Chris Sell
07 Jul, 2006

Big Brain Academy Review

DS Review | Nintendo give our brains ANOTHER workout.
Following on from the worldwide success of Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training the release of similar themed software was as inevitable as a yearly Need for Speed game. Big Brain Academy is Nintendo’s second budget title designed to get your grey matter in gear, but do you really need another brain training game if you've already got one?

Although similar on the surface, Big Brain Academy is actually a rather different game to Brain Training. The whole thing plays more like a traditional game with scores and goals as opposed to just playing for the fun of a daily brain workout. For starters, each of the tests are divided into five categories: ‘Think’, ‘Memorize’, ‘Compute’, ‘Identify’ and ‘Analyze’, each containing 3 games with 3 difficulty settings. ‘Think’, for example, requires you to work out the heaviest item on a set of scales while ‘Compute’, which is maths themed, has you adding up the value of two sets of money and pointing out the highest value. ‘Memorize’ is obviously based around memory tests involving numbers, patterns and sounds while ‘Identify’ has you picking out objects in silhouette or finding pairs of numbers. Finally, ‘Analyze’ requires simple some puzzle solving involving cube counting and shape drawing.

Count the cubes!

They’re all simple to play but few could be described as easy. Not only are there 3 very different difficulty settings for each test, there are bronze/silver/gold (and platinum!) awards to get so there’s plenty to do. And unlike Brain Training where 20yrs old was the best score you could achieve, the scores in Big Brain Academy can technically go as high as you want meaning there’s always potential to better yourself by answering questions quicker and giving less incorrect answers. When you finish each test the results are then relayed onto your main graph. This helpfully shows you the areas that you are best in and the tests you need to work on more. Big Brain Academy also features a multiplayer mode for up to 8 players which makes for some surprisingly good fun as you go head to head (or should that be ‘brain to brain’?) with your friends.

One of the biggest differences between this and Brain Training is how simple the player input is. There’s no writing, there’s very little in the way of drawing and there’s certainly no speech needed. The whole game is done just by tapping in the correct answer or numbers. While this may disappoint some it is worth mentioning how far less error prone the game is as a result. Owners of Brain Training will know the frustration you experience when you’re writing down a word or you know the answer to a math question, only to get the question wrong because the handwriting system doesn't recognize the way you write a word or number. The same goes for all the speech recognition tests; there’s no ‘Blue, BLUE, BLUEEEEE!’ moments in Big Brain Academy as all your test results will better accurately reflects your thinking skills, rather than your word pronunciation or handwriting.

Which animal is heaviest?

On the whole, Big Brain Academy just about edges out Brain Training in all the right areas - all barring presentation that is. Brain Training was clean and simple with tidy use of black on white throughout. Here however they’ve gone a little overboard and filled every square inch with colour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from ugly, but we probably could have done without the cartoon animals that are about as generic as you would find from some online flash game. Not that it’s not nice to see that Mario hasn’t been slapped on the box to shift a few more copies, but you would expect more than what we have here from Nintendo. Maybe the somewhat child-like feel of Big Brain Academy is an intentional move to interest younger people considering the more mature style of Brain Training but that still doesn’t quite excuse garish purple monkeys and red cats.

Depending on your situation there’s in all probability one of two questions in your head right now as you are reading this. The first being ‘I already have Brain Training, do I need this?’ Well I would say yes. It’s similar enough so that many of the things you liked in that game you will also enjoy here, but it’s different enough not to feel like you’re playing the same thing again. The other question is ‘I don’t have either Brain games, which one should I buy?’. Now that’s a trickier one to answer as they both do what they do well. Brain Training has the advantage of Sudoku packed in there, but Big Brain Academy will almost certainly last you the longest in terms of replayability due to its structure with score tracking and medal awards. If forced to decide Big Brain Academy has the edge where it counts. But given the relatively low price of the two you would certainly be forgiven for owning both.
The Score
Big Brain Academy compliments Brain Training perfectly. Similar in idea but quite different in execution it’s something all DS owners should try if they want to give their brain a workout.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Big Brain Academy Content

Big Brain Academy value pack announced
28 Sep, 2007 A bargain?
Brain Training for the hospitalised
08 Mar, 2006 Just when you thought your DS would actually be yours again.
Big Brain Academy: new screens
07 Feb, 2006 Looking suitably cerebral.
1 Comment
7 years ago
I got this on saturday, and so far it is great fun, the competitive multi-player mode is definatly worth trying out, although relationships may suffer if you keep beating your partner icon_smile.gif

I chose this one over brain training as I like my games to be more competitive and provide rewards for improvement (even if they are just medals)
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