Big Brain Academy

One Big Brain not worth getting big-headed over...

Japan Import: Who the hell does Dr Lobe think he is? Presiding over the events at the Academy, this stuck-up Jelly Baby look-a-like has the audacity to equate our brain with a shrivelled sponge. We're highly educated games journalists, you no-legged dolt. To suggest otherwise is simply a failing of your shambolic institution to find our true genius within.

New kid on the thinking block
Turning up for our first day at the academy - quivering with fear and clutching on to mum's (read: Greener's) coat - we were ushered into the hallowed halls, greeted by our rubbery principal and forced to adopt an identity. We're not talking about some surreal playground social alignment here, but Mii avatar importation.

Once in, it doesn't take the advanced memory of a corpulent cerebrum to recognise that the Academy hasn't changed much in the move from DS to Wii. Dr Lobe is still running his vigorous minigame-bombardment mind-enlargement regime,1 so in truth it's less first day at a new school and more a return after a long summer holiday.

Despite some rather critical moans about the stingy 15 games of the original, Nintendo have stuck to their old curriculum and simply devised a fresh 15. Separated into five groups of three, each clump is intended to embiggen a different aspect of the brain - memory, analysis, spatial awareness, numeracy and, er, the well-recognised subject of general thinking.

Faster than light
Having played all 15, a task achievable in as many minutes, these groupings are called into doubt. Counting multi-coloured balls being lobbed all over the shop is as much a visual recognition task as numeracy trial, and plonking paintings back together tests spatial awareness - so why is it paired with the logic of constructing a train track? It may seem like a minor quibble, but in a game that sells itself on vaguely academic grounds we feel that such murkiness invalidates its supposed results somewhat.

As on the DS, tasks still feel too minor to truly give the noggin a proper workout. Flashing by at a rate of knots, old gaming tricks come into play, such as deliberately failing a task to shave time off your overall run or, in those situations where completion is required, jettisoning thought for speed. It's exactly why people enjoy multi-choice tests so much - they know the examiner has given them the right answer somewhere, it's just up to them to stumble upon it.

Nowhere is this more evident than in two-player head-to-head. Racing to complete tasks, there are no punishments for wrong answers - so players unwilling to pull their mental weight can simply button-thump their way to victory (as long as their opponent is a nobler, studious type).

Sure, it's the individual players that choose underhand tactics, but the throwaway nature of the tasks certainly promote scumbaggery. Multiplayer, the area where DS Academy found its legs, is a WarioWare-style disappointment. One-on-one is diverting, but any more players and you're forced to enter the realms of - grumble, grumble - pass the remote.

Popping your airhead cherry
Our main concern is just how insubstantial it all feels. Lobe may liken our grey matter to a shrivelled sponge, but it was with said sponge that we were there trouncing his tasks at their most advanced level after just an hour's play. From the Miis wandering the academy's halls to the jingling music, this reeks of Wii Play. It tries to disguise shallowness by allowing you to share your Miis and their respective academic records with pals over WiiConnect24,3 but this isn't enough to truly satisfy.

It's becoming increasingly clear that Nintendo seemingly think that by hopping into bed with one or more Wii channels, a totally insubstantial title grows worthwhile in some way. But this isn't the case, and anyone with a half a brain, be it shrivelled and sponge-like, will see this.

The verdict

Released for a budget price this would be a diverting enough party game. As a long term investment, you should take that normal-sized brain of yours and think again.

Nintendo Wii