Review: Dr. Kawashima’s Body and Brain Exercises

Kinect Required

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.

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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.

Pros:

  • Works well with Kinect technology.
  • Potentially entertaining high-score battles.

Cons:

  • 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.

Score: 6/10

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11 Comments

  1. Nice review though I think “lack of portability” shouldn’t be put down as a con just because the series originated on a handheld. Like the title suggests, body exercises are one of the foci. You wouldn’t do these while you are on a train, right?

    • fair point but the fact that you can’t just do the little games and exercises on the hop is likely to mean you don’t do them so often, or at all and I think that is a “con” with regards to the aim of the game (which is to get you training for a few minutes every day)
      Hopefully the text of the review makes it clear enough that if you’re happy to be tied to the big screen and thus have to plan your session that little bit more, then you should enjoy it enough.

      • maybe they should make the game lock your system out until you’ve done your daily exercise :)

        “no you can’t play Modern Warfare 2 yet little Timmy, you haven’t done your workout yet”

        (doubt that would go down to well)

  2. I would give anyone who enjoys playing it a brain age of 1, you’re signing up to look like a fool when you purchase it. I’ve seen the trailers.
    Great review though. :)

  3. To add insult to injury, hasn’t it been pretty much proven that these things do nothing to actually improve reaosning or mental aptitude

    • My own anecdotal evidence from experience with this and with the DS games is that doing the tasks every day makes you better at doing the tasks… I don’t think that’s the same thing though ;)

      • Drinking follows this same rule. Excellent, it must be good for my brain :)

      • Haha, well put 3shirts!

        [Another comment for you Peter, not promising I read the whole article though]

  4. Nice review. I have never really taken to these games. After a few plays don’t bother with them again.

  5. This is really one title I dont think is suited to home consoles, much like your review suggests. Small exercises that take a couple of minutes are pretty pointless considering it takes a couple of mintes to boot it up.

    The great bit of the titles on the DS was you did it on the move, whenevr you wanted for however long you wanted. On a console, there’s no freedom allowed.

    To me, its just trying to cash in on the success of Brain Training from an oblivious casual market.

  6. The thing that kind of annoyed me about the DS game was that you had to play the few games initially available so many times, that it got a bit tedious.

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