Big Brain Academy = WarioWare + Your Brain - 90% of the content
What better way to improve the reputation of a console than release a game that is supposed to make you smarter? It worked on the DS, as Brain Age and its kin sold like crazy all over the world. Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree brings the WarioWare feel of the DS game to the big screen, but is there enough content to fill it?
The vast majority of the game revolves around 15 extremely basic mind puzzles. Now these are pretty much identical in depth to most of the games found in WarioWare (which had many more). The only difference is you don't have a time limit. You just play until you either get it right or make a mistake. These 15 different puzzles each have different difficulty levels associated with them. For example, in one game you have to pop a bunch of balloons that have numbers on them, from lowest to highest. In easy mode, you'd end up with 1, 3, 5, 7. In expert mode, you'd end up with -93, -47, -12, 0, 7, 108. These difficulty variations hardly make them feel like different games.
The single player portion of the game has two main modes. First, there is a test similar to the one found in the DS version of Big Brain Academy. You work through all of the mini-games, and at the end, Prof. Booger (that's not his real name) tells you how much your brain weighs and which categories you are strongest in. Besides that, you can practice any of the 15 games and try to win medals based on your score. While both modes are a pleasant distraction in the beginning, the 15 games get quite boring and repetitive after a while.
The multiplayer portion has a lot of potential for fun. There are three different modes here, one of which is limited to two players and uses two remotes, while the other two involve passing a single remote among up to eight players. In the first one, players simply race through a random set of games to see who can reach the preset total first. This is fun and frantic. It features a dynamic difficulty setting that adjusts based on the skill of the player, which makes for a great equalizer between rookies and veterans. In the second mode, up to four players can pass the remote around while trying to complete the most games in a row without making a mistake. This is simply a cooperative marathon in which everyone goes for a high score together. The third mode is a board game-like event where two teams (each can have 1-4 players) take turns flipping cards over. The cards each have one of the mini-games associated with them as well as a hidden difficulty. On a team's turn, they try to successfully complete as many iterations of that particular puzzle as possible in the given time frame. Some secret cards award double the points, so luck plays an important role here.
All of the multiplayer modes can also be played in single player, including the race mode. So how do you compete in a single player race? This is where the most interesting feature of Wii Degree comes into play. Using the Wii message board (and your Wii friends list), you can send and receive the records of other Wii Degree players. Obviously, you can use this as a rudimentary way of seeing who's smarter based on scores alone, but the game will also create computer controlled players to race against based on the skill levels of the people who sent you their records. So, while you won't be able to play against your best friend directly online, you can still beat what the game claims is a good representation of how well your friends play. You can even race against yourself in this manner, by placing your own record in the opponent slot. It's like fighting Dark Link!
That covers virtually everything there is to know about the game. A great concept that is very entertaining on the surface falls on its face extremely quickly due to lack of content. Some may say that Big Brain Academy for the DS really rode the coattails of Brain Age, and much of its success could be attributed to that fact. The brain game concept has been around for a while now, and Wii Degree needs to be more than just another game to make you smarter.