Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree (Wii) – Review

Wii Degree - CoverWhen the Nintendo DS gained both Brain Age and Big Brain Academy last year as alternative games – ones that aimed to improve the player’s mind, it launched numerous copies and sequels. It comes as no surprise that with the unique Wii control, such games could easily be taken onto the Wii. Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree, created and published by Nintendo, is just that; while it compromises different activities as its DS predecessor, the aim of the goal is pretty much the same. The game does provide some unique multiplayer modes that allow you to virtually play against friends, but for the most part, the game feels much like a rehash of the DS version without too much focus on making the game a more unique Wii experience.

Gameplay: B

BBA:WD plays similar to its DS cousin and to Brain Age. There are two primary single player modes. The first is the testing mode, where you are given a 12 question test for each of 5 areas : visualization, analysis, computation, identification, and memorization. There are 3 mini-games for each, and as you progress in the test, the difficulty of that particular mini-game will increase or decrease depending on how well you did on the previous question. Each of the minigames use the Wii remote as a pointing device (not much different than using the stylus on the DS) to point out the right answers. After completing all 5 tests, you’re given a brain “weight” and other information on how you did relative to your previous performance; this is stored and tracked by the game for comparison. In addition to the test mode, you can then train on any of the minigames to help develop your performance in these. For the most part, save for new minigames, this plays exactly as BBA did on the DS. Doing sufficiently well at various difficulties in the mini-games will grant you medals that can open an additional level for each activity, which is then reflected back in the main test as to the highest level you can achieve.

Wii Degree - Multiplayer ModeWhere the game turns interesting is the multiplayer modes. One mode, “Brain Quiz” plays as a game board where each player has a chance to select a board space with a given activity or set of activities but of random difficulty and tries to answer as many as possible without a mistake to get that many points for that space. “Mental Marathon” challenges you to play through random activities of set or random difficulties until you get an answer wrong. “Mind Sprint” is the most interesting multiplayer mode, as it can be played with up to 4 people on the same Wii but can also be pitted against one student record with the computer simulating the performance of that player. The activities are all random and of various difficulties, and presented in split-screen mode so that you can also see how everyone else is doing, and can be very hectic even 1-on-1 mode. You can send your student records to any of your friends via standard Wii codes, though you do have to send this to reflect any improvements in your brain-training score. There are a few new minigames that are not available in the main part of the game during these modes. For example, there is one where you are given an order (verbalize to you through the Remote and shown on screen) and then you need to reiterate that back.

The minigames are rather ‘simple’ though there’s enough various in how they are presented that they are not predictable (as could happen with some Warioware minigames) and thus have a decent amount of replayability. However, the game is not focused on getting the tasks done as fast as you can, though you get a better score by completing tasks faster. Examples include determining what a picture is of as parts of it are filled in, popping balloons with numbers on them in numerical order (sorta a Strop test variant), and tracking how many blue and red balls make it to a basket and then determining the winning. It doesn’t help that most of the activities are no different than what you could do with a DS stylus; while the game shouldn’t be about being dexterous with the Remote, it would be nice if there were a few modes such as drawing lines or twisting the Remote in a different way.

Value/Replayability: B

Like Brain Age and BBA for the DS, the game is meant to encourage you to play it a little bit each day to increase your brain power over time. It doesn’t have some of the same aspects of Brain Age where there are additional activities or significant tracking of your process, but the ability to share your brain data with friends and effectively play against them is pretty good. However, with a limited number of activities, the game seems to beg for even one or two more activities for each brain mode they test. Otherwise, while the variation in each activity is pretty wide, it gets rather boring to play the same activities every single time; I’d love something more like Brain Age where “x out of y” activities are picked appropriately.

Wii Degree - Typical ActivityGraphics: B

The bulk of the graphics are nice and bright, but maybe a bit too simplistic for the game, though it does mimic the DS version of the game. The game does the same thing with widescreen during activities as occurs in Mario Party 8, in that it uses bars on the side to reduce the widescreen area down to a 4×3 frame. Here, it actually is reasonable in that there’s nothing gained with the extra space. The game does incorporate Mii characters as the representation of your character in the game and other Miis as students within the school.

Audio: B-

The audio’s is sufficient though nothing great. Sound effects are appropriate (and in a few activities, very helpful) for the games, but beyond that, there’s not much more to say.

Overall: B

Big Brain Academy: Wii Edition is not a bad reversioning of the DS title to the Wii, but it has too much DS-like features in the game to really justify the need for the Wii for it. It does have some nice multiplayer modes and the ability to share records, which the Wii does help to make easier, but beyond these elements, it just feels too much like a DS title. It is a very family friendly game and can appeal to all ages but is targeted to younger crowds. If you haven’t yet played either Brain Age or Big Brain Academy on the DS, you may find this game interesting, but it’s mostly a rehash if you have.

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