Sponsored By

Critical Reception: Nintendo's Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Nintendo's Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree, a DS-to-Wii transplant that "offers up too little for too much," according to some reviewers - a full range of opinions inside.

Danny Cowan, Blogger

June 13, 2007

5 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree, a DS-to-Wii transplant that "offers up too little for too much," according to some reviewers. Upon their international release last year, Brain Age and Big Brain Academy quickly established themselves as top-selling Nintendo DS titles worldwide. The two games continue to enjoy big sales numbers from week to week in the United States and Europe, while in Japan, both games were successful enough to spawn a high level of demand for portable edutainment and brain training software that continues to drive Japanese DS software sales today. Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree represents Nintendo's first attempt at taking the brain training genre out of the portable realm, in the hopes of duplicating its success on the Nintendo Wii console. With a mediocre review score ratio of 67 out of 100, however, Nintendo's latest edutainment title doesn't appear to be garnering the overwhelmingly positive reception of its DS predecessors. GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann maintains that Wii Degree remains a fun experience worthy of a score of 7.3 out of 10, despite the Wii's current glut of minigame compilations. "It's essentially a sequel to the original game because it doesn't duplicate the games found on the DS, but instead replaces them with a collection of new brain-teasing minigames," he explains. "Big Brain Academy is different enough from the average WarioWare or Mario Party-style collection to find its own niche on the platform that players of the first game should find enjoyable." Gerstmann feels that a lack of multiplayer modes hurts, however. "There's one direct head-to-head mode, where two players race to finish a set of questions first, though the rest involve passing the controller to get more than two players playing, which is kind of lame," he criticizes. "A proper four-player simultaneous mode might have been nice, but ultimately, you're best off playing the game alone and then comparing your scores with other players." Gerstmann asserts that individual expectations based upon competing Wii software may influence one's opinion of Wii Degree more than might be expected. "While fans of the Wii's other minigame compilations might find Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree a little more stripped down than the rest," he writes, "the game stands apart by simply offering different types of slightly more thought-intensive minigames." "It's not rocket science," Gerstmann concludes, "but if you're after something slightly headier than the Mario Party-style of waving the Wii Remote around like a lunatic while mashing the A button as hard as you possibly can, you'll probably enjoy your time with Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree." Craig Majaski of Gaming Age is much more critical, saddling Wii Degree with a grade of C-, which Metacritic interprets as a rating of 42 out of 100. "The first Big Brain game appeared roughly a year ago for the Nintendo DS and was well suited to the touch screen controls and wireless head-to-head play," he begins. "Can the move to Wii yield similar results?" The short answer: "No." "The game is pretty weak when it comes to modes of play," Majaski says. "The single player experience is highly lacking and I have a hard time believing anyone will continue to play after an hour or two of practicing and testing." He then describes the multiplayer portions as "fun," but lacking in long-term appeal. Majaski's review is marked by a tone of disappointment over unfulfilled potential regarding online multiplayer options. "Big Brain Academy utilizes Wii Connect 24 to allow users to send their brain size data to other Wii owners," he notes. "It's too bad that full-fledged Internet play wasn't integrated into this game as it seems like it wouldn't be too difficult to pull off." "Big Brain Academy is easy to play, but I don't see it providing much fun to a wide swath of gamers," Majaski summarizes. "Unfortunately the game offers up too little for too much and could have been up so much more. Perhaps a sequel will come out and fill in the feature set that's so sorely lacking here." Brett Elston at Games Radar offers a much more positive perspective (scored at 7 out of 10), despite agreeing with Majaski that Wii Degree's appeal could be limited. "On the surface, Wii Degree looks like a total cash-in for brain training and multiplayer minigames," he acknowledges. However: "Even though the premise is an obvious grab for lots more casual-player cash, the game remains a fun, frantic and family-friendly piece of software." Even though Elston describes Wii Degree as a fun experience overall, his review isn't entirely full of praise. "The presentation and minigames may hit the right notes for the most part, but there are a few negative aspects that tend to drag it all down," he says. The chief offender? "There aren't very many activities total. After one weekend with Wii Degree, you could easily have every test memorized, able to stomp any newcomer with zero difficulty." "It's not the most hectic collection of minigames around and it certainly won't make you feel any smarter, but Degree's speedy pace and 'I've almost got it!' nature are exciting enough for any Wii owner," Elston writes in conclusion. "Casual gamers who dug Wii Sports and Brain Age will love it - everyone else might wonder what all the commotion is about and go back to waiting for Super Smash Bros. Brawl." A multi-market hit like Big Brain Academy may seem like a natural fit for the casual-friendly Wii, but like many currently available Wii titles, its lack of depth may be a turnoff to those wishing for a longer-lasting gameplay experience. Critics advise that fans of Brain Age and Big Brain Academy on the Nintendo DS should take a look, though others might feel that Wii Degree's simplicity does not warrant a $50 price tag.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like