Given that I’ve been back from vacation for a week, I suppose I should get around to blogging about what I did during those two weeks. After all, there’s nothing more fascinating to read than bloggers talking about trips they’ve taken!

Which, among other things, included playing video games. Bringing us to the topic of today’s post: Big Brain Academy.

Short version: much better puzzles than Brain Age, but I nonetheless gave up on it much quicker. Like that game, it’s focused around your taking a test alleging to measure how smart you are. This game’s test consists of a series of puzzles from each of five areas (think, memorize, analyze, compute, and identify); there are three choices of type of puzzle for each area, so you’re not seeing the same sort of puzzles over and over again.

And the puzzles are, by and large, much more novel than those of its predecessor. Some are counting variants: e.g. they show you a 3-D shape built out of cube, and you have to count how many cubes were used. Which you can do laboriously, but you can speed up the counting by mentally regrouping it into something approaching a rectangle or rectangular parallelepiped, at which point you can multiply. There’s one where you’re given a sequence of moves either of a dog or of some walls (which may or may not push the dog) and have to figure out where the dog ends up. There’s one where you’re given a picture and a bunch of pieces, most of which can be assembled to make the picture; you have to pick the proper pieces to use. Fifteen in all, each at three difficulty levels, and I enjoyed all of them.

Despite which I only played the game twice. (Or maybe three times.) I started playing it on the plane ride over – I was having a hard time getting to sleep, and there was too much ambient noise for me to be able to play Elite Beat Agents. A couple of hours later, I’d gotten gold or platinum medals in all the puzzles on all the difficulty levels. Basically, the game shows you everything it has right up front; it doesn’t have a huge volume of stuff, so if you don’t want to do that over and over again, you won’t be playing it for very long. And while I was better at some puzzles than others, there weren’t any where I either particularly felt like honing my skills, or enjoyed playing over and over again without improving my skills.

I feel a bit silly complaining about having game play available, but I think its predecessor made a better choice in slowly doling out the play modes, and encouraging you to play it a bit once per day. I could easily imagine playing it daily for a month if there were a bit more structure, and more stuff to look forward to. As it was, I got about as much out of the game as I was going to in a single plane ride.

I also miss its predecessor’s quirks, in particular the random drawings you had to do. And I have no idea why they didn’t include sudoku levels (or make a standalone version of that): Brain Age had a quite good sudoku interface, it would have cost them next to nothing to throw a few hundred sudoku levels into this game, and I doubtless would still be playing the game if they’d done so. (Liesl was still playing Brain Age until recently for exactly that reason.)

Ah well; I suppose I’m not exactly the target audience. It’s sold more than 4 million copies in Japan, so clearly somebody likes it.

(On which note, in this week’s Japan sales charts, you have to go down to the 36th spot to find a non-Nintendo console with two games. In the top 50, the DS has 34 games, the Wii has 6 (5 in the top half of the chart), the PS2 has 6 (5 in the bottom half of the chart), the PSP has 3, and the PS3 has 1. And the last two weeks have been relatively good for the PSP. It was pretty weird seeing Sony announce not one but two really cool things last week; I can’t think of the last time that happened. Of course, they balanced that out with the whole “no, we lied, the PS3 won’t be backwards compatible with the PS2 after all” thing.)

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