It's true, you know, Dr Kawashima is a real life doctor person - a neuroscientist, no less. Not knowing much about the man who single-handedly put games consoles into the wrinkly hands of pensioners, I decided to do a little sleuth work. Graduating with a MD in medicine back in the seventies, Ryuta Kawashima has a long and celebrated history in neurophysiology and expertise in brain imaging.
Therefore, I trust his hypothesis that movement enhances brain activity, and that partaking in arithmetic, logic and memory activities is more beneficial when combined with physical exertion. Brain Training mixed with Kinect is therefore a match made in heaven; a mini-game collection that stimulates both mind and body whilst offering improved visuals and multiplayer features. If consumers take to this like they did with Nintendo's DS version then we could have a Kinect-idemic on our hands.
According to Kawashima and his light-bulb shaped apprentice Wattson (ha!), I have a Brain Age of fifty. As a twenty-three year old this was understandably distressing, but as this was only my first official test I didn't take it to heart. As with its DS sibling, the first time you play the good doctor will throw three random challenges your way and grade your performance accordingly. He'll then structure subsequent daily challenges around your strengths and weaknesses, offering recommended activities each day. The idea is then to 'train' your brain, flexing your grey matter for future tests and then watching in awe as your mental age plummets. It's a game that incites the need for regular play, which is hammered home by the fact your grandparents are still playing the DS version five years down the line.
To get your brain into young and supple shape Kawashima is after, you'll need to exercise your noggin in several key areas: math, reflex, logic, memory and physical. As the title of the game suggests, each of the challenges are grounded in physical activity, which the Doc insists gives your brain a better workout. Addition is combined with a penalty shoot-out, for example, where you're tasked with booting the correctly numbered ball to complete an equation. Or you'll convert digital times into analogue using your arms as the clock hands. In other challenges you'll mimic the mathematical more than (>) and less than (<) symbols to compare increasingly complex expressions, whilst elsewhere your limbs become the bridges transporting red, blue and yellow vehicles to their colour corresponding roads.
Other activities swap mental gymnastics for quick reactions and coordination. One particularity entertaining game finds you guiding Pac-Man and Pooka out of the path of those pesky ghosts. With your right hand controlling Pac-Man, and left hand controlling Pooka, the idea is to coordinate both sides of your brain into keeping the pair safe. The familiar Pacman jingle that precedes each game will be particularly entertaining for fans of Namco's little yellow mascot.