If, however, you have a family or a household full of friends, read on. What lasting power there is to this game lies in competition. With multiple players with multiple Miis enrolled you’ll soon find yourself battling for brain grades in the tests and for rankings in the practice sessions. As a personal anecdote, I played a single game yesterday for nearly half an hour because I couldn’t bear to concede the No.1 position to my smirking better half, and battles over other scoreboards are rapidly breaking out in the Andrews household. For added bragging rights, you can also send your academic records to Wii owning friends, opening up the brutally antagonistic competition/fun to anyone you know who has a Wii. This alone should keep everyone coming back for more.
Yet the game also has a set of decent multiplayer modes. Competitive sprint allows two players with remotes to battle it out for who can finish an allotted number of tests correctly in the shortest time. Panel Quiz, meanwhile, has two teams taking turns to select games from a Question of Sport-style panel for points using just one controller. Finally, Marathon is essentially a co-op option, with two or more players passing the remote on in a mission to complete as many games as possible within a time limit in order to obtain the biggest combined brain weight. Luckily, the game pauses the countdown while you pass the controller amid constant warnings to be careful and watch your surroundings. Obviously Nintendo doesn’t want more busted plasma screens or Wii-related injuries. Still, perhaps a warning that it’s not nice to threaten to shove a remote somewhere personal and painful if the winning player doesn’t stop dancing round the room in jubilation might be a good addition. Some people are just such bad losers…
The multiplayer even throws up a few additional amusements, like a brilliant memory test where your remote becomes a phone, and you’re asked to remember food orders before picking them out on an on-screen form. Once again, Big Brain Academy is an object lesson in how to use the Wii hardware. Let’s just hope some third-party developers I could mention learn from it.
In short, we have a game that sucks in single-player but takes off in a family or social setting. I still don’t think that Big Brain Academy has the legs to provide months of family fun, but if it won’t take over from Wii Sports as the essential Wii game it will certainly brighten up a good few gloomy days or evenings. Given the sub-£20 price point, that’s pretty good value for money. Best of all, it still gives you a nice – if slightly bogus – sense that you’re giving your brainpower a boost. Just call it an educational investment and feel good.
The lack of mini-games kills Big Brain Academy as a single player game, but share the fun with family and friends and the pleasure-pound ratio looks good. Worth enrolling.