Review: I got a PHD in DSin' BSin'
Nintendo's Brain Age was a budget-priced hit for the DS last Spring. No one was too surprised when Nintendo followed it up with a companion game, Big Bran Academy, a few months later. But whereas Brain Age measures how old your brain is, Big Brain Academy measures the weight of your tasty, tasty medulla oblongata.
Professor Kawashima's disembodied head and crazy rants enlivened brain Age's simple, yet addictive math and word puzzles. Big Brain Academy ups the ante by featuring more graphically intense visual and spatial games. That is as visually impressive as puzzles involving simple shapes and pictures can be on the DS. This time Dr. Lobe, a character that can only be described as an amorphous peanut, runs the festivities.
Right away gamers will notice some major differences between Brain Age and Big Brain Academy. First, Dr. Lobe is an annoying little spud that couldn't carry Professor Kawashima's glasses. Instead of being amused by his constant yapping, you'll want to skip it and get right to the games. These games are Big Brain Academy's (BBA) other major change. BBA's 15 games are based around visual comprehension and quick-thinking analysis and as a result, are more visually interesting than any of the games in Brain Age.
Like Brain Age, BBA's 15 games can be played in any order for as many times as you'd like. They run the gamut from games like Written Math (random fire math words like ?five plus four equals ????) to CubeGame (which asks players to count interconnected cubes) to Heavyweight (which asks players to guess the heaviest item based on a group of scales). These games are also split into the five specialties of the brain: Think, Memorize, Analyze, Compute and Identify.
The games can be played in both Practice mode (sixty seconds of questions in one of three difficulty settings) and Test mode (one game from each of the five sections which are weighted together to produce a Brain Weight). Sadly, unlike its predecessor, Big Brain Academy does not feature any kind of stat tracking, so there's no way to know what your Brain Weight was yesterday without keeping track of it yourself. It's a shame too, as being able to look at my progress over time was a huge part of Brain Age's appeal.
With that being said, the puzzles in BBA are much
better. Sketching out the dog's path in Bone Yard is incredibly fun. Written Math is diabolical in that it looks very easy but quickly starts asking you to multiply several numbers in your head. Matchmaker will be the game of choice for anyone who loves word searches and the Memory game. As the seconds tick away and the stars indicating the questions' difficulty increase you'll find yourself constantly going back. The game even includes a multiplayer mode where any of the games can be played among eight players with only a single cartridge.