Deepak Chopra's Leela Review
Posted by James Newton
Take a deep breath
Kinect's incessant insistence that you get up and thrash about isn't to everyone's liking, but is a fact of motion control all the same: many developers prefer to paint with broad brush strokes, getting the general idea right rather than attempt finer detail and end up going outside the lines.
Deepak Chopra's Leela uses more delicate strokes for most of the short "experiences" that make up the package, relying on a gentle lean or roll of the shoulders more than a bigger, less precise motion.
The more subtle motions help to foster Leela's relaxing atmosphere, developed over seven games that are each linked to one of the body's chakras, or energy centres. Crystallising such a complex notion into a hands-free video game isn't easy, and it was inevitable that there would be such mixed results.
Some games do indeed soothe. Rolling the earth to bring seeds to the surface, bathing the trees in sunlight; the positivity is hard to ignore, yet it's simply explained and easily grasped. A flOw-like game where you guide coloured seeds to the nest has an immediacy that borders on being facile, but it's liberating to control, tilting your chest to link orbs together in a string of light beads. Others fall flat: in Power, you blast rocks with fireballs, juggling crystals to fill up an energy bar, while Intuition sends you down a wireframe tube to collect coloured lights.
While the theme is the same — fill an energy bar — the concepts vary in quality. Some feel like motion-controlled Flash demos, while others are engaging enough to achieve the game's goal of relaxing you, if not increasing your spiritual awareness. The controls mostly hinge on rotating your body at the hips, and while this often works well in slower games it doesn't quite have the sharpness of control needed when things get tougher. It's hard to shake the feeling the game was developed with the Wii Balance Board in mind; the inputs are often merely degrees of left to right, although some games do require upper body movement too.
By doing away with time limits and high scores, Leela's reward for play must be the experience itself, which isn't strong enough for repeat sessions: while there are seven stages for each chakra, the differences can be minor, with neither enough depth nor variety to entice you back after completion.
It's not all motion-led experiences, though: the separate Reflect area lets you visualise your breathing and ask the game a question, though you'd get more sense talking to Zoltar.
Deepak Chopra's Leela certainly offers something different from the slew of sports, dance and fitness games, but it too often misses its aim by oversimplifying its experiences. It's got fresh ideas on the surface, but underneath there's precious little to sink into.