Scene, Sunday, June 24, 2007

After a few runs through the metal obstacle course, I could tell my brain was getting bigger.

I could actually see that my mental muscle had increased by 100 grams in just a few minutes – at least according to “Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree,” by Nintendo.

The game for the Wii console is a spin-off of “Big Brain Academy” for the Nintendo DS handheld system. It involves a number of mini games that test a player’s abilities to quickly identify, memorize, analyze, compute and visualize. For example, the memorization category involves a sort of shell game involving birdcages, identifying children who buzz past the screen and recalling patterns. Games in other categories involve whacking moles, laying railroad track and popping numbered balloons quickly and in the right sequence.

Each game uses a simple point-and-click interface, so there’s not the wild waving, twisting and jabbing of the remote that’s necessary for most Wii games. Although the games are rather simple, it takes some metal agility to beat them quickly.

As a result, they can become addictive, especially for those who enjoy puzzle games.

In the single-player mode, gamers can test their skill in all of the categories together. The test scores reveal the “size” and “shape” of the player’s brain. In other words, the scores are given in grams and a graph shows how a player performed in each category. Players can improve their scores by increasing their accuracy and speed. This can be accomplished by training in the practice level.

The multi-player mode allows up to eight gamers to participate in three different challenges. Although it’s interesting to compare “brain size” based on the test results, this is where the real fun occurs.

Although the multi-player mode introduces a few new mini games, the biggest change is the overall format. There are three different formats, each of which can be played head-to-head, in teams or solo against another player’s “Academy” profile. In sprint, players race to see who can be the first to accomplish a given number of tasks. In marathon, each player continues until a mistake is made. And Brain Quiz is sort of like Jeopardy!, with players selecting squares on a board and receiving points for the number of times they can accomplish the task.

“Academy” isn’t as wild as “WarioWare: Smooth Moves,” which brought a new level of wackiness to party games. However, it’s more challenging and satisfying since winning requires more than quick reflexes.

Platform: WiiOn the Web:

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