Anyone who hasn’t spent the past five years living in a cave with no access to media will know of Dr Kawashima. He’s the Japanese neuroscientist who has put his name (and expertise) behind the smash hit Nintendo DS title Brain Training (Brain Age in North America).
Kawashima has had titles released on DSiWare, iOS and PC/Mac as well as his multi-million-selling DS game and its sequel. Not a bad game design portfolio, considering games play a part time role to his full time job of being one of the world’s leading brain experts. This latest release, for Xbox 360 and Kinect, works around the premise that gentle physical exercise helps to stimulate the brain while the traditional mathematical and positional puzzles hone your acuity even more.
Anyone who has experienced the previous Kawashima titles will instantly be comfortable with this one. It works to an almost identical set of principles and with very similar progression and styling. The core experience is built around performing a set of exercises, set by the virtual representation of the good doctor, every day. Your “Brain Age” is tested regularly and your progress charted. Every day you get a stamp on your calendar to prove that you’ve completed that day’s training. Over time, your Brain Age should decrease and you’ll be sharper mentally and more able to cope with the devilish tests Dr Kawashima throws your way.
The first thing to note with this “second phase” Kinect release is that it seems to utilise the technology with a little more accuracy than the launch titles did. Space is still going to be an issue for those with confined set-ups, particularly when it comes to the multiplayer modes, but it will work well within the existing area you have set aside for Kinect play.
Following your initial test, you’re given a starting Brain Age and your first set of daily exercises to work on reducing that number. The game encourages you towards that channel of play, with Dr Kawashima’s avatar and his comic sidekick, Wattson the lightbulb, explaining the various mini games and tests along the way. There are also the options to just play the mini games for training and to play them with others in the multiplayer modes.
There are a healthy selection of exercises which are all variations on the theme of mental puzzles which are solved by performing physical actions. The Kinect sensor does a good job of tracking movement and is more than accurate enough to gauge your inputs. This is certainly not an exercise game in the same regards as EA Active, Biggest Loser or even Wii Fit but there is a mild amount of physicality involved.
Dr Kawashima titles are always entertaining and, in our experience, they do work to make you better at the tasks at hand. Body and Brain Exercises is no different, it will make you mentally quicker and more able to complete the exercises on offer. Your “Brain Age” will improve if you consistently use the software.
Unfortunately, the limited number of tasks included might mean that the incentive to return is slightly curtailed by the player’s unwillingness to perform the same tasks they’ve done several times already in the past week. There are increasing difficulties and there’s the possibility of getting into a high score struggle for superiority with your family members but even these options might wear out their welcome fairly rapidly.
The multiplayer aspect is themed like a game show in which each player (up to four) must step forward and take their turn at a random mini game. The inability to regularly utilise more than one player at a time is unfortunate but then, it’s also frustrating when you are allowed multiple players at once and your space requirements increase so much. Regardless, it’s an interesting enough format which should appeal to younger players or those who are young at heart.
Perhaps the biggest negative for this title is the fact that it is tied to a home console. A large part of the appeal of Kawashima’s DS games was that they were portable and thus could be taken out and played at any point when you had a spare few minutes. Body and Brain Exercises doesn’t have that luxury, you’re tied to the home console and as such will have to make a conscious effort to partake in the game. This could potentially act as another barrier in the way of returning every day to complete your exercises.
- Works well with Kinect technology.
- Potentially entertaining high-score battles.
- Lack of portability limits the appeal in comparison to the DS titles.
- Limited number of exercises may become stale fairly rapidly.
As always with Kawashima, the presentation is spot on and the mini games are entertaining and really do yield results over time. Unfortunately, the lack of a genuinely engaging multiplayer mode and the limited number of individual exercises on offer might result in a reluctance to return after time.