Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree

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This review includes special guest commentary from my wife, Michelle.

0:00 I convinced my wife to play this with me so we could finally see who is smarter. "Oh we knew that already," she says. "It is clearly not me."

0:01 "I thank you most heartily for choosing our academy of big brains," says an amorphous, mustachioed peanut standing on a scale. He's "Dr. Lobe." Wasn't he a Bond villain? "Get ready to work your mental muscle." Dirty! "You'll never hear me yell, 'no pain, no brain' That's for lunkheads." Lunkheads?

0:04 The doctor says something through our Wii remote, but we can't hear it because the volume is too low. We turn it up and get him to repeat it. "Work that brain," he says. That hardly seemed worth it.

0:05 You "enroll" your Miis and get a student record book. Cute touch.

0:07 Mind Sprint, Mental Marathon or Brain Quiz are the options. The selection screen is a school hallway with all sorts of Miis milling about. Click on the Miis and they hop. Michelle is having too much fun with this.

0:08 We're forced onto different teams for the Brain Quiz. Boo.

0:09 The selectable games are presented on big cards. Michelle chooses first. Frame Filler asks her to choose the correct cutout section by studying the rest of the moving image. It makes more sense when you see it.

0:10 Michelle plays alone first. The remote says things like "Nice! Correct! Good! OK!" When she's done: "Really, that's it?" She got a 4. "Not bad," says the game. "I got the record? That's sad," says Michelle.

0:11 I get a 6 on the same game. "Way to go," says the game. Michelle's turn? She picks a Pattern Puzzle.

0:12 "It's not a jumble, it's a pattern, so put the pieces in the correct order." Reminds me of IQ tests in grade school. "Oops, I wasn't paying attention," Michelle says as she messes up the very first pattern. "Oh no, too bad," the game says kind of mockingly. Her Mii looks as disgruntled as her real face.

0:13 I get a "bonus x 2" for the Medium edition of Pattern Puzzle. I don't do much better than Michelle, getting a score of 1. It's tougher than it looks! "Such a waste," the game taunts. Stupid game.

0:14 Michelle picks True View and ends up with a Hard version of the puzzle. Study the side view, then pick the arrow that sees that view. "Oh my god, I'm so screwed," Michelle says. "3-D spatial relationships are my worst thing." She messes up the first one. "I told you I couldn't do that." The game demands perfection, apparently.

0:15 I get a 2 on an Easy version of True View. That one is tough, I say sympathetically. Michelle is glaring at me. She picks another card and... it's a Hard game again. "It will be difficult, so focus," says the game. "Do you get more points for the ones that are hard?" Michelle asks. She's not exactly happy with her luck.

0:16 This game is interesting. The remote speaks a food order, then you have to remember it and pick it out on the screen. You can also read on screen, if the remote is quiet. This one lasts a lot longer than the others. The timer starts with two whole minutes. Michelle is a machine. "I think you missed your calling." I tease. She smiles. "It's harder than it looks." We'll see about that.

0:19 Michelle finishes with a score of 7. It would have been 8, but the last guy spoke too slowly. My turn! I get an Easy version. Whoo!

0:21 So despite being much easier, I tied Michelle's 7 because I mis-licked on the ravioli. Grrr. Also, now I'm hungry.

0:22 The next game involves moving clock hands. Seems more about remote dexterity than thinking. Michelle gets the rare Expert level difficulty and nearly curses. It takes her a while to master keeping the pointer on screen. She messed up moving the clock 715 minutes forward. "Apparently I miscounted when I was rolling." "That didn't help," says the game. "Thanks, coach!" Michelle says derisively.

0:23 My turn. "Yeah, Easy, that was predictable." Michelle is not amused.

0:24 While Michelle's tasks were along the lines of "spring forward 715 minutes." Mine are more like "fall back one hour." "Yeah, I can see why this was giving you trouble," I joke. "F&$% you," Michelle replies.

0:25 Next up for Michelle is an Expert Frame Filler. She loses in seconds. "I knew you were gonna win, but I didn't know it was going to be like this."

0:26 After an Easy view finder for me the final score is Kyle 25 and Michelle 12. It's a hollow victory, though, since mine were all so much simpler than hers.

0:29 We decide on Mental Marathon next. We don't want to go through all the rules, though, so we just dive in. I mess up on the second game, a Rubik's Cube matcher. Mr. Peanut tells us we "slept through the snooze button." He's sad because we haven't tested our brains yet, so we move on to the brain test.

0:31 The test is single-player only, so Michelle goes first. Counting colored balls that go in a basket. Busting balloons in numeric order. Punching out blocks to add up numbers (she gets lucky on that one, since she didn't know how it was going to work).

0:32 That was only one section. Now she's on to Memorize. Keep track of birds moving about in covered cages. Keep track of people going by. This test is serving as a nice, playable tutorial.

0:33 Quote of the moment, from Michelle: "Horse cow cat. Cat cow horse." It made sense in context, I swear.

0:34 Identify next. Whack the mole holding the assigned object. Figure out what the scrambled picture is. Count up things with a flashlight. She's getting faster as she goes, but messes up a click on an obvious picture of a zebra.

0:36 Analyze time. She plays the Rubik's Cube game that messed me up, a Tangram-style removal game, and a multiple-choice pictorial quiz that poses problems like "Fish!" and "Has no wings!"

0:38 Visualize is last! Put things in a picture. Get the train to the exit. Which is different? The final one messes Michelle up with some tough-to-find twists. "That was ridiculous!" she says.

0:39 "I hope you enjoyed your first test. 'Big fun, big brain,' that's our motto." Mr. Peanut says his brain is 1,977 grams. The average is 1,400 after a week. First-timers often get 750. Drumrollllllll -- and: 1,089 grams for Michelle. "You've done quite a job of adding muscle to your mind." She gets a C++. I guess they know she's a programmer (rim shot). "Put more oomph in your pace," the game suggests.

0:48 I finish up the same tests as Michelle. I won't bore you with details again, but I will say it did seem a lot harder. The game seems to adjust to your level in real time, which is cool. I got 1,422 grams because I am the man. Also I knew what was coming and I have more experience with a Wii remote. But still. Grade of B. Mr. Peanut tells me to go faster, too.

0:50 Now that we know what the hell is going on, we go back to the marathon. Medium difficulty. I'm first. "DON'T SCREW UP!" Michelle warns.

0:51 I screw up... on the second trial! "Next time I'm going first," she threatens.

0:54 Next time through, we use teamwork to get to 11. "Propping your feet up in front of a fire. Drinking spiced cider. Is that what you think this is?" The writing is hilarious. Michelle comments on our record-setting performance: "We're #1. Because we're the only people playing!"

0:58 Third try, we get an amazing 21! "Ah the concentration needed to flip a delicate omelette. That's what you displayed just now. Great focus. I'm impressed." The time limit is becoming a factor.

1:00 Now to try Hard difficulty. It's over in two trials. Michelle laughs at the single ball that drops on our scoring table in a short cut scene.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes

Why? I love showing off how smart I am. Especially in front of friends. As for Michelle: "It beats the hell out of Wario Ware, which is almost the same thing. Then again, I hate Wario Ware with an ... unexpected passion.

This column was based on a retail copy of the game rented from GameFly.

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