Just Flexin’ My Brain Muscles
Just Flexin’ My Brain Muscles
From the first time I played it, I loved this game. In many ways, I liked it better than Brain Age 2, which I also loved. Now I truly relish this opportunity to write about it.
As this is the longest review that I’ve written, I’m addicting mini-sections at the end of each category with a cursory list of positives and negatives.
My goal is to provide relevant critical analysis to help you decide whether this is one game that you’ll want to look into.
Released in 2006, Big Brain Academy
immerses you in mini-games designed to be both fun and challenging. While the graphics may look age-specific, the game is not. It’s challenging no matter how old you are.
So without further ado, let’s jump in!
Graphics: 9 / 10
-- Does the presentation work well with the education theme of the game?
While the graphics lack complexity, they are easy to comprehend. This feature is essential with timed exercises, since distractions are minimized. On the other hand, the simple graphics do have clarity, giving the game a polished look.
With childish graphics, such as animals, the game provides an elementary school atmosphere, full of fun and enjoyment. However, that does not necessarily mean it alienates older players, as I’ll soon explain.
The simple HUD and results allows you to easily check out your scores without trouble. With very clear choices, both in-game and with the menus, you won’t ever spend minutes searching for a mini-game; It’s easy to navigate and see completely.
I was not impressed with the graphics, but there’s little to complain about.
With simple graphics that provides a proper educational atmosphere, this category rates a 9 / 10.
- Simple and works well
- provides a school atmosphere
- Lack of detail (inconsequential)
- graphics are not impressive, only decent (ex. the animal sprites)
Sound / Music: 9 / 10
- Does the music / sound promote a learning environment?
I don’t like the title song of the piece; especially when it’s played through the speakers of the NDS. However, it does encapsulate the childish and vibrant atmosphere of the game. By using music that reminds you of a simpler time, it tries to bring back pleasant memories.
During the mini-games, the sound of the music tracks are virtually non-existent. Only very faint traces can be heard, so only the sound effects play. This quietness makes it easy to concentrate and was a smart move. Light music may have worked, but it would have been risky, so I agree with their choice.
The sound effects play louder than the music and dominate the mini-games. The sound effects sound very similar to Brain Age 2, so I would not be surprised if they were the same. They aren’t disruptive and provide positive reinforcement for getting answers right. The sound effects are never feel dull or repetitive. With the ringing of a school bell when time runs out, they too add to the school atmosphere of the game.
With music and sound used strategically to facilitate learning, this category scores high.
9 / 10.
- Not annoying or distracting
- Provides an atmosphere of school
- Annoying title theme
- Virtually no music during mini-games is a little dull (inconsequential)
Addictiveness: 7 / 10
-- Does the educational game entice you to keep playing?
With exceptionally fun mini-games, it’s not hard to spend at least an hour playing. However, the game does truly tax you mentally. While you’ll enjoy it, you’ll find that you need to keep it aside after a while and play the next day.
The difficulty does help with addictiveness. Since it’s not a pushover, no matter how old you are, you’ll still find the game a challenge. With time limits, it may not even be about getting the gold medal but complete as much as you can within a short time span. If time trials are your forte, you’ll get addicted to this game.
On the other hand, it is meant for all ages. If you’re horrible at time trials or very young. You still have easy and medium modes. Within that, you have bronze, silver, and gold medal. If you’re really, really bad, you’ll get the bronze on level easy. So what? You have an incentive to keep practicing and slowly get up the ranks. With this type of rating system that ranges from easy, easy to incredibly difficult, you can get addicted no matter how fast or how smart you are. It’s an self-improvement game.
As with most other great education games, this one suffers a sickness: inactivity syndrome. While the game is incredibly fun, you’ll feel the need to play it every day at first. After all, you’re helping your brain, right?
Two weeks in, you miss a day here or there, but you’re fine and continue the next day. Soon life catches up with you and you miss a week. That’s when this problem strikes. You feel that you’ve already missed a lot of practice and won’t be incentivized to keep playing. That’s truly the reason why I and many others have eventually quit games like this one and Brain Age 2.
On the other hand, multiplayer never gets dull. Playing against others in a match of the minds can get highly competitive. It’s likely that you’ll only stop when both of you are beyond exhaustion.
As a side note, I did find that the theme of this one makes it more addicting than Brain Age 2.
Finally, you will see improvements over time. That in itself makes the game addictive.
(If you comment and ask me, I’ll post my brain weight.)
While single player does decrease in addictiveness over time due to inactive periods, there’s still a lot of addictiveness throughout.
7 / 10.
- Fun, addictive mini-games
- Different difficulties keep it addictive for anyone
- “Inactivity Syndrome”
- exhaustion from mentally taxing mini-games
Story: N / A
While there isn’t a story, I don’t see one as necessary. By letting you choose which of the mini-games to play when you like, the game gives you the power to improve the various section of your mind. While you might have doubts to the extent to which your mind is improving, you should have any about the fact that it is improving. Relevant mini-games do require quick thinking and practice will make your mind faster and stronger. With the categories of memory and numbers in mind specifically, I mention this.
As a self-trained mnemonist in various methods, this game not only will help with natural memory, but you can use your mnemonic or loci memorization skills to attain the highest score you can.
Basically, the goal of the game is for you to improve individually.
N / A - There isn’t a story.
Depth: 7 / 10
-- Is there plenty to do?
There’s multiplayer, a test, and mini-games. The multiplayer allows up to eight players. The test only take a few minutes, but serves as an important assessment of progress. There are fifteen mini-games. Each of them have three modes: Easy, Normal, and Hard. Each of these have their own three medals to assess you. Without a doubt, there’s depth.
It’s not a viable to consider beating the game as collecting all the medals for two reasons. One, they do get very challenging, so it will require some practice beforehand and it’s not something that you’ll want to charge into. Two, you still have room for improvement as you increase your scores.
It would take several weeks of dedicated playing to find the mini-games dull, but if you’re competitive, it will take months. There truly is a lot to do and you won’t finish it in a night from it’s taxing nature.
With legitimately great depth, this category rates an impressive 7 / 10.
- three modes
- fifteen mini-games with three difficulty levels and three medals for each difficulty level
- you can keep improving, so there really is no “beating” the game, per se
- eventually you will find the mini-games dull if you don’t get competitive
Difficulty: 8 / 10
-- Does the game provide adequate challenge? Do the controls deter from the learning experience?
The game has legitimate difficulty. You will be facing yourself, so no matter how smart or fast you are, you’re being challenged to perform a step higher.
As you progress to more advanced levels, you’ll see how the difficulty rapidly gets harder. I still managed to get silver on my first try, but getting gold is always a challenge. If you manage to get 20 points in easy, expect that to drop to 12 or 13 at normal. There are definitely some where you’ll have to stop and think after drawing a blank, initially. If you’re looking for mindless fun, you won’t find it here.
On the other hand, in-game facets, such as controls or navigation, don’t pose a problem. The layout of the game makes it incredibly easy to find where you need to go. You’ll be tapping with the stylus on large buttons, so it’s much harder to misclick. As someone notorious for messing up with the stylus, there was only one time where I meant to tap a “1” and tapped a “2” instead.
Simple, clear graphics also posed no problem to difficulty; Both the question and answer choices were easy to see and tap. Without distractions, including music, you are really only limited by your practice and outside distractions.
Multiplayer does not make the game any easier. If you’re playing with a close match-up, this is one game where competitiveness will reach it’s limits. It may be something to do with scholarly pride, but the most competitive I’ve seen others get, isn’t in sports, but in intellectual pursuits.
While I’m a little ashamed to say so, my first reaction to the childish layout of the game gave me the horribly wrong notion that it would be the easiest thing in the world. Playing the minigame “heavy-weight” under the category “Think”, I got a silver medal. I thought I would get gold without effort and my only difficulty would be beating my own score, but as you see here I was very mistaken. Of course, I made sure to play it again with more competitiveness and got the gold (then got silver again when trying normal difficulty).
With true difficulty that’s not from control issues or bad graphics, the game challenges you to up your skills. 8 / 10.
- You’re facing yourself; No matter how good or bad you are, you’ll have a starting point from which to progress
- While individual levels get less difficult, the game doesn’t
- When playing opponents of similar level, it’s really not luck but intellect, making it challenging.
- You can’t play mindlessly; It’s a self-improvement game, you have to put in the effort (not really a con)
Overall: 7.9 / 10
Graphics : 9 * 20% = 1.8
Sound / Music : 9 * 20% = 1.8
Addictiveness : 7 * 25% = 1.75
Story : N/A * 0% = 0
Depth : 7 * 25% = 1.75
Difficulty : 8 * 10% = 0.8
Sum = Overall Score = 7.9 / 10
This mathematical comparison of important categories leads to an impressively high score of 7.9 / 10.
Filled with pronounced strengths, there were no large weaknesses. The largest strength was the difficulty, which really gave the game its appeal (graphics would be a close second). The largest weakness would be the addictiveness, where you might fall inactive and quit playing, essentially. I would definitely recommend this game but not to everyone.
You will love this game if you:
1. love using your mind in games, versus jumping and moving mindlessly
2. want an educational game that actually helps you
3. love to compete against yourself and others
I truly recommend this game to everyone who likes to think. It has this childish outside, but that shouldn’t make you have the same preconceived notion that it gave me. The layout looks like it’s meant to evoke memories, not target an age group.
If you’ve played the game, please comment / share results! As always, if you have something to say, comment!
Thank you for reading!