Drill Sergeant Mindstrong (EU: Brain Cadets)
WiiWare | XSEED | 1-4 Players | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points (NA); 1,000 Nintendo Points (EU)
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote
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17th September 2009; By KnucklesSonic8
The game contains two main gameplay modes: Basic Training and Focus Training. Basic Training is the meat of the game where players compete against one another to obtain the highest score across 4 events. The order in which these activities appear is always decided randomly (as are the previously-determined names for your characters). Focus Training simply allows players to concentrate on those same activities on a more individual basis. The game also features a Point Ranking mode that tracks a series of high-scores throughout the game, along with an Options mode to adjust game settings, such as CPU difficulty.
Overseeing all the activities in the game is a slightly-psychotic Drill Sergeant, an instructor who plays a bigger role than just explaining each activity. Every time a player does something that doesn't comply with the Drill Sergeant's orders, his face will begin to turn red, and because the instructor isn't very tolerant, you can only make a small number of mistakes before steam starts coming out of his ears! Once this happens, you could be sentenced with a penalty for not following orders. This penalty comes in the form of a "Punishment Game" and this varies from activity to activity. They're all geared towards the same purpose of slowing you down and giving your opponents the upper hand for your mistakes. Just by this element alone, the game takes on a more competitive nature than what's found in other brain training games and it certainly is welcomed here.
As mentioned earlier, the game features a total of 4 activities that one will encounter in the game. All of these are quite different in nature and for that reason, it would be good to consider them in brief detail. 'Hell Shooting' is one of the more straight-forward mini-games you'll encounter. A series of targets will appear on-screen and players will have to shoot certain targets, depending on the Drill Sergeant's orders (for example, shooting targets with odd numbers, or ones of a certain colour). To control this game, you simply use the Wii Remote's IR to aim your targeting reticule at one of the on-screen targets and press A to shoot one of 5 missiles you have loaded in your rifle. At any time, you're able to reload your rifle with a shake of the Wii Remote. The types of exercises the Drill Sergeant will ask you to perform won't be terribly difficult for anyone over the age of 8 but with 4 players racing to complete the same task, it can be quite gripping. On your own, though, you won't feel very challenged even on the highest difficulty.
'Hell Calculation' is a slight variation on the previous activity as it still involves aiming and shooting at targets. Numbered targets will fly by on-screen and Sergeant Mindstrong will provide you with instructions, directing you what to do. For example, he may instruct you to create a sum of 5 using only 2 targets, or he may simply ask you to shoot any target. Once you think you've done what he's asked, the player must report back to him by moving their cursor over his face in the bottom-left hand corner of the screen and pressing A. To add some variety in the gameplay, the activity will speed up at random intervals during gameplay. Additionally, along with the numbered targets, a series of other targets are thrown into the mix. Certain targets will freeze the screen, make the targets fly by faster and some will even allow you to mess up your opponents. Players will notice that the directions become rather challenging on the hardest difficulty so it's also great to see that, as it adds to an otherwise basic activity.
'Hell Roll Call' is the most peculiar event, whereby Sergeant Mindstrong will shout out a series of commands that you must replicate through the use of your Wii Remote. When the Sergeant yells out "At ease!" or "Attention!", for example, you'll be required to perform these military stances (in this instance) by holding the Wii Remote behind your back or holding at your side. Although saluting can take a bit to get used to, the controls work rather well so that's great to see. It's just a shame that the activity itself isn't as much fun as the other events. Additionally, the game doesn't challenge you as much as the other modes so many will find this activity rather easy. Others may quickly find that the activity is rather tedious, especially because it goes on too long. Although the activity fits in with the theme of the game, we can't help but feel that more could've been done with this one, especially in terms of variety.
'Hell March' is one of the more enjoyable activities in the game as it combines brain teasers with rhythm-based gameplay. Players must shake their Wii Remote in time with the rhythm and will gain points for doing so accurately. The shaking motion works best when the player imitates the Drill Sergeant with nice, high shakes. Sounds will emit from the Wii Remote's speaker to indicate whether or not you're the performing movements correctly. At random intervals, the Drill Sergeant will decide to increase or decrease the speed and this makes the activity interesting than it would have been if the rhythm were constant throughout. While doing this, players must also respond to single-answer questions posed by the Drill Sergeant. Players respond by pressing A to answer "Yes" or B to answer "No". Some of the questions are rather straight-forward, but on the highest difficulty it's likely that some will instead prove to be rather challenging, especially when time is limited. Although the activity goes on a bit longer than it should, it's likely that the game will stir up a laugh or two amongst groups of 3 or 4.
The aforementioned activities are what constitutes the main gameplay of Drill Sergeant Mindstrong and after playing through them all once or twice, some flaws begin to surface. For example, from playing the game the player will quickly notice that the presentation is a tad gloomy. Although the character models lack a bit of polish, the menus don't suffer from this flaw and are actually rather well organized, accompanied wth some very nicely illustrated menus throughout the tutorials. Thankfully, once certain conditions are met, Mii's are accessible and can be used in lieu of the default characters.
Although the game features a good level of challenge and balanced gameplay for all ages, most of the activities suffer from a rather notable flaw, this problem being that gamers will likely find that the activities available can stretch on a bit longer than they should. Some may conclude that the game can be rather unexciting at times, but playing with a group of people may rectify this, especially on the higher difficulty settings. Still, you can't help but feel that the game could've used more events instead of only having four in the whole game. With more activities, the game could have been an even stronger party game, so it's a bit of a disappointment to see this.
Overall, it's undeniable that Drill Sergeant Mindstrong is a rather unique party game. Although the premise doesn't sound like a winning formula, XSEED has done a great job at creating a moderately-fun party game that's most enjoyable when playing amongst groups of people. With some more development time, Drill Sergeant Mindstrong could've featured more challenges which would have made for a stronger WiiWare title. That being said, if you can see yourself playing this with friends on more than one occasion, you'll find that it's a fun party game, despite its minor flaws.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Unique military theme, two main modes with accompanying ranking tables, good controls, balanced difficulty and gameplay
Presentation 7/10 - Slightly-bland backgrounds, music is nothing memorable, menus are well done, models lack polish
Enjoyment 3/5 - Can be rather enjoyable in a group especially on the higher difficulties, more activities would've been great
Extra Content 3/5 - Mii support, some good variety, replay value for those who want to go for high-scores, fun multiplayer
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)