Left Brain, Right Brain for the Nintendo DS
Reviewed March 2008 by Edmund Wong
Scientists who study the brain have known for ages that the left brain controls creativity and the right brain controls our logic. Left Brain, Right Brain aims to improve both, and at the same time, make ourselves ambidextrous.
With the success of games like Brain Age and Big Brain Academy, it seems that developers everywhere are cashing in on the "Brain" catchword, much like the 'i' in front of every word in the late 90's. They believe that any game with the word "Brain" in it will do well. Left Brain, Right Brain has two "Brains" in it. So is it twice as good and twice as fun?
Gameplay is very simple. Similar to Brain Age, you can take some tests to see how you have improved over time, or you can do exercises to improve your ambidexterity. When you first perform any of the tasks, you will be asked to use your dominant hand to provide a benchmark for your non-dominant hand. After that, you are to perform the same task again, only this time, you switch hands.
In exercise mode, you have a choice of five levels, each with three tasks, for a total of 15 exercises. It could range from something as simple as touching squares to pushing the falling meteors away from Earth. However, even though the exercises are divided into levels, do not be fooled into thinking that level 5 is harder than level 1. In fact, I found all the exercises to be on roughly the same difficulty. It doesn't get any harder whether you are doing something from level 1 or a task from level 5.
All exercises are available from the start. There is no limit to how many exercises you are recommended to do. Unlike Brain Age, there are no stamps or rewards that encourage players to complete the exercise everyday. Nothing lasts over 5 minutes, so it is very easy to pick it up and do several exercises in one go.
Control is via stylus only. Be prepared to turn around the DS several times during the initiate setup stage. All exercises utilize the touch screen to the maximum effect. The touch screen is responsive and recognizes most inputs correctly. Writing alphabets with your non-dominant hand is difficult as it is, so you will have to forgive the game if it does not recognize your writing.
In the ambidextrous test, it is basically a battle between the hands. After completing several tasks with your good hand, you do exactly the same tasks with your other hand. Again, the performance of your dominant hand is expressed as 100% and the performance of your other hand is marked against that.
You can track your progress with the help of graphs also.
Very simplistic design. Things are in simple shapes, squares, triangles, circles, stars, etc. Graphics are crude and unrefined, definitely not 3D. The mascot is a hand-like thing that is drawn in black and white!
While graphics is not the major selling point of the game, the developers ought to put some effort into graphics designs.
Sound is not of major importance here. There is an opening music tune, but most of the time you will be concentrating more on doing the exercises than listening to the music. Sound effects are limited to simple monotone. This is one of a handful of games that you can play in silence.
There is certainly a great replay value in the game. After all, it is a training game, and it is only through repetition that you will improve. But without a ranking table, it might be difficult to motivate players to continue playing once they have tried out every exercise on offer.
While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the gameplay, I can't help but feel that this game is lacking in some areas. The graphics are crude and unappealing. The lack of rankings and unlockable contents will prove difficult to encourage players from coming back for more.
Although there are many different exercises to choose from, it provides no challenges, and some of them are just a variation of a similar exercise. Many of the exercises are more about hand eye co-ordination than ambidexterity. While it provides feedback on how well you do with your hands, there is no hard evidence of you actually improving your brain. How can you tell that you are more creative, or more logical? The only solid indication is that you can use your left hand as well as your right.
If you think you need to improve your ambidexterity, you might as well play Brain Age with your other hand. It just proves that two brains (in the title) are not necessarily better than one.
Playing Hints and Tips
- You can reassess the performance of your good hand by redoing the exercise.
- There are three sets of exercises in each of the five levels. You can do any or all of the exercises in any order at any time.
- If you are unsure what the exercise is about, you can read the instructions before starting the exercise.