Big Brain Academy
| Big Brain Academy
Your brain doesn't weigh enough. At the moment, it's probably floating around in your head like a half-inflated balloon. And skinny craniums have never been in fashion.
Luckily, Nintendo is here to help with another in its series of brain training challenges. Last year, Dr Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? sold around 90 million copies in Japan (that may be an exaggeration but currently, my brain is too light to perform basic research), and Big Brain Academy offers a similarly compulsive recipe of fun mini-games with grey matter-gauging properties. Except here your aim is not to reduce your brain's age, but to increase its weight.
The main way you bulk out is via the Test mode, which offers five categories of timed mini-game – Think, Identify, Memorise, Compute and Analyse – all specifically designed to test different mental areas of your brain.
Each category contains three mini-games, and in a single test session you're randomly assigned one from each.
In Think, for example, you might be required to decide which objects are the heaviest, based on how they compare to other objects set up on a series of scales. In Memorise, one mini-game is to listen to an increasingly complex series of animal noises and then repeat them in order. There are also plenty of fun maths and counting exercises, such as working out how many cubes are used to construct bigger structures.
They're pretty simple, but thanks to the time pressure provide quite a challenge.
Also increasing the level of playability, all the tests are stylus-controlled and colourfully presented – most feature cute animal icons and daft noises. As a result, Big Brain Academy feels much more fun and family-friendly than the more serious Brain Training. And, as there are no challenges that require you to, say, to do heavy maths or read aloud, this feels more like a WarioWare-style mini-game onslaught rather than a collection of genuine aptitude tests.
Indeed, despite his mortarboard hat, even the game's cartoon-style presenter, Dr Lobe, doesn't look much like a university lecturer – more like a moth-eaten glove puppet. But when you've finished each test, Dr Lobe does produces a handy diagram showing how you performed in each of the five areas. He also reveals a grade (from A to E), and the all-important brain weight based on your overall score.
Interestingly, the game also suggests a job type that reflects your specific strengths and weaknesses. So far I've been everything from a fashion stylist to a diplomat.
Sometimes Dr Lobe also comes up with a famous historical figure who represents your strongest areas. Performing well in the Identify section, I was once compared to Michelangelo, although I'm not sure how sorting animal shapes would prepare me for painting the Sistine Chapel.
Away from the Test mode, there's a Practice area where you can fine-tune your performance in any category, while the wi-fi option enables you to complete mini-games against your friends to see who has the heaviest brain. True to Nintendo's inclusive philosophy, you only need one game cartridge for this as you can share the game using your DS' inbuilt wi-fi connection.
In fact, the only problem with Big Brain Academy's lighter approach is it probably won't hold your attention for weeks on end like Brain Training. There's little sense of forward momentum either; you can't unlock new mini-games as you go along or monitor your progress on a daily brain chart.
All you can usefully do is keep improving your brain weight, which is a bit too much like playing for a high-score. This is fun for gamers, but perhaps not compelling enough for people who genuinely want to power up their minds.
The game only costs £20 though, so that should lessen the blow.
So conclude with a physical analogy, while Brain Training is a full gym work-out devised by an expert trainer, Big Brain Academy is a kickabout in the park. In your jeans. With a can of fizzy pop in your hand...Big Brain Academy is out on the 7th July.