In the modern era, it’s important to not only make sure you are physically able to take on daily tasks, but to also have the mental capacity to keep up with the evolving everyday environment. Nintendo has always liked throwing its own hat into the ‘edutainment’ game ring like with the 1994 release of Mario’s Early Years: Fun with Letters for the SNES that aimed to help teach the player the basics of the English language, all the way up until last year with the most recent instalment from the Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training series that released on Nintendo Switch, which took full advantage of the technology of the Switch’s touch screen and IR sensor. Alongside these titles is another series that came from the minds internally of Nintendo, Big Brain Academy. It has been fourteen years since we have seen a BBA (last release was Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree on Nintendo Wii), so can the newest addition to the series score a passing grade?
The core of Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain’s gameplay revolves around its twenty different minigames spread across five different categories: Identify, Memorize, Analyze, Compute and Visualize. While playing the games’ ‘Practice’ mode, the minigames (which stretch from hitting the correct image in a whack-a-mole scenario to adjusting a clock face according to instruction) last for sixty seconds each as you try to complete the set task as quickly and accurately as possible. If you did play the DS or Wii games from the BBA series, a lot of these minigames will be very familiar, being direct replicas of those from previous games with a fresh coat of paint. As you correctly complete tasks, you will earn points that go towards your big brain brawn score. The more you correctly complete tasks the harder the tasks will become with the added chance of gaining more points, however failing a task means you will lose some of your accrued points. The score you end up with will determine what medal you get to show your proficiency in that game. You will also collect coins upon completing minigames that will unlock cosmetic options for your in-game avatar, and with well over one hundred unique items to unlock you can make your avatar look either as close to you IRL or as outlandish as you want. BBA:BvB also includes a few other game modes including ‘Super Practice’ (the same as practice mode but focused only on the higher difficulty puzzles), ‘Test’ (where you take on one mini game from each category to determine your overall ‘Brain Score’) and ‘Ghost Clash’, the mode most closely aligned with the game’s subtitle, Brain vs. Brain.
From humble beginnings…
…To some slightly greater heights!
Ghost Clash offers players the chance to flex their brains against random people all over the world. Players’ ghost data is uploaded to the cloud and as long as you have a Nintendo Online membership, you can take on any of these ghosts. Before each face-off you’ll get to see your opponent’s age, greeting message and avatar. Instead of a sixty second timer, you are now racing to finish each task faster than your opponent in order to gain the maximum amount of points. As you accrue these points, you will increase your point total and you can try your best to rise in the monthly cycling worldwide rankings. Winning against ghosts will also net you coins for cosmetic unlocks, with wins against especially brainy ghosts allowing you to pocket bonus coins. Not only can you versus random players, but the Ghost Clash mode gives you an option to directly versus people on your friends list or even specific people via a Ghost ID.
But even with online being the major focus for most developers these days, we have also been graced with the option of multiplayer for up to four players locally. With three to four players, you will need separate game controllers for each participant whereas for a head-to-head two player battle you have the option to use either game controllers or the Switch’s touch display. Touch controls are also available when playing solo and definitely help (at least in my personal experience) to really up your reaction speeds and maximise your chances at a big brain score. During local multiplayer matches you can either choose to play mini games at random or if you have some personal favourites, you can also choose them directly. Before you jump into the game, it’ll also give you the option to select what difficulty of puzzles you would like to receive (giving those who like to play alongside their children or younger siblings the option to give themselves a bit of a brain stretch to keep things interesting).
The edutainment genre of games is truly one that has its place in gaming culture. But, with no true gameplay ‘gimmick’ that takes advantage of the Switch’s hardware, it’s kinda hard to see BBA:BvB as little more than Nintendo diving deep into their first-party IP vault, picking something out at random and slapping a fresh coat of paint on it. The addition of a competitive online leaderboard is a fun one to the series, but definitely would be a hard sell to get those who haven’t already purchased a membership to do so just to experience this option. I really just don’t think this is the big brain move that Nintendo was hoping for.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher
- Nintendo Switch
- December 3, 2021