Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain Review - Test Your Smarts

Find out how smart you really are in this series revival.



Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain





Reviewed On






Review copy provided by the publisher

December 17, 2021

Not to be confused with Nintendo’s other niche series Brain Age, the Big Brain Academy series has now been around for more than 15 years and is finally back with a brand new entry known as Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain.

Initially debuting on the Nintendo DS back in 2005 with Big Brain Academy, Nintendo followed it up soon after with a sequel on the Wii in 2007 known as Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree. Since that time though, the series had been on hiatus until a follow-up was finally announced for the Nintendo Switch earlier this year.

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is split into only a few different game modes, with Practice being where you want to start. While Practice sounds like something a lot of people would just want to skip in a game, here it’s essentially the Play Now style game mode you’d expect in many other mini-game style titles.

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Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain | Overview Trailer

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain | Overview Trailer

Practice is split into five different categories from the get-go, including Identify, Memorize, Analyze, Computer, and Visualize. Within each of these sections, there are four activities to complete, with each essentially being its own mini-game.

The types of activities vary in each one depending on the category, such as having to figure out what item is gradually appearing on screen in parts as fast as you can in Fast Focus or playing whack-a-mole basically to hit the correct items as requested in Whack Match.

Some of the activities can be a bit repetitive though, especially within the Memorize section, with Flash Memory, Memo-Random, and Reverse Retention all being relatively similar.

With each activity in practice, you have 60 seconds to play the activity and will rank up within the match itself based on your performance. This is dependent on each activity itself, but you will rank up starting at Sprout Class and going up through Beginner Class, Intermediate Class, Advanced Class, and Elite Class until you finally get to Super Elite Class by getting things correct.

For every incorrect answer or button input, you will be knocked back a bit and have to build yourself back up. Not only that, but you also lose points as well that can really hurt.

One thing that can get pretty frustrating is that you cannot pause the game during any activity. The + button on the Nintendo Switch will automatically stop any of the activities you are in and move you back to the start screen for that specific activity. While someone technically could pause to try and get an advantage at some point while playing in Practice, it can be a pain when you really do need to pause or just accidentally hit the wrong button and lose a potentially really good playthrough. However, this does mean restarting is very quick though.

Once you complete any single activity, all of your points are tallied together to give you what is known as your Big Brain Brawn. Based on that score, you will then be rewarded a Gold or Silver medal with 1, 2, and 3-star rankings on them. The game is good about letting you know your previous high scores and stuff too, so it helps with replayability when trying to beat your highest score.

After getting at least a 1 star Gold Medal on each Practice activity, you will then unlock Super Practice. This works in essentially the same manner as regular Practice, just with each activity having Super added in front of it and the difficulty is increased by starting at the Advanced Class right from the start.

From there, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain has an overall Big Brain Brawn score that it calculates by giving you five random activities to complete, one from each category. By doing this, you will be given an overall Brain Grade and ranking based on your strengths and weaknesses.

Similar to what you’d see in a game like Mario Kart, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain also has Ghosts that you can compete against in the aptly named Ghost Clash. These Ghosts include random Ghosts online by other players, friends online, other family members with saves on the same Nintendo Switch, and even specific Ghosts by inputting a code.

As the title of the game alludes, competition is supposed to be much more of a factor here in Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain. While the previous two games had multiplayer competitive elements, the marketing for this game has made it seem much more focused on that side than ever before.

From the main menu, Party play is its own option in the game from Solo. However, this gets pretty annoying when trying to switch between them. This is because once you pick solo, there is no going back at all. Instead, you will have to force close the entire game to get back to the option where you can even pick Party.

The amount of multiplayer longevity just isn’t there

When picking Party from the main menu in Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain, you will be asked how many players you want to play with between two, three, or four. While playing with two, you can even play on one single system in handheld with the touchdown controls.

From there, you only have two options to choose from in how you want to play, whether to Spin the Wheel or Choose a Category. Regardless of which you choose, you will also get the opportunity to select if you want to have anywhere from one to five matches.

Other than that, it’s literally the complete luck of the wheel or at the discretion of the player picking on which activity to do. There’s nothing fancy here, which felt really disappointing for a game that seemed to promote much more competition than ever before.

That is especially disappointing considering how the Big Brain Academy game on Wii had a number of multiplayer options, which Nintendo greatly skimped on in this latest version in the series. That is not to mean that you won’t have a lot of fun with friends here for a while, but the amount of multiplayer longevity just isn’t there.

For a game with the subtitle Brain vs. Brain, the bare-bones multiplayer is a bit of a letdown. Surprisingly, the single-player is where Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain really shines due to the well-designed and thought-provoking activities and their replayability due to the Ghost times and desire to beat your own personal best scores as well.

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Dean James

Dean (He/Him) has been a lifelong gamer ever since he got a SNES as his first game system and has continued to stay passionate about gaming ever since. He has always had a soft spot for most anything Nintendo, especially related to The Legend of Zelda and Mario series. Beyond that, he loves a variety of different games across all platforms, ranging from RPGs like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts to sports titles like MLB The Show.

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