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Big Brain Academy

Like its recent predecessor Brain Age, Big Brain Academy serves a higher goal than the blowing up of baddies or the racing around of Italian-made karts. Other games will help waste your time and sharpen your reflexes, but this new breed will lull you into a trance while sharpening your mental skills. Big Brain Academy actually attempts to weigh your brain through a series of exercises divided into five categories: think, memorize, analyze, compute, and identify. Your score at the end of a series of tests—one in each category, 60 seconds long—is given in grams: A meaty brain can be upward of 1400 grams, but don't feel stupid when your first test comes back at 800.

Each of the 15 games offers a fairly simple premise (count some cubes, memorize some numbers) that gets exhaustingly difficult the better you perform. Memories of standardized grade-school tests will flood in as you attempt to draw lines, complete pictures, or fit puzzle pieces into a coherent whole. Has technology really come so far that what once took several sheets of paper and a pencil can be crammed into a tiny electronic device capable of reading your handwriting and hearing your voice?

Beyond the game: One word: addiction. Like Brain Age, Brain Academy is a simple, potent drug that will call you like a siren to its bosom. Don't make any plans tonight.


Worth playing for: The moment when a little blob wearing glasses and a mortar board says you've got a B+ brain, a.k.a. "the brain of an investor!" Sigh.

Frustration sets in when: That one mini-game just doesn't compute with your feeble brain. Try as you might, drawing little lines to help animals reach their mates is tough.

Final judgment: Inexpensive and relatively guilt-free (you're expanding your mind!), Brain Academy is at least as fine a way to kill 30 minutes as Everybody Loves Raymond.

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