Despite being only 25 years old, my "brain age" hovers around the high fifties mark. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's the truth according to Body and Brain Connection. If you've ever played Brain Age on the DS, this is the same concept (and the same creator, Dr. Kawashima) only it's built for Kinect. Designed around the idea that you'll work your brain more if you use your body, this is supposed to help your noggin become better, faster, and stronger. After playing for a while, my score went up and down, but generally stayed in the same range. That's fine, as I wasn't expecting to get "smarter" overnight, but unfortunately I didn't enjoy the experience.
Under the umbrellas of Physical, Math, Reflexes, Logic, and Memory are four exercises each (for a total of 20), with three difficulty settings available. There are some interesting drills to play here, like one where you have to multitask by guiding Pac-Man with one hand and grabbing fruit with another. Another drill tasks you with a round of whack-a-mole using your whole body. Some are difficult right from the get-go and others start out super easy (What's 5+0? Duh.) and then get harder a few seconds later (12 – 3 + X = 19).
After reviewing some of my options, I picked one I figured would be easy and promptly failed. Executing most of these drills, even on a beginner's level, is a considerable challenge. Part of the problem is that Kinect isn't always precise enough to track the kinds of movements the game wants you to perform. You often can't let your arms drop to your sides after hitting something above you, otherwise you might accidentally select something on the way down, which results in a wrong answer. The other part is that the game is just damn stressful.
While the DS version of Brain Age takes a kind approach focused on constant positive progression, Brain and Body Connection adopts a boot-camp mentality. That means if you mess up (and it's easy to when you're under pressure from the timer) the doctor and his light bulb sidekick will make fun of you and stamp a big fat "F" on your report card. I'm open about the fact that I suck at math and need more time to calculate in my head than most people, but the game cut me off before I had a chance to answer, which really annoyed me. Brain Age timed you as well, but the goal was to see how many you could solve in a certain amount of time, not if you can solve a problem in five seconds and if not you're screwed. Even if you aren't very good, that shouldn't be rubbed in your face in this kind of game.
On the flip side of the epic failure stamp is a round of cheering and a bright "A." So I did what any normal person would do: I kept doing what I was really good at so I would feel accomplished. Sure, bypassing the doctor's "recommended" drills for the day and going to the custom mode instead isn't what you're supposed to do, but I wanted to feel good about myself, dammit!
Brain and Body Connection includes cooperative play that takes the form of a TV quiz show, because public humiliation is so much fun. If you can believe it, these modes are even more difficult than usual because new challenges are added, like a mosaic filter so you can't quite read the questions or random Avatars falling down the screen to distract you. The doctor mocked us all the way, and at the end told my coworker Jack Devries that he deserved to be booed for performing so badly. Gee, thanks, Doc.
I thought I disliked the setup because I wasn't part of the target audience. To test my theory, I invited a coworker's girlfriend, who is a big fan of Brain Age on the DS but doesn't play games much in general, to try it out. I expected her to excel at the exercises and enjoy the game. I was surprised when her complaints were the same as mine: the countdown clock (which is present for most, but not all, exercises) instills a sense of nervousness into an already intimidating experience. Kinect wasn't responsive enough for her liking and the letter grades were a huge turn-off. Once she had satisfied her curiosity, she explained that it's not something she'd ever want to play again as she found it too frustrating.
So if someone who is more of a "hardcore" type doesn't want to play the game and another person who is more on the "casual" end of the spectrum doesn't want to either, who's left?