Review – Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain
Nintendo owns tons of different IPs, so it’s pretty obvious that a lot of them end up becoming dormant for a long time before getting a brand new iteration in their catalogue. That has been seen in Metroid, for instance. Plus we’re still waiting for the (unlikely) revival of certain franchsies, such as F-Zero, Earthbound, and a Star Fox that doesn’t suck. One dormant franchise I wasn’t expecting for Nintendo to revive was Big Brain Academy, a series of competitive puzzle/edutainment hybrids originally released for the DS and Wii fourteen years ago. But such is life. Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is out now, and it’s actually quite fun, even though, at the end of the day, it’s still a brain training tool, an edutainment piece.
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is a collection of small minigames meant to initially assess how well your brain can deal with a handful of different situations, such as computational awareness, analytics, and so on. These minigames are simple, and start off as some really dumb and basic attention tests, just like the ones you see whenever you apply for a job on LinkedIn, but get increasingly challenging the better you handle them. The game wants you to replay these minigames over and over, not just to increase its overall lasting value, but because they are meant to help you improve your cognitive and attention abilities. Yeah, it’s edutainment for lazy adults, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun while doing so.
The game incentivizes you to do so by giving you random cosmetics for your adorable little avatar every now and then. It’s not a lot, but it’s a nice incentive nonetheless. These minigames are just the starting point of what Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain offers, though. There is a test mode of sorts, which makes you play five minigames in a row, one for each kind of mental skill the game focuses on. Not only does this give you more points than usual, making the process of unlocking cosmetics easier, but it can also tell you where your brain excels at, and what kind of minigame you should practice more often.
The other mode, which is the crown jewel in Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain, is its “online mode”. I put it under quotation marks because, although you’re playing against people from all over the world, you’re not exactly playing a live round of online multiplayer. You’re playing against a player’s ghost avatar, which uses data collected from their solo experience to act how their own brains would act in a proper online match. It’s silly, but it works. It also allows you to further extend this game’s lasting appeal, because there aren’t a lot of minigames in here. Twenty of them are at your disposal, all of them lasting for just a minute.
I liked how quick and user-friendly this game’s UI and gameplay were. Everything loads up instantly and can be fully enjoyed with the touchscreen. Unlike the trainwreck that was the latest WarioWare game, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain does take advantage of some of the Switch’s neatest hardware-related features. Not all of them, but still a welcoming addition to the formula. The minigames can be enjoyed as small tablet apps if you feel like it. It makes the title more accessible to an older audience as a result.
My main issues with Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain stem from the fact that it does look and sound beyond simplistic at times. Just like many recent Nintendo games, it borrows the font and UI elements from Game Builder Garage, making the overall experience feel a lot cheaper and generic. It makes up for these lazy design choices by featuring some adorable character designs and a simple, but serviceable soundtrack. Nothing in here couldn’t have been achieved with Nintendo 64 hardware, but you’re not playing Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain for cutting-edge performance and visuals.
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is some of the most fun you can have with plain edutainment, as it cleverly hides its educational aspects under a layer of competitiveness and a cute but friendly presentation. It’s a bit expensive, and I think its amount of minigames is a bit subpar, but it’s a very enjoyable experience if you tackle it for around ten minutes a day. Even if all you do is test your skills and brag about them with algorithm-generated avatars based on the personality of a sixty-two year old Japanese retiree via its oddly amusing multiplayer mode.
The menus and fonts look way too similar to the UI used in some recent Nintendo games, almost as if the game is reusing their assets. With that being said, the character models and puzzles look adorable, somewhat making up for these lazy graphical issues.
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain doesn’t use all of the Switch’s features to come up with interesting minigames, but it is fully playable with the touchscreen, making it very accessible and fast-paced. There’s not a lot else that it needed to do in this regard.
The soundtrack is very simple, but serviceable. The sound effects are equally cute, but they sound like rehashes from Game Builder Garage.
Fun Factor: 7.0
As an edutainment and brain training piece of software, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is pretty good. It even rewards you handsomely the more you keep training your brain. With that being said, it’s quite boring for more than a few minutes at a time if you’re playing solo. Its “online, but not really” competitive modes are its highlight.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is available now on Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain was provided by the publisher.