Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2007-06-18


Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: June 11, 2007 Also On: None

When Big Brain Academy came out last summer, it was following in the footsteps of fellow DS brain-teaser, Brain Age. Together the brain games birthed a new handheld trend and made Nintendo’s DS and DS Lite the hottest units on the market. It only seems appropriate that such a phenomenon should appear on Nintendo’s brand-new worldwide hit, Wii. Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree brings more mind-bending games to the table, but is the living room experience the same or better than the handheld one?

Wii Degree is almost identical to Big Brain Academy at heart, but its presentation is different enough to make it feel new and exciting. When you start up the game, you’ll notice that Professor Lobe has returned. You are prompted to “enroll” yourself and any friends who plan on “testing” at the Big Brain Academy; by doing so you integrate your Mii as well as a few other details about yourself. From here you can begin practicing the 15 brain games or jump right into a Test, which is essentially an increasingly-difficult practice mode that forces you to play all 15 games without stopping or taking a break. Testing is how you’ll sum yourself up (no pun intended) and see how you rank in the Big Brain Academy. You’ll earn a grade based on how quickly and accurately you finish the test.

All 15 games are more or less entertaining, and are broken up into the same five categories as they were in the original DS game. Computing games (“Whack Match”, “Fast Focus”, and “Species Spotlight”) require you to think and see things very quickly; for example, “Fast Focus” takes a white screen and gradually the screen fades into the image of an animal. You are given four options and you have to quickly choose the correct animal. Memorization games (“Covered Cages”, “Face Case”, and “Reverse Retention”) could have been renamed “Pay-Attention Games,” because all three of them ask you to focus sharply. For example, in “Covered Cages” you’ll see which cages contain birds and then you’ll watch the birdcages swap position. It is your job to choose which of the covered cages contain a bird. On harder difficulties, this gets especially challenging, as the patterns that the cages flip around get much more complex. To make it even more difficult (and increase your score) you can hold a button to speed up the cage-flipping!

Analyze games (“Match Blast”, “Speed Sorting”, and “Block Spot”) allow the player to take in the visuals that he or she sees on the screen, but that doesn’t mean the player can take his or her time! “Block Spot” is similar to a previous Brain Academy game, but rather than counting the blocks that make up the structure, you choose between four similar shapes on the bottom of the screen and choose which one is identical to the one on the top of the screen. This can be incredibly difficult, as the blocks rotate and change color. My favorite games, Computing games (“Balloon Burst”, “Mallet Math”, and “Color Count”), were actually the ones I had the hardest time with. In “Color Count”, a basket sits in the middle of the screen and catches blue and red balls that fly from all sides of the screen. It is the player’s job to count how many of each color ball fell into the basket, but since ties are possible, a lot of attention is required. Finally, Visualization games (“Art Parts”, “Train Turn”, and “Odd One Out”) give the player the most time to concentrate, but again, that doesn’t mean one can dilly-dally! In “Train Turn” the player has to finish a train track so that the train can scoot to safety, but when the difficulty increases, the on-screen grid rotates, making it even more difficult to choose the right turns and track directions.

If I were to individually rate the games, the only ones I never seemed to enjoy were “Odd One Out,” “Match Blast”, and “Mallet Math”. Of course, I got a load of enjoyment out of “Covered Cages”, “Balloon Burst”, “Color Count”, “Train Turn”, “Art Parts” get the point, I had a lot more fun than anything else. My Test results were similar to my results from Big Brain Academy, so I feel like the Testing accurately represents my actual skill. Since Wii remote control consists almost entirely of pointing and pressing the A button, the control feels spot-on and avoids the undelivered motion-based annoyances of some other Wii titles.

Unfortunately, similar problems that plagued Big Brain Academy make a reappearance in Wii Degree. The visuals are much better than they were in the DS version, with bigger sprites and more little details (like the balloons popping), but they’re still very basic. The lack of widescreen support (and, like in Mario Party 8, the use of annoying borders to compensate) is disappointing. The sound effects are recycled quite a bit, but perhaps the most annoying part of Wii Degree is the use of the Wii remote’s speaker. I was never one to complain about the speaker before, but Wii Degree uses the grainy sound of the speaker a lot. In fact, at the start of every practice, you’ll hear some sort of aural clue that you really don’t need. If I’m playing a Visualize game, I don’t need to hear someone telling me to "visualize!"

It was a very nice notion to add three multiplayer modes ("Mind Sprint", "Mental Marathon", and "Brain Quiz"). For example, in "Mind Sprint", two teams of up to four players can compete to answer questions as quickly as possible. The annoying part about multiplayer is that players on teams share a remote, so a lot of remote-passing is required to play. Of course, people who only own a single Wii remote will find a lot less to complain about!

Overall, Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree is equally as good as its predecessor. While it fails to deliver some console-quality aspects, like graphics and sound, it most certainly offers an entertaining, brainy experience that fans of the DS brain games will absolutely not want to miss. As a final comment, it is a bit of a shame that Nintendo released Wii Degree at a $50 price point–part of Big Brain Academy's influence was its low price, and it would have been really special if Wii Degree was $10 or $20 cheaper. Still, I bought it, I enjoyed it, and I'm not complaining.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 8
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn