There are a lot of educational games out there, some better than others, but those that are enjoyable aren’t great teachers. The ones that do have useful things to learn are almost uniformly dull, so the lessons don’t really stick. What better way to make learning fun than to turn it into a competition? Nintendo’s Big Brain Academy series hasn’t been seen in a while, but can this new take on the genre make learning both fun and worthwhile?
Brain vs. Brain is, in essence, a minigame collection. After creating an adorable avatar, you can then train your brain by playing one of the 20 minigames separated into five categories: Identify, Memorize, Analyze, Compute, and Visualize. These cover a wide variety of skills, like being able to identify an animal from a limited view, putting together a puzzle from a silhouette, or laying train tracks from odd, 3D angles. All of these serve to improve critical thinking in their specified field. The minigames are also timed, with difficulty and points increasing based on how many you can correctly answer within the time limit, so you’re constantly improving both in speed and accuracy.
I’m not a teacher or doctor or anything, so I don’t have any real authority, but with that I’d say the game’s educational value is pretty decent. It’s also kinda fun! Sure, there are a few minigames I just don’t like, such as Shadow Shift and Cubegame, but there are enough of them to let you flex your mind muscles in enjoyable ways. If you want to unlock everything though, you’ll have to get at least a gold medal in every minigame in Practice to unlock the Super Practice mode, which simply starts you at a few difficulty levels higher than Sprout, which is for actual babies (you can toggle this for all questions in the options if your baby is playing). I have not done so yet, but I doubt there is incentive for getting gold in every Super Practice minigame.
Instead, as the title implies, the focus is on multiplayer. If you have multiple accounts “enrolled”, you and your family/friends can locally go head to head competing in the minigames, with the player with the most points after a certain number of rounds winning. It’s pretty simple, and you can either choose the minigames manually or by roulette. The meat here lies in the online, playing against ghosts of friends and strangers in Ghost Clash. In the main section here, you face off against real player’s ghosts (or recordings of them playing, in a sense) in one minigame of each category. If you answer first and correctly, you get 20 points. A second yet correct answer will earn 8 points, while an incorrect answer receives nothing. If you reach 100 points before the ghost, you win and increase your global rank for that month. It’s a pretty simple concept, but very addictive in practice and fun to get into the habit of putting your brain to the test at least once a day in an effort to be the very best.
Battling a ghost in every category, practicing, doing a daily test, or a variety of other activities will also reward you with coins. For every ten coins, you receive a random cosmetic item to adorn your avatar. While the randomness makes it difficult to find outfits you like, there are a massive amount of shirts, dresses, hats, and accessories that always make it fun to see what you’ll get next. There’s not a huge amount of detail here, but the art style and animations make your character feel unique when combined with what customization there is.
While I think Brain vs. Brain achieves what it sets out to do, it is a bit lacking in terms of single player content. Unless you subscribe to NSO to download those ghosts, you’ll just be stuck practicing and doing the daily tests (basically the same as Ghost Clash but you’re graded and sans ghosts) which is far from enough to make this worthwhile. Given that the service is still lackluster and only seems to be getting worse/more expensive, this game would be a hard sell for someone who doesn’t already play online.
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is a fun way to exercise your brain regularly. The competition aspect keeps the game fun and engaging if the single player isn’t up to snuff.