A few months back, Nintendo released Brain Age, a revolutionary video game that touted minigames that could help "train" your brain. Now, Big Brain Academy expands this mental-workout-via-video-games category by providing 15 new minigames which require players to use their critical thinking, memory and calculating skills.
The premise behind Big Brain Academy is that you are competing for the "Biggest Brain," a designation that is determined by how well you perform on tests provided in the software. A test is made up of five minigames drawn from a pool of 15 possible games. Your test score is given in terms of grams—the more grams your brain weighs, the smarter you supposedly are.
The 15 games are divided evenly into the following categories: memorize, identify, compute, analyze, and think. Each game lasts for one minute, and the goal is to answer as many questions correctly in the time allotted. In the memorize category, one of the games flashes numbers on the screen, and you punch those numbers into an onscreen calculator using the DS stylus. In one of the identify games, you examine a grid of objects to find matching pairs. Under the compute category, you answer math problems that are written ("thirteen plus eight is"); and under the analyze category you have to determine the number of cubes in a picture. The think category contains three games that are the most difficult to learn. In one, the top screen shows a series of balanced objects, and the bottom screen asks you to deduce which object is the heaviest.
Players can interact with the software's 15 minigames in three ways: by simply practicing the games, which are offered on three levels of difficulty; by taking tests; or by challenging friends and families to contests.
While both Brain Age and Big Brain Academy are fun to explore, Big Brain Academy is a better family game because it has a more robust competition mode. Up to eight family members or friends can compete using one software cartridge (but you will need individual Nintendo DS units). Parents and kids can go head-to-head answering the same questions to see whose brain is bigger. Being the first to correctly answer a question gains you the most grams (points). Since this is an easy-to-learn game that tests skills adults are comfortable with, this is a good way for parents who have not played video games with their kids to jump in. However, to avoid an intellectual smack-down, you may need to sneak some practice late at night when the kids are in bed.
These games require players to know how to read, understand money, and perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and division computations; so this is not a good fit for those under 8 years of age.
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