Neurogadget is honoured to be among the few who could try Mindout, the first brainwave powered brick destroying game before it’s official release. After spending several hours with the game’s demo, our verdict is absolutely positive.
Mindout, developed by the Dreams of Danu studio in the Netherlands, is a decent example of how to mix traditional gameplay elements (originated from Breakout, released in 1976, and Arkanoid, released in 1986) with the latest brain-computer interface technology, to get an extraordinary but perfectly playable and enjoyable videogame.
Dreams of Danu is an independent developer studio based in Utrecht. The team consists of four young developers with artistic skills, who decided to combine forces back in 2008 when they met at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU). Much like MindGames studio in Iceland (read our interview with them: part 1, part 2), Dreams of Danu is also specialized to make games that are playable with thoughts and emotions via brain-computer interfaces and biofeedback devices.
A closer look at Mindout
The demo provided by the developers is a PC version, but the final release is promised to be available on Mac OSX, too. The actual demo has a relatively small file size of 7 MB but loaded with a huge amount of fun. Having the option to choose from different screen resolutions and image quality, the PC version can run smoothly even on the weakest netbook – It’s not only high CPU speed and the latest videocard that can give a real gaming experience.
The basics of the game are simple: get the highest score by breaking the most bricks within 2 minutes! You control the friendly flathead monster shaped platform on the bottom of the page that bounces back the ball towards the wall of bricks. The horizontally moving platform is not controlled by your thoughts, but most traditionally by your mouse. Where brainwaves come into sight is your ball’s impact power! The harder you focus the more bricks will be destroyed by your ball. The current version of the game is compatible with NeuroSky headsets, all of them. Namely the MindWave, which is the newest, easy to use and quite affordable ($99) device, and the game is also compatible with the MindSet which is a previous construction, more expensive (and can be very-very annoying to use because of its unsteady bluetooth connectivity).
Focus, focus, focus!
Keep in mind, the ball is charged with your attention! If your concentration level is high, the explosion will be huge and highly satisfying. But if you lose focus and find yourself in a rather meditative mental state, you will destroy a few bricks only and get much less points. The halo around the ball adaptively reflects the changes of the player’s mental state, so you can check anytime your attention level just by looking at the size of the circles. The bigger the circles are around the ball, the greater damage it will cause.
But how to stay focused? That is a difficult question. After trying various techniques we must admit that we still don’t know the ultimate way of staying focused. We have tried playing from the distance, playing from short range, pointing a finger on the ball, spotting the ball with one eye, even playing with closed eyes :) – none of them has proven to be the winning tweak. So the best advice is: no matter how, just focus!
There’s something else that is as important as your focus level: the purple bricks. Hit them to multiply the points gathered in the blast they’re in. If you destroy 2 purples within one hit, you’ll get 4x of the normal points. By hitting 3 purple bricks at the same time, you’ll get a 8x bonus and so on. So the winning strategy is targeting the purple multipliers with high attention level – it’s so simple but makes the game really entertaining!
You can also find green bricks in the wall that give you an additional ball. The small green ball is not brain powered and hits in a small radius only, but getting an insanely high-score in Mindout is impossible without sometimes juggling with two or more balls at the same time.
Lose the ball!
Mindout has a fairly unusual but perfectly working rule that lets losing your ball without any consequences. So don’t worry if your ball falls down, you won’t die just lose a few seconds before the ball reappears on your friendly monster’s head. These lost seconds often mean a shorter time than driving the ball onscreen from an empty space to the bricks. So in many cases, losing the ball and quickly re-launching it at the proper place (under a batch of purple blocks) can be a winning strategy, too!
Pay attention not to run out of space! Just like in Tetris, where the falling geometric objects slowly consume all the empty spaces, here in Mindout the bricks continuously keep falling too. They re-spawn at the top of the screen and each new line of bricks pushes the others closer to the bottom of the screen. If a brick reaches the bottom, the player gets a penalty of -1 point. It doesn’t seem much – especially when your aim is to reach thousands of points – but little by little they can sum up to a lot of missed scores.
The luck may be with you!
Mindout is not only powered by brainwaves but equally with luck. Luck has been necessary in most ball games since the first Pong (1972), so it is not a disadvantage at all. Just bear in mind that for getting a high-score in Mindout you’ll not only need to focus like a laser beam, to hit many purple bricks, to juggle with multiple balls, but also you need a lot of luck!
All in all, Mindout is an amusing, high quality game that has managed to use brainwaves as real and perfectly working gameplay element. The guys at Dreams of Danu haven’t set unreachable goals but created a traditional brick smashing game with a mind blowing extra feature. Mindout not only takes a step further in the evolution of Breakout-style games, but it is also so addictive that it will easily keep you away for hours from the latest CoD or Killzone! The full game’s additional levels and features will definitely add a lot more content to the actual demo, so it will easily become a must buy, or at least a must try if you haven’t purchased your MindWave headset yet.