Big Brain Wolf
Once upon a time, in a kingdom ruled by a red-hooded princess, there lived a young wolf. Unlike the rest of his family, this wolf was neither very big nor particularly bad. In fact, he wasn't too fond of eating people, preferring to eat vegetables and play chess instead. His mother wasn't too pleased with this, and she reminded him every day how he brought shame to the family. One morning her musical howl didn't fill the air, and the not-so-big, not-so-bad wolf knew something was wrong. Thus begins Big Brain Wolf, an adventure/puzzle game that parodies nearly every fairy tale and fairy tale character you can imagine, providing some surprisingly challenging puzzles along the way.
Big Brain Wolf is built from an adventure game blueprint and uses brain teaser-style puzzles to provide challenge. Point and click your way through a lush cartoon world, examining objects and speaking to NPCs on every screen. When an obstacle prevents passage, such as someone requiring a password or some activist sheep blocking your way, it's time to get solving. Puzzles range from the ordinary to unique, simple to brutally challenging. A basic hint system provides a nudge or two, but otherwise it's just you and your skull full of wiggling cells.
The story in Big Brain Wolf is one of the game's big draws, and it paints a deliciously complete satire of fairy tales as a whole. Watch as Pinnochio the lawyer tries to prove his client's innocence (and that he's a real boy)! Thrill as the three not-so-little pigs try to buy real estate! Chortle as every wolf in the game pokes fun at you for being an asthmatic vegan! The nuances in both dialogue and animation are deep and encourage you to click everything in sight just to get a laugh.
Living up to its "brain" name, Big Brain Wolf features half a dozen brain games designed in collaboration with neuroscientists from Brain Center International. Each one is designed to help with specific functions of the brain and can be played as often as you like from the menu screen. Earning points in these games scores you keys that unlock hints in the main adventure, so not only are you getting a mental workout, you're helping yourself beat the game, too.
Analysis: Big Brain Wolf has the reworked fairy tale feeling found in Emerald City Confidential along with the sense of humor from Fairy Godmother Tycoon or the Shrek movies. There's also a Professor Layton vibe for those of you acquainted with the Nintendo DS titles. From the game's opening through every puzzle and scene, Big Brain Wolf is dripping in parody, and you'll lap up every ounce of it.
While it may have a cartoon exterior, Big Brain Wolf isn't designed for kids. The humor will go over the heads of most children, the puzzles are more challenging than many kids can wrap their heads around, and there are one or two instances of mild language. It might be a good one to sit down and play with your kids, however, and with over 60 puzzles to solve across five chapters, there's several hours of game waiting to be played.
Moving around in Big Brain Wolf leaves something to be desired, as once you click, the animation is set and you can't break stride. Some actions require the wolf to move to a certain part of the screen, leaving you to stare as he lumbers across the ground, helpless to interact. This sluggish performance may discourage some players from exploring, as it can feel like a chore waiting for the wolf to respond. Don't let a tiny wait turn you away from going click-crazy, though, as Big Brain Wolf rewards the inquisitive in hilarious ways.
It's a bit of a surprise hit, but Big Brain Wolf hits the sweet spot between humor and serious adventure/puzzle gaming. It's more cerebral than the Sam & Max series, and more structured, varied and adventure-like than The Amazing Brain Train. This is a game you'll want to pick up for the writing and visual presentation but will love for its humor and great puzzles.