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Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain review: Cosmic brains

Dr. Lobe has returned in Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain. Class is in session!

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For as many first party licenses that are active, Nintendo has quite a few that are laying dormant. Among them has been the Big Brain Academy series, which has been testing players' mental acumen for over 15 years. Considering that the most recent game in the series released during the Wii generation, there was no reason to believe it would ever be seen again. However, Nintendo surprised audiences with the sudden announcement and release of Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain on Switch. While it relies on a lot of old tricks, Brain vs. Brain is a fun encapsulation of what makes the Big Brain Academy games so enjoyable, one that makes for a pretty fun multiplayer experience.

Test your mind

For those who may not remember what the Big Brain Academy series is about, players are tested in a variety of timed mini-games, which focus on different elements of logic. This includes memorization, reflexes, analysis, and... yes, the dreaded math problem. Series mascot Dr. Lobe will take the results of these tests and give players a final score.

The individual games themselves are a lot of fun. There's one that requires players to identify shadowy objects, another that requires popping numbered balloons in a proper sequence, and another that has players lay down tracks to guide a train to its destination, just to name a few. They're easy to grasp and challenging enough to hunger for repeat sessions. It's the summed up package that makes a Big Brain Academy session so entertaining, as players compete against the pressure of a rapidly ticking clock.

The downside is that Big Brain Academy veterans may recognize some of these games as repeats from the Nintendo DS and Wii versions. A more original variety of activities would have been nice to see. Having said that, it's nice to take this selection of challenges and go up against friends.

Two brains are better than one

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain can be fun to incorporate into an individual routine, but it shines as a multiplayer party game. Up to four players can go at it on the TV, testing their mental might with controllers. If there's only one person around to play with, it's possible to either play in TV Mode or through the Switch's Tabletop Mode using touch controls.

Going at it in multiplayer means players are not only up against the clock, they're scrambling to finish before everybody else. This can lead to some intense showdowns, especially as scores start to get more lopsided. I will say that it feels a little cheap to be far ahead from my friend, only for the game to decide that the friend can earn a whopping amount of bonus points to catch up by winning a singular round. Fortunately, there are other ways to get around seemingly one-sided matchups, namely the ability to set individual difficulty levels before starting versus sessions.

Brain vs. Brain's best feature is more for those who like challenging people without actually having anyone present. It's possible to record data and submit "Ghost" data in order to face friends in asynchronous battle. I've had some fun outings with friends by simply challenging their ghosts and bragging to them later after I beat them. The downside to facing ghosts is that players will sometimes hit an exercise that requires touch controls, requiring them to exit docked mode and play handheld. I'd rather the game just skip these specific activities entirely rather than be forced off my couch.

The last thing that gave me a good laugh was the game's avatar system. This allows everyone a chibi version of themselves and to Brain vs. Brain's credit, there is a vast array of customization options. Many of these options are unlockable simply for playing the game solo, against friends, or against ghosts and are a nice incentive to keep checking back in on a daily basis.

Brain teaser

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is evidence that there's still room in Nintendo's world for this series. I would have liked to see more than 20 mini-games and certainly would have liked to see more new ones, but what's on display serves as a fun refresher for veterans and a strong introduction to newcomers. The ghost system is a great feature, as is the ability to take on a friend with touch controls.

Hopefully, this is just the start for a Big Brain Academy revival. Until Nintendo brings this series out for another round in the future, go out there and declare that "The Big Brain am winning again!"


This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital code provided by the publisher. Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $29.99. The game is rated E.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

Pros
  • Easy, engaging mini-games
  • Simple and fun multiplayer
  • Ghosts add a new way to play
  • Lots of unlockable avatar pieces
Cons
  • Some repeat games from previous titles
  • Occasionally forced to use touch controls
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