On its original home, then Nintendo DS, Big Brain Academy came across as a sort of poor cousin to Prof. Kawashima's Brain Training. It didn't get the hype and it didn't have the same level of pseudo scientific backing, but it did have some nice cartoon presentation and its games were arguably a little less like homework and a little more like fun. The idea was that, rather than reduce your brain age, you built up a metaphorical brain mass, with your brain's overall shape determined by your performance in five categories: memorize, visualize, analyze, compute and identify.
On the Wii, Big Brain Academy has the advantage that there's no competition from a Brain Training game, as of yet, and it's family-friendly, approachable style is an ideal fit for the Wii's mainstream audience. Could this do for mindgames what Wii Sports does for physical competition?
Well, the first thing you might note is that Big Brain Academy is superbly tied into its host platform. The controls are as simple as pointing the remote and pressing the big A button, and it's hard to imagine anyone between the ages of four and 70 struggling to get to grips with the game. You choose game modes from doors in the central academy corridor, go to the office to add players, and can track progress at a glance from a chart on the wall. Ingeniously, Nintendo has even made the speaker on the remote part of the fun; it becomes your friendly remote trainer, offering encouragement and in-game updates as you play your way through the game. And as with Wii Sports and Wii Play, the game uses Miis to identify its players. You just pick yours out and enroll it in the academy when you first start up the game, and you'll see resident Miis wandering up and down in the corridor between activities.
Visually, Big Brain Academy is typical of Nintendo's quirky Touch Generations output. The visuals have a nice, clean cartoon look with some restrained use of Cel Shading on the Miis, and there's a little of the wackiness of Wario Ware: Smooth Moves in the various mini-games. Presiding over the academy once more is the cheerful Professor Lobe, looking suitably more rounded than he did in his DS debut. You don't expect high-end graphics from a brain-training game, but Big Brain Academy has personality to spare.