The year is 2009. Nickelodeon, the innocent cable channel behind |Double Dare, the codifier of the modern Children's Game Show, hasn't had a good new game show since 2000 (and no, Scaredy Camp and My Parents' GUTS are Better than Your Parents' GUTS are debatable). But in September 2009, they made a breakthrough, imported the Japanese show "Brain Survivor", and came up with BrainSurge.
The game primarily tested the memory and comprehension skills of the contestants, starting with six contestants trying to quickly figure out the numbers conveyed visual puzzles, entered on keypads. Then, sans the two lowest scoring contestants (who have to go down ... the Brain Drain!), the remaining four in turn play Level 2, where they answered questions from a story (from the "Big Book of Truth"), locking in by sitting on a chair covered in Whoopee Cushions. The first to answer incorrectly is greeted by farts, and gets pulled backwards through the (paper) teeth of a giant mouth made to look like Jeff's face. This then continued until someone else answered incorrectly, who also faced the same fate.
For the final round, Level 3, the two contestants play a matching game with eight pairs of pictures from the story. If a player fails to match, the other player can automatically win if they make a match on their next pick, who then got to play the Bonus Round. And the loser, along with the eliminated from round two, also got to go down the Brain Drain (which for the record, is a slide, made to look like a human ear, complete with "wax" foam. Wouldn't be a Nickelodeon show without unnecessary messiness).
Season 3 brought some major changes, along with being moved to Nick at Nite (before being moved back to Nickelodeon in October 2011), it is now Family BrainSurge, and is now played with five teams of two. Other adjustments include only playing 4 puzzles in Level 1, and the addition of a lifeline in Level 2.
- Bonus Level: Three floors, with 4x4, 5x5, and 6x6 grids. The winner has to memorize a pattern on the first grid, and then correctly step through the correct sequence. If done correctly, the same is done through the 5x5 and 6x6 grids. However, this all has to be done in 90 seconds (the clock does stop between floors), and making a mistake anywhere sends you back to the start. Each stage has a prize attached, and once you earn a prize, it's yours to keep, even if you do run out of time and have to go down the Brain Drain for "losing" the bonus round! Winners get a grand prize (usually a trip) and the time-honored You Can't Do That on Television green slime treatment.
- Celebrity Edition: Yes, indeed, with Nickelodeon actors playing for a chance to win a prize for an audience member (in Family Brain Surge, a non-celebrity studio audience member who is on their team) in the Bonus Round, instead of competing for charity. In celebrity editions of Family Brainsurge, the players consist of two Nickelodeon stars, while two members of the studio audience not related to the celebrity contestants appearing on stage serve to help the contestants in the second round if they are stumped on a question (see "Lifelines" below).
- Covered in Gunge: Contestants eliminated in the first two rounds and contestants who do make it to the Bonus Round but fail to complete all three puzzles within 90 seconds will invariably get this going down the Brain Drain. Bonus round winners get the more traditional and famous Nickelodeon green slime.
- Lifelines: In Family BrainSurge, each team is allowed one "Brain Fart" in Level 2, allowing the team to get help from other family members in the audience. However, what they say is automatically locked in as the team's guess.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Eliminated contestants getting sent backwards on their chairs through a wall (of teeth)?
- Golden Snitch: In the first round, the final question is worth 100 points, more than the other ones combined. Ooops!
- Time Keeps on Ticking: During the Bonus Round, if you make a mistake, you have to start over. You get to see the pattern again, but you're still on the clock.