Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain Review
Back when the very first Brain Training game was released for the Nintendo DS, my younger brother and I would have fierce competitions playing some of the activities. We would pass the DS back and forwards attempting to beat the score or time of the other. That competitive spirit is what Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain leans into for this Nintendo Switch release, with a solid selection of minigames to spark some fierce rivalry amongst your family and friends.
Wrapped in adorable and colourful facade are twenty activities split into five categories. Identify games task you with quickly identifying and reacting to what’s in front of you, such as picking the correct missing tile in a mosaic of moving shapes or playing whack-a-mole to quickly hit the correct shapes. The self-explanatory Memory games task you with remembering sequences of numbers or images as they appear, usually as they move around or change order.
Analyse minigames require you to quickly assess information, such as counting the number of cubes in a 3D space or determining the heaviest item based on multiple sets of scales balancing different objects. Activities in the Compute category involve some quick mathematics or calculation of some sort, with one game requiring you to wind a clock backwards or forwards by a certain amount of time or burst balloons in number order despite their varying sizes and colour. Lastly, Visualise activities will have you determine shapes to fill in silhouettes, repair train tracks from odd angles and find the correct viewpoint of a 3D image.
Together they form an enjoyable range of games designed to test various parts of your brain. Just as people excel at different things in life, you’ll quickly have your strengths and weaknesses exposed by playing through all the activities. I was rather awful at most of the Analyse games but did much better with Memorize and Identify. Like anything in life, you’ll probably have a better time playing the activities you’re naturally good at rather than those where you struggle. Thankfully, regardless of where your skills lie, they’re all still fun to play, which is crucial given that the game is designed for you to come back for practice and testing regularly.
You’ll spend most of your time in Practice mode, aiming to get high scores to adorn your cabinet with medals. Each game will progress through up to six difficulty levels during a round, however, you eventually unlock a harder mode that starts you from a more difficult level from the beginning, giving you the opportunity for higher scores and better medals.
Once you’ve practised enough for the day, you can head over to the testing area where you’ll be randomly assigned one game from each category to complete back-to-back, after which you’ll have your results and stats visualised for you and you’ll get an overall grade for your brain. Who doesn’t love tests and getting marked? It’s a nice way to check your progress. Seeing the improvement over time should keep you coming back for a while, though I’ll note I did achieve platinum medals on several events after just a few days, so I don’t foresee me practising and refining my skills on these for weeks and months into the future.
If intrinsic progress doesn’t persuade you, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain has one extrinsic drawcard to keep you in the habit of playing – new hats! And not just hats, there’s also unlockable clothes and accessories numbering into the hundreds. Everything you do in the game, whether it’s practising, completing tests, or competing online, will net you coins. Every ten coins nets you a new random appearance-altering goodie, so there’s plenty to work towards to keep you replaying, even if you can experience all the different games themselves in just an hour or two.
It’s worth noting that the game can be played with either buttons or the touchscreen if you’re in handheld mode. Whilst getting used to the buttons is great if you’re planning on playing multiplayer, playing solo is undoubtedly easier with the touchscreen. Quickly tapping the icon you need will be faster than moving the stick to the correct option and hitting A every time. Something to keep in mind if you’re aiming for those high scores.
Your high scores will be of little consequence though if you can’t perform when versing someone else, which is undoubtedly where this game is at its best. Fighting for bragging rights about who is smarter brings out some feisty competition, and in my experience, the volumes and tensions can rise surprisingly quickly. Up to four players can play with a controller each, or if there’s just the two of you, you can turn your handheld Switch sideways and duel using one side of the touchscreen each, which is a fantastic option.
If your siblings get tired of you kicking their butt, you can hop online to play Ghost Clash, which pits you against ghost data of friends and strangers. This also gives you the option to earn your world brain ranking, with rankings reset each month. It’s a nice extra mode, but the option to play against friends in real-time rather than just their ghost data seems like a missed opportunity.
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is a solid collection of brain-teasing minigames that’s enjoyable enough alone but is unlikely to hold your attention for an extended period unless you’ve got some fellow brainiacs to go up against. That competitive drive to improve and beat your friends and family will keep you coming back once the allure of another cute hat wears off. If you’ve got some people to share the experience with, you’ll have a good time with this one.
+ Fun collection of activities
+ Competitively entertaining in multiplayer
+ Sideways handheld multiplayer is a neat feature
- You’ll see everything in an hour or two
- No real-time online multiplayer
- May run out of room for personal improvement sooner than expected