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Big Brain Academy is the second in Nintendo's 'Brain'-style games for Nintendo DS. The intention is to help give your brain a good workout, where the 'weight' of your brain rates how big your brain is. In this game, you try to achieve new high scores in several different categories and then take a test to see what kind of brain you have. You join Dr. Lobe in helping you develop the biggest brain you can.

So how do you make your brain bigger at the Academy?

After creating one of four available profiles, you can choose to practice and earn medals for your work, or take a test and see what kind of brain you have. Do you have the brain of a caveman or Einstein? Test mode is where you find out. It awards you letter grades depending on how you do, and related brain types depending on your strengths and weaknesses. You can also try a shorter version of the test mode in Demo Mode.

What kinds of exercises are there?

There are five different categories, with each category having three different test types. Each test has three difficulty levels: easy, normal, and hard. The categories and tests are as follows: Think: A. Heavyweight - Touch the heaviest item. B. Pathfinder - Draw a line to help the animals meet up. C. Bone Yard - Look at the arrows and drop a bone where the dog will end up. Memorize: A. Sound Bites - Listen to what noise objects make, and then tap them in order. B. Flash Memory - Memorize numbers and symbols, and type them on a keypad. C. Memo-random - Memorize images & touch to answer. Analyze: A. Missing Link - Look at the picture on the top screen, and draw lines to connect the dots on the bottom. B. CubeGame - Count the blocks and type the total on a keypad. C. Animal Lines - Look at the pattern on the top screen, and trace it out on the bottom. Compute: A. Coin-parison - Touch the side with the larger amount. B. Add Agency - Touch 2 cards that equal the top one. C. Written Math - Read the equation and solve it. Identify: A. Shadow Shift - Touch images that match the shadows. B. Get in Shape - Tap the pieces that create the shape. C. Matchmaker - Find matches among the many cards. Each exercise has you tapping or dragging the correct answer on the screen. There is no handwriting recognition employed here, so if you can\'t draw a nice, clean letter 'e' to save your life, you'll be just fine here. Each exercise is just a minute long, so it\'s easy to pick up and play this game in small bursts. I found each minigame to be fun, simple, and difficult enough to be enjoyable without being frustrating. I have gotten all gold medals, though platinum seems to be out of my league.

What are the main similarities or differences from Nintendo's other brain game, Brain Age?

Being that Big Brain Academy and Brain Age were released within a couple of months of each other for the same price, and with both being published by Nintendo, comparisons seem inevitable. In Big Brain Academy, all exercises are immediately available; there is no unlocking, nor is there any bonus for completing all of the tests other than having a good high score. Though this is good for approachability, those of us who need motivation to keep playing a game of this kind will not receive it this way. There is also no notion of history. One of the interesting features of its cousin Brain Age is that in that game you can access a calendar to see when you played last, as well as find out your scores over time. You cannot do this in Big Brain Academy, as there is no stored history to speak of. There are only high scores. Another difference to point out is that Brain Age is specifically designed for fifteen minute daily brain exercise, so you cannot complete a training or practice module more than once a day. In this game, you can complete any exercise, at any difficulty, as often as you like whenever you like. The same applies for tests. You can retake it as much as you need to if you are looking to match Einstein\'s brain. Another important difference is in the presentation. Brain Age has a much more 'professional' look to it, and the brain ages and daily exercises devised have their basis in science per the studies of Dr. Ryuta Kawashima. Big Brain Academy's Dr. Lobe is probably not representing a real Dr. or any applicable research. They are just simple, and fun, mental games. The art style is also simple and cartoony. It\'s fairly lighthearted as well. After playing Brain Age a lot, it was a little surprising, but it\'s not obnoxious or anything. It\'s just not overtly mature like Brain Age. Both games have exercises that focus on math, memorization, and pattern recognition. Big Brain Academy has a lot more variety on those counts. Brain Age also has several word-related tasks that Big Brain does not. Many of the tests in Brain Age rely on either the character recognition to understand the players handwriting, or use the microphone to interpret what you say. This game has none of that. Everything here is done be selecting or dragging using the touch screen. All in all, I find that Big Brain has more \'fun\' tests to my tastes, though for some reason I find the tests in Brain Age more difficult, even when they involve similar tasks. Perhaps some of that is my terrible penmanship... One huge bonus to Brain Age is the inclusion of an excellent version of Sudoku. Big Brain Academy has no such bundle. That is a huge bonus for many and worth considering on those merits alone. As for an overall view of which brain game I prefer, I would say that the actual exercises are definitely more fun in Big Brain Academy, and are not as frustrating because of the imperfections in voice and character recognition you get in Brain Age. The variety is also more to my liking, though that\'s not necessarily better. The lack of stats tracking is a huge let down for me though. If that and Sudoku were not an issue, I would say that Big Brain Academy gets the nod for being more fun. With Sudoku and stats tracking being in the mix, Brain Age kinda sorta gets the nod. It\'s a tough call. I have definitely played more Brain Age because of the gradual unlocking and daily progress tracking, but I\'m also more sick of it over all. If I were itching for a brainy game right now, I\'d either pick up Brain Age for a game of Sudoku, or I\'d play Big Brain Academy for the fun factor of trying to beat my high scores. Though I will admit that you definitely get more of the feeling that your brain is getting a more methodical workout with Brain Age.

How are the graphics and sound?

In both cases, they are nothing spectacular. They perform the needed tasks without much flair. The art style is simple and cartoony. The music and sound effects are similarly simple. The music is nothing memorable, nor does it get too annoying as long as you don\'t let it sit there for an excessive amount of time. Nothing spectacular.

How appropriate is this game for Christians?

This game is perfectly appropriate. This is nothing wrong with exercising your mind. In fact, it\'s encouraged!

Overall/Conclusion

This is a straightforward yet challenging brain flexing game that is a lot of fun. The price is right too, with an MSRP of $20 new. Unfortunately, comparisons with Brain Age are somewhat inevitable. Which one is better for you depends on what features are more important. If your mind really needs some work to stay active, I can recommend both wholeheartedly, but for their different strengths. Even still, Big Brain Academy is a lot of fun for what it is, and I\'m sure you will enjoy it while keeping your mind sharp, and making your brain bigger.

Final Ratings

Appropriateness Total: 50/50 Game Score: Game Play 18/20 Graphics 7/10 Sound/Music 7/10 Stability/Polish 4/5 Controls/Interface 4/5 Game Score Total: 40/50

Overall: 90/100

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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