Leela - XBox Kinect - Nintendo Wii Review

Written by Matthew Teague Miller.

I have seen it all! said one of my yoga-teaching friends after seeing the handbook for the incredible new Xbox Kinect game from Deepak Chopra, 'Leela'. I too thought I had seen it all, until I spent an evening exploring the many facets of this game. In fact, while 'Leela' certainly has moments that feel like a traditional video game, I would call it a wellness tool, more than a game.

Leela Xbox Game

Deepak Chopra, the spiritual juggernaut who has raised awareness in the West about yoga, ayurvedic practices, meditation and alternative approaches to mind/body health and medicine has tapped into something new and very exciting here. With 'Leela' (Sanskrit for play) he and his creative team have given us a fully interactive way to achieve harmony within ourselves and our bodies, on an Xbox Kinect (also available for the Wii) through the playful unlocking of our spiritual energy centers, known as chakras.

7 Chakras, 7 Mini-games

There are seven stages to 'Leela', each one focusing on a different chakra. Each stage has several mini- levels you play through by moving your body in specific ways to help unlock your chakra (and pass the level). For example, in the first stage, we are seeking to unlock our root chakra, known as muladhara. To do this, we must help balance a planet on the screen, between the moon and sun, by gently moving our hips from left to right. The mechanics are very simple, but even a slight movement of the hips creates a tremendous shift on the planet you are interacting with on the screen. This is true for all movements through the game: gentle, focused movement will reward your experience, flail and you will lose the bead of the level and your progress will suffer for it.

Each stage has an interactive tutorial, and once you complete the tutorial for a chakra, you can begin work on that chakra's game stage. You do not, as you may do in your meditation or yogic practice, need to move from bottom to top chakras. If, for example, you wish to go straight to the heart chakra, just complete the tutorial for that chakra and get to work.

Each chakra stage has a distinct gaming style, with its own challenges, getting progressively more complex from mini-stage to mini-stage. From a purely gaming point of view, the action is slow and deliberate, which may not be a gaming purist's ideal type of game. But writing as someone who plays FPS's, RPG's and is a practiced yogi and meditator, I have to say this game hit my sweet spot and I found myself hooting with joy from time to time as I moved through different stages. I found the interactive quality of this game very affecting, and truly felt elevated, spiritually and physically, after playing through a few chakras.

Stillness Meditation

There is much more than stunning graphics, clever gameplay and truly profound physical results to be found in 'Leela'. There is another side to this game, where Deepak Chopra leads guided meditations, of which I did several, and found them to be wonderful too. But even more engaging was the Stillness Meditation component of the game. Yogi's may be familiar with this practice as pranayama, the Kinect system reads every movement of your body, and you get real-time feedback from 'Leela' about your posture, position, and breathing. It is like having a private instructor there with you. Remarkable.

Another fun portion of the game is creating your own mandala, which you can then share via Facebook. It is not a huge part of the game, but your mandala (which you can change at any time) follows you through the game.

Final thoughts

I have read some other reviews of the game, which seemed to miss the point. From a purely gaming point of view, 'Leela' is sure to disappoint as it is all about evoking balance between chakras, which by it's nature is something you can't shoot, punch, or kick, so on that front, it may not be well-suited to people who want an action-oriented game. However, if you want to have a personal instructor for meditation, pranayama and also open up your chakras in a new and very real way, this game is a wonderful tool.

The visuals are truly stunning, some of the best I have seen for a Kinect game, and very creative. The music is engaging and soothing without being overwhelming, and increases in complexity as you pass various levels within a stage. Chopra's own familiar voice is guiding the user throughout the game, as is the dulcet voice of Elena Brower, yoga instructor-extraordinaire.

'Leela' is a remarkable achievement, and sets the stage for some truly incredible possibilities for the Kinect system, and repeated use will reward the player not only with improved mind/body balance, but also a greater understanding of the chakras and their roles in our lives. It might even entice some video game-phobic yogi's to try something that is different and off the mat, but also very rewarding.

Scoring from 1-10

Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 8
Audio: 9
Replay value: 10
Total score: 8.75

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