Body and Brain ConnectionESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
3.2 MB to Game Save
Kinect Sensor Required
The Brain Age franchise has done really well on the Nintendo DS since its arrival in 2005. Yet for one reason or another, those addictive puzzle games designed to sharpen your wits have not made their way onto the next generation consoles. Now with the arrival of the Kinect for the Xbox 360, Namco Bandai introduces us to ‘Body and Brain Connection’ exclusively for the Kinect. From the originators of the video game brain training craze, Body and Brain Connection challenges you to think on their feet as you tackle a variety of mini-games designed keep your brain fit and young. Does the game accomplish its objectives and is this game worth your time? Well, I will certainly give you my impressions.
Visually, Body and Brain Connection is nothing incredibly jaw-dropping and certainly does not push the limits of the Xbox 360’s hardware. That being said, the visuals do suit the game. Body and Brain Connection's emphasis is not so much on the visuals but on taking gamers through a series of mini-games. So up to a certain degree I give the game a pass in terms of its lacklustre visuals, which appear more Wii-like than Xbox 360-like. Nevertheless, characters look decent in the game and playing with your Xbox Avatar is enjoyable. The visual math formulas and visual cues in the game are all very clear. It is a colourful title and the menus are simple yet nicely presented. All-in-all, Body and Brain Connection is a decent looking game but not one that will be talked about in regards to how good it looks in High Definition.
As far as the game's sound is concerned, nothing really left me with any lasting impressions. On a positive note the voice work is very clear. Yet it left me wanting more. Body and Brain Connection featured a tad too much in the way of instructional slides. Reading about how to play a certain game is one thing but having the Doctor himself (Dr. Kawashima) telling you how to play each game would have made for a much more interactive and immersive experience. Simply put, I would have preferred an audio tutorial and more voice work. But alas what you do get is good. Also, nothing is incredibly innovative in terms of the game's music, which is repetitive and forgetful. Other in-game sound effects all seem decent, but again you won’t go running home telling mom how great sounding Body and Brain Connection is.
As you would guess, Body and Brain Connection does not play out like so many other games already available on the Xbox 360. There is no single player mode or online multiplayer arena. Instead, Body and Brain Connection is more of a puzzle game that asks mental questions requiring players to answer those questions by performing physical actions. Body and Brain Connection consist of 20 mini-games all designed to workout your brain as you move about in front of the Kinect motion control sensors. Whether it be moving your arms to motion which math formula is greater than the other, or popping numbered balloons from the lowest to the highest, Body and Brain Connection has you performing an assortment of light physical activities designed to sharpen your wits. That is essentially the basic premise behind Body and Brain Connection for the Kinect.
Once you fire up the game, you are greeted by Doctor Kawashima who will be familiar to those who have played the Brain Age games on the Nintendo DS. Before you begin anything, the Doctor takes you through an initial brain fitness test of your brain age. This acts as a reference point for further training and it is something the Doctor tracks each day you fire up the game. The test takes you through three mini-games which at the end determines your brain age which can range anywhere from 20-80. The faster and quicker you are able to respond to the various challenges the younger your brain age will be. I was off to a rough start with a brain age of 69 when I first took the test. But as I became more familiar with the various exercises the younger my brain age became. Seeing your age progress from day to day is satisfying but the game does get old in a hurry. The 20 mini-games were simply not enough to keep this brain occupied over a sustained length of time.
After I took my initial brain test and stamped by Brain Age into the virtual calendar I was ready to begin the plethora of mini-games. You can either play through “today’s recommended” 3 mini-games or you can scroll through all 20 mini-games available to you in the menu. There are three difficulty levels with harder levels becoming unlocked once you have played through the lower difficulty levels first. The mini-games are broken down into five categories: math, logic, reflex, memory, and physical. Much to my surprise there is quite a bit of overlap with all categories and all I can say is I hope your math skills are sharp as the emphasis is more on math than anything else. On the beginner level, the math questions are relatively easy but as the difficulty level increases the game will test your mental stamina. This being said, being able to answer the questions is one thing but responding using your body is another. You may quickly be able to answer a question but if you don’t move quickly enough you will receive a lower grade. In one instance, I answered all the questions correctly, but was too slow to answer each question. The result was a letter grade of D for that exercise. Was this a result of my slow timing or poor controls and responsiveness of the Kinect? Well it’s a bit of both but unfortunately the controls and responsiveness of the game was an issue far too often.
Fitness games appear to have been all the rage last year but Body and Brain Connection does not fall under that category whatsoever. You will not kill yourself playing Body and Brain Connection but the game does involve some light physical movements. Moving your arms and kicking your legs is about the extent of the physical movements. Being able to answer quickly however is an integral part of the game and where some of the biggest issues with the game surface. Most of the mini-games are very responsive but some are not. Often you are quick to answer the question but if you move your arm or leg too quickly the motion sensor of the Kinect does not pick up your movements. It can be frustrating indeed especially when the game punishes you for slow responses when you otherwise were quick to answer. Bottom line — the game seems to have a difficult time keeping up to your movements.
As I just mentioned, some games are much more responsive than others. For instance, one game has you guiding a coloured vehicle across a platform. This game involves holding your arms straight out and the vehicles travel across the platform as you guide them across the three levels. This game was incredibly enjoyable and very responsive. Other games such as the math mini-game that has you moving your arms to form a "less than" or "greater than" symbol depending on the two equations presented on the screen can be problematic. You have to be not only fairly proficient with simple math equations but your movements have to be dead on. It takes a bit of trial and error before you learn how to adjust to the motion sensors but once you do the game can be enjoyable. Yet far too often the precision is not quite there.
While the 20-games are stimulating and challenging the experience does have a tendency to get old after only a few hours. Granted playing with family and friends gives the game some replay value but the lack of single player progression or incorporating some kind of progression system other than simply tracking your stats from day to day would have been beneficial. Considering the price of the game, Body and Brain Connection does seem to lack some depth and seems a tad shallow. Nevertheless, I must say competing against a friend is a hoot and great for a bunch of laughs. Not to mention the game randomly takes photos of you and shares them with you at the end of the game which can be equally entertaining.
I should also mention, Body and Brain Connection is not for younger gamers. My 8-year old daughter had no patience for the game. Some of the math questions were too difficult and some of the games did not hold her interest in any way. As such I would suggest this title be left for adults or older teenagers.
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