The meat of the game, however, lies in the mini-games. These are again organised into the five categories, and at the start of the game you can test your brain. Having completed a set of mini-games in each category, you’re rewarded with a ‘weight’ in each and an overall brain mass. This then nets you a grade (A, B, C, D with + and – modifiers) and a shape diagram of your brain that gives you an instant glimpse of your strengths and weaknesses. You can re-test whenever you want, or practice mini-games one by one. To encourage this, the game doles out medals for your efforts in practice mode, and you’ll also be ranked according to how well your scores compare with others playing Big Brain Academy on the same Wii.
Overall, the games are fun and there’s a reasonable amount of variety. One minute you might be placing pieces of track down to help get a train from A to B, the next you might be shooting balloons in numerical order from low to high, or watching the speedy swapping of bird-cages in order to identify which ones have occupants. There are tests that check your concentration, your ability to identify animals from a photo as it slowly revolves, your ability to make rapid calculations or your memory of cartoon faces or items appearing in a particular order. I’m not sure the game’s ‘science’ holds much water – arguably some games are as much a test of pointer precision and reaction time as quick-thinking, and in some you’re practically obliged to wait in order to, say, spot the difference between four short animations. What’s more, it’s hard to say whether the tests are consistently difficult or not. Still, whether the actual training works or not, there’s certainly a fair amount of fun to be had.
The major problem is that with only fifteen basic mini-games and three difficulty levels on each, that fun won’t last a single player that long. Once you’ve scooped all the medals and tested your brain a few times, you’ll inevitably start to lose interest, and the Big Brain Academy hasn’t got the daily play structure or the achievement-tracking features that made Brain Training such a long-term winner. So basically, if you live on your own, don’t play Wii games with anyone else and don’t know five or six other people with Nintendo’s little wonder, you can stop reading right now. Big Brain Academy will not fill up your lonely hours.