Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree

Finally, waving a wand makes you smarter - take that, Harry Potter

The fundamental concept of physical weight training is actually that you use the muscle in question - say, your biceps - so much that it is exhausted, gets injured and heals up bigger and stronger. This is important because Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree borrows this premise, then applies it to your gray matter. It may be fun, but make no mistake: this game wants to injure your brain.

The method the game uses to create this synaptic apocalypse is by subjecting you to 15 different mini-games, often in quick, timed sessions, with the whole affair presided over by a little dude who looks like Mr. Peanut. It's an approach very similar to its DS predecessor, though all 15 games are different. However, we've subjected ourselves to all of them, just to warn you what's about to happen.

There are five basic categories, the first of which is Identify. It subjects you to events like Whack Match, a sort of whack-a-mole variant in which you're charged with hitting specific targets, and Species Spotlight, in which you point the Wii-mote like a flashlight at a scene with perhaps 30 animals in it, then tell the game whether there are more bats than frogs and flies, and so on. Then comes Fast Focus, in which you'll see a picture that starts our blurry, pixellated, or otherwise messed up, and which will slowly come into focus. The more quickly you can figure out which animal it's a picture of, the better.

The second category is Memorize, and it's a little rougher (for us, at least). Covered Cages is a hellish shell game - there are six, or maybe nine cages, and you're shown which ones have birds. They're shuffled, and then you have to point out where the birds are. Face Case will show a hot air balloon with three kids in it wafting quickly by, then show you three very similar faces and ask which kid was in the balloon. Finally, Reverse Retention is a sort of Simon-like pattern-matching game in which you repeat a sequence backward.

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