Professor Kageyama's Maths Training

First off, this isn't a game. Maths ain't a game. Life is a game, naked twister is a game - maths is serious business. That's why Professor Kageyama's Maths Training has to fully transform your Nintendo DS video game system from something fun into a tool. It does this by presenting everything to you on its side. This means you have to turn your DS on its side. This means it looks like a book. Clever, eh?

Kids aren't going to be fooled. Maths is still maths, and everyone except engineers (who get paid the mad bucks to do maths every day) thinks maths sucks. Maths teachers wear horrible cardigans and smell like bourbon. There's a reason. Their job is unfulfilling. That's because maths sucks. What sucks? Maths. I am confident Nintendo had their hearts in the right place when allowing a title like this to get on the DS, and confident, too, that the 100 Cell Method really is a mathematical revolution, but the fact is PKMT misses the mark.

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It must be hard deciding where the mark is when you're putting together a training tool like this for a machine used primarily for fooling about with Phatom Hourglasses, racing karts around bubbling lava pits or training electric animals to scratch each other until they faint. In fact, who knows if that mark even exists? Ultimately, if you were producing such a tool, the best idea would be to align the objectives of said tool with the regular function of its vehicle - i.e. make Maths Training as much like a Nintendo DS game as possible. Flashing lights, bright colours, cool music... how hard is that? It would at least make us think that the developers were trying. PKMT has precisely none of the above.

I suppose comparing this directly with a video game isn't fair; what I should be doing is revewing this on its merit as a maths training tool, like any of the computer programmes kids are expected to use at after school mathematics tutoring. But that doesn't do the title any good either, because where it should shine simply through the application of Nintendo's visionary touch screen techonology, it falls short.

One has to be far too careful writing 8s and 3s lest they be mistaken by the Decuma Handwriting Recognition Engine as 1s or 7s, respectively. Slow things down, take your time, and you have no problem - but if you do this, you run the risk of blowing your time limit, and these time limits impact on your overall score and progression. Without the element of target chasing, you really lose any trace of the video "game" in PKMT. You can choose whether you aim to get 100% on the very basic addition, subtraction or multiplication tables, or accept a score of 80 or 90 in favour of finishing in your allotted time (sometimes this is as little as 12 seconds).

This playing off of speed VS. accuracy means this title is its own worst enemy. It's not fun and educational; it's "fun" or educational.

PKMT knows who it's aimed at, and has a message to parents and guardians in the instruction booklet to prove it, explaining that the goal times and medal system isn't always accurate as an evaluation method. I suppose this is true, given how easy it is to get 4+4 dead wrong with a slip of the stylus. I can see why something like this would appeal to parents who want to see a way of getting their children to practise the skills they're learning in school, but my warning to them would be: be prepared to watch them. When it comes down to it, this is no more arresting (easier maybe) than a bunch of sums on a piece of paper, and if you can't see the screen, chances are your son has switched out the card when you were peeling carrots and you're none the wiser. Perhaps this was another reason the game is presented side-on; once parents know what to look for, they can tell if their child is studying with a single glance.

At its core, PKMT is a good title and the point of it is, in the very least, crystal clear. There's a daily quiz, which fires questions at you and ticks off your 'attendance' on a calendar - again, this could be a good way for parents to check up that the thing is being used once it's bought. This and a range of other options keep it from being useless, but when something like this appears for the DS you can't help but feel the initial idea was from someone in a think tank going, "How can we get maths to appeal to kids?" Simply chucking a glorifed calculator into a box that looks the same as any other DS game isn't going to cut it, especially when the content is this dry.

It'll fly off the shelves, of course. Parents are going to jump at the chance to see the timesuck that is their kids' DS put to work, and for very young children, I think that the sheer force of repitition in PKMT will be enough to keep anything they learn at school nice and sharp. The title probably loses its edge around ages 10 and up, except in extreme cases.

I'm not going to score this like a game, because it's not. Gameplay? Non-existent. Graphics? Just what you'd expect from any title associated with maths. Sound? Music too boring to be annoying, even. Value - there's one I can answer. As I say, for its target market, PKMT could be a really good thing, provided parents use it and, more than that, make sure their kids use it. Let's say 7/10.

"It's speed vs accuracy with Maths Training"
- Professor Kageyama's Maths Training
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 5 Min


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