Brain Age comes to Kinect, but should you care?
Body and Brain ConnectionPublisher: Namco
Players: 1-14 players
Platforms: XBox 360
Release date: 2011-02-08
I bought a Kinect on day one, mostly because I'm a sucker for new things. Like many other Kinect owners, I haven't bought an additional game since the three that I purchased on day one. So far, I've only seen three compelling uses for the Kinect: a dance game (Dance Central), an exercise program (Your Shape: Fitness Evolved), and a sports/mini-games collection (Kinect Sports). I like all of those just fine, and I haven't seen a single other title that presents those core functions better. The weakest of the trio is Your Shape, but only because it is first and foremost an exercise program, and exercise isn't as much fun as something that is just a game. Thus, I had high hopes for Body and Brain Connection, thinking that it might add some intriguing mental stimulation to the workout experience.
It's not fair to hold my own expectations against a game, or in other words, for calling a game to task for being what a game isn't trying to be. A game should be judged on its own merits. Although, looking at the back of the box, it seems to me that one might fairly assume from the phrase "Exercise your brain... with your body!" (the ellipsis is in the quote, not an indicator that I've elided anything) that this program would exercise both your brain and your body. But, no! I'm not sure what the copywriters meant to convey, but a more accurate phrase would read: "Exercise your brain while using your body as the controller" -- because this is not any kind of exercise experience. It doesn't compare to the levels of activity required by Dance Central, and there's nothing like the cardio workouts that can leave me gasping for breath and massaging sore muscles that come along with playing Your Shape. But Body and Brain Connection is defined by activity levels provoked mostly by a lot of precise arm waving, some kicking, and a few other body movements. It is not an exercise program.
It is, in fact, Brain Age for the Kinect. Literally it's that -- with the same characters and look and rating of your brain's age as found in Brain Age. I'll state my bias up front and say that I didn't like Brain Age, and so for all the same reasons, I don't like this game a whole lot either. I don't enjoy doing simple math and matching and logic puzzles as fast as I can, and I don't like the alleged "mental fitness" veneer that it's all wrapped up in. And so I didn't really enjoy those aspects of Body and Brain Connection. On the other hand, I know those games have their fans, and for them, there might be some value to this game, although not at the list price of $49.99.
The puzzles themselves are varied and challenging, requiring you to use your body in some challenging ways. For instance, using each arm to control a different character on the screen while avoiding enemies (Pac-Man ghosts in this case) isn't easy and is kind of fun. Using your arms to mimic the hands of a clock to convert 24-hour time into 12-hour time is just silly and not much fun. The games are generally very hit and miss like that, and the production values seem more Wii-level than Xbox 360 appropriate. There's very little voice work, and the art style is cartoony in a way that seems budget-oriented rather than whimsical. It is kind of funny to see my outlandishly dressed Xbox Live avatar doing the exercises... but only for a few minutes.
My biggest problem with the game is that it seems much less responsive than my other (already not perfectly responsive) Kinect titles. I'd often find myself missing right answers not because I didn't know what to do or even because I didn't do it fast enough but because it just didn't seem to notice what I was doing. That is, of course, death for a Kinect game. It might be just the kind of thing that you need if you want to make your child learn important lessons about both math and the fact that life isn't always fair, even when you're right. I'm not sure that's what the designers were going for, but I am sure this isn't a very enticing game.