Get Your Wii Degree!

The Wii sequel to Big Brain Academy? for Nintendo DS? includes three multiplayer modes for up to eight players.
So, after all the macho remote-swinging and adrenaline-pumping punching that has become associated with the Wii — and that's just a description of my 5-year-old daughter playing "Spider-Man III" — my wife and I were eagerly anticipating the "Wii Degree" version of the "Big Brain Academy."

2Along with "Brain Age," it launched an academic avalanche of titles for the Nintendo DS. However, because the NDS version involved a lot of pen strokes and rapid-fire screen tapping, I did have some angst as to whether this would be an innovative translation or another frustrating port. Luckily, it turned out to be the former.

For those who have played and became addicted to "Big Brain Academy" on the NDS, don't worry about having to trace lines in the air within the crunch of a 15-second time limit — the Wii translation of "Academy" is a logically revitalized system with completely new games.

There are no tracing problems and anything that involves pointing with the Wii remote is done within the constraints of your standard "Duck Hunt" or gallery shooter. Sadly, there is no massive shaking of the remote involved, so you will exercise your brain more than your arm, thereby reducing your risk of Wii-itis (but also reducing the appeal of the game for my 5-year-old).

3Solo mode is the part that resembles the NDS version, where you can choose to test yourself or practice individual categories to hone your skills for another test. The five categories (Identify, Memorize, Analyze, Compute and Visualize) each contain three activities. Unlike the NDS version, however, the Wii Degree does not require you to compete against the clock (although faster responses will increase your "brain weight").

Instead, the Academy requests that you complete a specific number of problems from each activity in that category, starting from Easy and finishing at Hard. This is a significant improvement over its NDS counterpart, which only chose one activity from each of the five categories and tested how many you can answer correctly in the time allotted. Your brain weight, therefore, is calculated on a complete set of category tests and is not subject to the luck of the draw.

The Wii version also includes a group mode, which allows four or eight players to compete against each other in teams.

The "Mind Sprint" is a head-to-head race to see which team completes the set number of problems accurately and quickly. (There is also a race against the record time.)

The "Mental Marathon" is a relay to see how long you can continue the winning streak of answering the problems correctly.

4And finally, the "Brain Quiz" puts up a grid board that corresponds to randomly chosen categories or activities to see who scores the most points. This mode also includes five additional activities, which expands your mind a bit further. Occasionally, they throw a 2X (a la double jeopardy) or even an Expert difficulty, just to keep you on your toes.

What it all boils down to is that "Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree" threw away all the aspects of the game that would not have survived a translation from stylus to light-gun manipulation, and kept all the aspects of the games that strained your brain muscle (in a good way).

Add the standard "hook" to the Mii personalization interface, and you can be up and running within seconds of starting the game for the first time. If you're not into brain games, feel free to pass this by at the store. But, for those of you who like getting your brains lobotomized and placed on a scale, make an appointment with Dr. Lobe right away.