NINTENDO DS REVIEW: BIG BRAIN ACADEMY

Time to locate your thinking caps, morons, it's Big Brain Time! by Cole Smith

June 9, 2006 - The follow up to Brain Age is called Big Brain Academy. It literally puts your brain to the test and lets you know just how stupid you really are. Okay, that may be a little harsh but for those of us that have to reach for the calculator to figure out how much 15% of the total cost of a meal is, this game can be a little intimidating.

However, Big Brain Academy was not created to belittle your or my intelligence. It was designed to enhance it. It’s kind of like an IQ test that you can study for. There is a whole whack of mini-games that will challenge you in different mental disciplines, with the exception of hand/eye coordination which is exercised every time you play a videogame. I’m sure Nintendo assumes that you’re getting enough of a workout in that area.

Big Brain Academy is actually fun, even the math, once you get used to it. This game may seem like homework to some of the teenage gamers but most of the mature gamers will likely find it refreshing – once they get over the initial fear of having to complete such tasks within a time limit. It may take a week or so before some of this stuff comes back to you - but it does. It’s amazing what we forget over time. It just goes to prove that we do possess these talents, we just have to exercise them properly to bring them to the forefront of our consciouness.

Brain Age, which was released earlier this spring, tests your mental mettle and determines your relative brain age. The older your brain age, such as that of a 65-year-old, the more work you need. Big Brain Academy gives you a score based on how heavy your brain is. The bigger and heavier your brain, the better. It means that it’s jam packed with information – and if it’s not it soon will be.

There are five main intellectual categories: Think; Identify; Compute; Memorize, and Analyze. You can begin in Practice mode and choose any category that you want. The Test mode will put you through a series of randomly chosen puzzles and will give you a score based on the results. It will show you which areas you are the strongest and which areas need work – like math, if you’re like most idiots. Armed with this information you can go back to the Practice mode and work on the areas where you are a little weak. In no time at all you’ll be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for your work in subatomic particles by proving various quantum physics postulate – and that’s just on the first difficulty setting.

Yes, there are three difficulty settings. So if you’re feeling a little cocky, increasing the difficulty to the next stage ought to take you down a few pegs. Things do get intense, as you will be required to process the information and arrive at a correct answer in a much shorter time period. It really puts the pressure on.

I tend to think of these exercises as mini-puzzles. They are relatively short and don’t give you a spare second for you mind to wander; perfect for the attention deficit crowd. In one particular puzzle you will be shown a series of coins in two different windows. You must add up the coins in each window and determine which side is the most valuable. When the number of coins in each window increases to more than five, you can get flustered pretty easily.

In another game you will be shown a black silhouette composed of various shapes. You will have to determine what real-life objects comprise those shapes from the selection shown on the bottom screen. In one of the math puzzles you will have to perform arithmetic functions with numbers that are written in text as opposed to their corresponding number symbol. In yet another game you will be shown a series of animals standing on different weigh scales. You might see that in one image the cat is heavier than the dog. In the next image you will see that the dog is heavier than the parrot which ultimately means that the cat is the heaviest animal. This may sound simple but when mixed multiples of animals are introduced on each side of the scale things can get heady.

Up to eight players can take part in the multiplayer Verses mode. You only need one copy of the game but each player will need a DS system. The puzzles are chosen at random and the first player to complete the challenge accrues the points. The first player to amass a brain weight of 300 grams is the winner.

The stylus is used to select answers and navigate the menu system. It’s nothing that couldn’t be done with a normal controller but it’s more convenient and precise. You can choose the correct answer immediately without having to scroll through choices or manipulate a cursor. The menu system is easy to access and while it may lack visual pizzazz, it’s clean, simple and easy enough on the eyes. Overall the presentation is lacking but this is a budget-priced game and it accomplishes what it sets out to do. I don’t feel the need to spend another 15 bucks for upgraded graphics, sound and a story mode. I may not be very intelligent but at least I’m not stupid.

Features:

  • Weigh Your Brain: Big Brain Academy is a series of minigames (called Activities) that are designed to exercise your brain and increase mental acuity. You can weigh your brain in Test mode, earn medals for individual activities in Practice mode, or play against friends and family in Versus mode.
  • Gamer, Score Thyself: Big Brain Academy's Test mode will quiz you in five areas: thinking, memorization, computation, analysis and identification. After you take the test, it will tell you the weight of your brain and areas of strength or weakness-and it will identify a brain type that is similar to yours. Once you have your score, you can keep playing the game to exercise your mind in areas where it needs improvement.
  • Multiplayer Madness: Big Brain Academy features a riotous multiplayer mode in which up to eight people can play with a single Game Card. Players will compete in Activities to see who has the biggest brain, and the results will be displayed for all to see! A demo Test game can also be sent to another DS. (Both downloadable modes are local wireless only, not on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.)

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Big Brain Academy (DS)
3.0
Graphics
The game is clean, clear, simple and understated. Which is another way of saying that it lacks style.
4.8
Control
The controls couldn’t be simpler – but the puzzles sure could be.
2.3
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
One could make the case that the lack of sound effects, music and animation keep the player from being distracted. I think the $20 price tag explains it all.
4.4
Play Value
If you’re smart, you’ll play this game a lot. If you’re not, you better play this game a lot.
4.1
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Must....resist....getting smarter....by Cole Smith

May 16, 2006 - Nintendo is attempting to expand its empire by trying to get non-gamers hooked on what they believe are more than just mere games.

Witness the phenomenon of the Brain Age, a game which is actually a series of tests, not unlike an IQ test, that gauges the relative age of your brain. The older your brain age is the more stimulation you require to reduce it and thus improve your overall intelligence. Brain Age purports, through a series of mental exercises, to give your brain the workout it requires in a session that only lasts five-minutes a day. This game is very popular with the mature crowd, those over 35-years of age - a coveted demographic that Nintendo feels will be receptive to similar puzzle games designed to improve intelligence, memory and overall brain fitness.

Big Brain Academy is a collection of mini-games designed to not only improve your way of thinking but to let you have a lot of fun while doing it. The mini-games are divided into five sections: Think; memorize; analyze; compute, and identify. Thinking games will require you to use the available information onscreen to generate an educated guess. Memorize will test and improve your memory by having you play some Simon-Says games that include replaying patterns of sounds, shapes and colors. Analyze will have you checking out images or counting 3D blocks. Compute is the math-based portion of the game - sometimes there's just no getting around having to do the math. Finally, Identify will have you matching different items or eliminating them. Your score will be plotted on a graph for each of the different categories so that you can see what areas you need more work in.

The abstract quality of Big Brain Academy will appeal to those that may not like the math-based questions of Brain Age. There is also a lot less text in this game. It's easy to get into and fun to play. The sheer variety of mini-games is guaranteed to make this one of the most popular Brain games.


By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Big Brain Academy (DS)
NA
Graphics
Not Available
NA
Control
Not Available
NA
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Not Available
NA
Play Value
Not Available
NA
Overall Rating -
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: DS
Dev: Nintendo
Pub: Nintendo
Released: June 2006
Players: 1 - 8
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best