good and is clear and easy to use. The home screen shows the challenges and levels you have completed and you can see your progress.
There is a simple Start training button at the bottom and this leads to a screen with two sections, General and Courses. The General section is the place to start and it has Basic Training and Free exercise selection. The free exercises are organised into numeracy, memory, reasoning and perception categories. Most are locked, but more are unlocked as you progress through them.
The brain training exercises are each a minute or two long. In one exercise, a mental arithmetic game involves not only maths, but memory too because you must remember a running total. You start with a number, double it, add three, subtract four, multiply it by five and so on. At each step you enter the current running total.
Another game involves tracing a path around the screen. Dots are drawn on the screen and then a random path is drawn from one to the other. You then have to repeat it afterwards and connect the dots. In a variation of this, you must trace the path in reverse. It is easy to accidentally trace over the wrong dot and fail, but perhaps avoiding problems is part of the exercise.
A trail tracker is similar and a path is drawn on a grid, which you must then repeat. Rotator shows a shape made up of blocks and you must tap the identical one among a group of similar ones. It is not as easy as it sounds because they move and rotate, so you have to rotate the shape in your head to see which one is the match.
Although there is free content in the app and a collection of games to train your brain, there is a lot of extra content that is locked and must be purchased. Individual courses can be purchased (£2.70), which trains a specific area, or you can purchase six courses for a discount (£11.94).
I have not unlocked much yet, so the games lack a bit of variety. Hopefully it will get better as I progress. However, I found the games challenging, different and sometimes quite hard. With some games I struggled to work out what I was supposed to do and perhaps the instructions need to be a bit clearer. After a few failed attempts, you soon learn what is required and can then get on with the exercises.
I have tried a few brain training apps and have seen lots of games, but Brain Wars is unique among them. There may be others like it, but it is the only one of its type I have seen so far. What sets it apart from the others is that instead of playing on your own in brain training games, just trying to beat the clock or your last score, you play against other people from around the world. This is a highly competitive brain training app.
There is a Challenge button at the bottom of the home screen and tapping this tells the app you want to play. It then finds someone else who is also wanting to play and sets up a head-to-head challenge. You vs them. Several games are selected and they are fast paced and sometimes require quick reactions and speedy mental arithmetic or visual observation.
As you play each game, so does the other person and you can see both your score and their score in real-time. Before or after a match there are symbols at the bottom of the screen that you can send to the opponent, such as happy face, sad face, thumbs up, and so on. I did wonder whether all the opponents are real people or computer characters, and some opponents scored zero, probably because they weren't around or did not want to play. It doesn't really matter, it is still fun to play.
The games are very short, probably around 20 seconds, and take place quickly. The instructions are not always clear and they don’t stay on the screen for long, which resulted in a score of zero for some games because I did not know what I was doing.
Brain Wars is addictive and has that one-more-go quality that makes you want to keep playing. This is because you are playing real people and you want to beat them. Player ratings are animal names and you start off as a chicken, but can progress to a turtle and other animals. It's weird, but fun.
There are league tables for people around you, the whole world, and country leagues. When I looked Japan was number one and United States was in second place, but half an hour later United States had overtaken Japan. When you play Brain Wars you are playing for yourself and your country. It’s fascinating.
Some things in the interface are a bit obscure and non-obvious. For example, music constantly plays and it is very irritating. Going into settings, there are switches for BGM, SE and Vibrate. It took a minute to realise that BGM is background music and SE is sound effects. There are a few other things I am still puzzling over and have yet to work out.
Brain Wars is unusual and addictive. The games are short, fast paced, and competitive.
The winner is...
Sorry, there is no winner. Each exercise you perform stimulates a specific part of the brain and the more variety you have, the better you will be. It is like going into the gym and lifting weights with your right arm. It won’t do anything for the muscles in your left arm. You have to exercise that too.
Brain training is the same and practising one type of game will not make you better at another. You need a wide range of activities and so having half a dozen different brain training apps on your phone or tablet is much better than having just one. I recommend getting both of these apps.
|Title: NeuroNation – brain training
Size: 16 MB
Android: 2.3 and up
|Title: Brain Wars
Developer: Translimit Inc.
Size: 23 MB
Android: 3.0 and up
Related: Brain training – Peak vs Brain Yoga
- Written by Roland Waddilove
- Created: 13 June 2015