In the not so distant past, I spent a lot of time playing brain games on the Nintendo DS. In particular, I played a lot of Brain Age; I loved all the word games and sudoku, and I admit to telling “glasses, glasses!” into the microphone way more than was necessary. However, it was a pretty lonely game, and my brain needed company.
Thankfully, not long after I was gifted Big Brain Academy for the Nintendo DS. The series ditched (the real-life) Dr. Kawashima for Dr. Lobe, but my brain was hooked. I wanted to play memory games against everyone all the time. I was a bit of a nuisance, but that was everyone else’s problem. With that in mind, you could say my excitement for Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain was pretty high.
The third installment in Big Brain Academy series is something of a “thinking man’s party game.” I say this with quotes because I’m saying it jokingly; while Big Brain Academy is a brain game at its core you won’t be doing tedious math problems or be asked trivia questions. The series has built itself on being accessible to people of all ages and having activities that are fun to play both solo and in a group, such as image identification and block-breaking games.
There are two practice modes: normal and advanced. Normal practice mode will start you at the lowest level and increase steadily over the course of a minute. Advanced mode starts you a few levels in and moves up less quickly. Both give you an opportunity to practice the 20 mini games offered and give you a medal based on your score.
These mini games fall into five categories: identify, memorize, visualize, analyze, and compute. There are four games in each category to choose from. Identify has games that ask you to decipher pictures and identify shapes, memorize will challenge you to remember patterns and images, visualize will ask you to figure out how things look from other angles and find missing pieces to puzzles, analyze has activities that make you counts cubes and categorize objects, and compute will have you move clock hands and order numbers from low to high. It’s recommended by the game’s blobby mascot, Dr. Lobe, to practice often to increase your Brain Grade.
How do you find out your Brain Grade, you ask? With a test, of course! The test mode gives you one random activity from each of the five categories. Once you’ve completed the test, you’ll be given two scores. One is your Big Brain Brawn (the added scores from each activity) and the other is your Brain Grade, ranging from F to A++ depending on your scores. You’ll also be shown a graph that will tell you which categories you excelled in and which need work.
Naturally, you can’t have a party game without multiplayer! Brain vs. Brain lets you to play with up to four other people using either controllers or the touch screen. You can choose an activity or spin a wheel to have one randomly chosen for you, and you can choose what levels and how many rounds you’d like to play. Local multiplayer runs so smoothly and can be played with everyone at the same of differing levels so no one is left out of the fun.
Playing solo but still craving a little competition? No worries! There’s an online mode called Ghost Clash, which collects data from players around the world and allows you to play against their past attempts at certain mini games. You can play one game from each category a day to boost your world ranking. It’s a quick burst of “competitive” play, but ultimately, it’s not much of a multiplayer experience. You can’t play with online friends in real time.
The game awards you coins every time you practice, take tests, or compete in Ghost Clash. These coins unlock new outfit pieces for your avatar, and the accessory options are pretty vast, from cat ears (which I put on pretty much immediately,) to fancy cardigans. Competing in Ghost Clash will also unlock new catchphrases and greetings for you to use. It’s a fun little incentive to keep you coming back and playing often.
Overall, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is a lot of brain stretching fun. It’s exactly as challenging as the player needs it to be, provides a nice variety of activities to choose from, offers plenty of ways to customize your avatar, and makes for a unique party game…as long as your party is four people or less. Really, who needs more than four guests at a time? The only downside is the lack of real-time online play. Those needing a more cerebral challenge should put on their thinking caps and get ready to be schooled by Dr. Lobe.