Dr. Kawashima's Body & Brain Exercises

It’s certainly a refreshing change to see a Kinect game that doesn’t fit the dance / party game mould. Despite the misleading title, the game doesn’t even slot into that other cliché genre of fitness or exercise game either. The inclusion of ‘body’ in the title simply refers to the fact that you have to gently use your limbs, hips and torso to play through the game. Some players might work up a sweat, but really the only muscle that gets a work-out here is that big grey one between your ears.


A game that get us up off the couch and utilising our medulla oblongatas is brilliant news. Long gone are the days where games were only designed for pubescent males trying to blow things up or save that princess. Now videogames are trying to improve our everyday functions and general well-being. However Dr. Kawashima’s Body and Brain Exercises has also forgotten one important thing. Games are also meant to be fun. Playing a game that frustrates, and even occasionally insults us, isn’t much incentive to exercise your cerebrum. Even if the game reckons you have the “brain age” of an uninhibited mountain ape [I knew it! - Ed].


In order to get the brain bashing underway, the game is broken into five cranial categories; Physical, Math, Reflexes, Logic, and Memory. Each one has four exercises making up a total of 20 activities and players can opt between three difficulty settings. Some of the exercises make an attempt at being fun, like the Pac-Man mini-game where you have to guide your yellow binge-eater with one hand while trying to avoid ghosts and grabbing fruit that appears with your spare hand. This game alone trains your brain for multi-tasking, hand-eye co-ordination, and reflexes all at once.


Another exercise called ‘Flag Frenzy’ requires the player to quickly raise and lower coloured flags according to the voice commands in a frantic but energising challenge. ‘Balloon Buster’ also works nicely with the Kinect technology and requires the user to pop balloons with their arms or legs according to the numbers on each one in chronological order. Other games require similar Kinect controls like kicking footballs or side-stepping onto coloured tiles.


But a large number of the exercises are less active, instead requiring quick thinking and a focused mind. Some of the mathematical activities will require you to do rapid-fire equations in your head and decide which answer is the largest. For example ‘18 – 4’ or ‘3 x 5’. In order to answer the player makes the ‘greater than’ or ‘less than’ symbols using their arms like a side-ways 'V'. The exercises also get progressively harder as well, with the end result being an intense barrage of brain twisting trials that you require your full attention. For the first time, this is one Kinect game you don’t want to play with distracting friends around.


This is also partly because you will get mocked relentlessly through out Dr. Kawashima’s Body and Brain Exercises. As opposed to Brain Training on the DS, this game takes a much more serious and abusive approach to get you in mental shape. If you fail a couple of times, the game will stamp a giant fail mark all over the screen and taunt you with sinister jeers. On one hand, I appreciate a game that throws away the kiddie gloves and treats you like an adult, but on the other hand, it’s a game that is meant to make learning fun. Although, judging by the photo on the back of the game's box featuring a family playing the game, it doesn’t look like much fun is being had by poor old Granddad or the son of the household.


On top of the sadistic analysis of your performance, the game also suffers slightly from the Kinect controls. Some of the navigation menus require pin-point accuracy of your arm movement that the Kinect camera can’t quite track correctly. The overall presentation of the game also feels clunky, mismatched and unpolished. Although the game uses your Xbox Live avatars well, the fonts look like they’ve been pulled straight from a Nintendo Wii game and the rendered environments are bland and lacking imagination. Not that these things should matter for an intellectually stimulating piece of software, but a bit of extra effort in the visuals certainly wouldn’t do any harm either.


There is plenty on offer in Dr. Kawashima's Body & Brain Exercises for those with enough patience and determination. The game includes an in-game calendar that keeps track of your progress and monitors your brain training over time. There is even online multiplayer where players are contestants in a TV Quiz-like game show for those who want to publicly humiliate themselves. But unfortunately this game will ostracise a lot of casual players looking for that enjoyable, stimulating experience Brain Training or Brain Age for the Nintendo DS provided. It was all very well on the hand-held console where you can turn a ten minute bus-ride into an engaging act of mental gymnastics. But unfortunately, the concept seems to get lost in the transition to the big-screen living room television.

"Floggin’ your noggin"
- Dr. Kawashima's Body and Brain Exercises
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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Comments Comments (1)

Posted by rebolta
On Tuesday 15 Mar 2011 3:05 PM
Maybe we should..I dunno...read??