Body and Brain Connection Review
Given the insidious “edutainment” focus for Kinect’s launch library, it was only a matter of time before a game like Body and Brain Connection came along. Built upon the principle that one’s body and brain can be optimally developed in tandem, this game is predictably centered on a series of mini-games, each designed to hone your cognitive powers while keeping you physically active. Since Body and Brain Connection was not created as an exercise supplement, it sometimes overlooks the player’s tendency to tire out, and it’s surprising just how physically taxing some of these activities can be.
The cartoonish avatar-friendly universe is introduced by your mild-mannered Japanese lab coated friend, Dr. Kawashima, who is accompanied by a living light bulb of ambiguous gender (think Spongebob Squarepants, only less amusing). How the good doctor came upon this monstrosity of modern science is unclear; all we know is that this creature comes across as far more annoying than cute. All tutorials and instructions are read as text, and the only voice-overs are quick bursts of expression from either character, which become repetitive very early on—especially, as you might guess, from the light bulb.
Given the unusual format of certain games, it is unfortunate that some of the text tutorials here are poorly written. It reads a bit awkwardly at times, as though the game could have benefited from a proper English translation. The navigation itself can also be cumbersome, as small yet sensitive “switches” will scroll through pages, sometimes sending you to places you didn’t mean to go. Still, after the initial frustration wears off, the games are easy to grasp and quite challenging to master.
The library of mini-games is divided into several broader categories such as “math” and “logic.” You can play these with a fair amount of freedom, and your progress is “rewarded” with access to higher difficulty levels. Many of the games are designed, sometimes explicitly, with the intention of testing multiple aspects of your mind at once, even going so far as to mention the specifically targeted brain lobe. This also makes the categorical arrangement somewhat tricky, but the game names are cute and catchy and their premises are generally easy to grasp after the first few efforts.
As always, there is the issue of discrepancy in educational standards between countries. Essentially, if you’re an American playing a Japanese brain game, you may have cause to worry. One game type requires you to convert a digital military-style time into the proper positioning of arms on a clock—your arms controlling the clock arms, naturally. This sounds like a great premise, especially for many young people who are more accustomed to digital clocks. However, the use of military time creates an unexpected layer of challenge that some might find irritating. A digital time of 22:30 is really 10:30 for example, and it’s easy to become flustered since you’re solving as many as you can before the timer runs out. Though its applicability to real-life could be questioned, those who stick with the games at least have some assurance that their brains are getting a good workout.
One particularly memorable challenge tests your ability to “multitask”—or perform two separate tasks simultaneously—using Namco’s beloved Pac-Man environment. The left hand tracks a floating fruit in order to increase the score, while the right hand must steer Pac-Man clear of the ghosts. More ghosts and faster fruit ensure the game becomes more intense with each passing moment. Pretty soon, the player should come to realize what psychologists have been telling us all these years: You can’t multitask; you only think you can because you are a very confident idiot. Splitting up the brain’s resources into two separate tasks reduces the performance on each task, and this game is a much safer avenue for learning this lesson than, say, texting your BFFs while cruising down the highway. Dr. Kawashima claims this game will, like all other games, help develop certain cognitive skills, but please don’t take this as a free pass to do stupid things on the road.
Most of the titles packed in Body and Brain Connection successfully strike the sweet spot between cerebral challenge and enjoyable, reflex-based play. The presentation is no more sophisticated than Kinect Adventures, and the color palette is very simple. This allows the game to load very quickly, so it maintains a nice flow. The music and voice-overs are still rather unpleasantly repetitive, however. The overly sensitive navigation also spills into the game at times, resulting in many frustrating false positives. Highly motivated players might be drawn to the progress-tracking charts, and an assortment of multiplayer games allow up to four people to join in, significantly extending the title’s longevity. For those that enjoy the genre, Body and Brain Connection offers a wealth of activities, and the integration of Kinect ensures these games are engaging on a whole new level.