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NDS Review - 'Left Brain Right Brain'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on March 21, 2008 @ 2:19 a.m. PDT

Left Brain Right Brain includes 15 different games based on speed, accuracy, association, recognition, memory and strategy. The book-style play requires players to rotate the DS to develop hand-eye coordination with their dominant and non-dominant hands.

Genre: Edutainment/Puzzle
Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Japan Art Media
Release Date: December 4, 2007

Your brain is split into two halves. Yes, there's some stuff in the center, but ultimately, your brain consists of two halves. The right side corresponds to your left hand, and the left side to your right hand. Unintuitive much? Some people would even claim that your right brain corresponds to creativity and your left brain to logic. This is not precisely true, of course, but it remains a popular mode of thought, and it forms much of the premise of Japan Art Media's rather interesting Brain Age derivative, Left Brain Right Brain, which posits the idea that three exercises a day with your non-dominant hand will not only improve its coordination but also develop the corresponding hemisphere of your brain. Unfortunately, it manages to miss what made Brain Age (an exceptionally obvious inspiration) such a runaway success, instead producing what is, at best, an interesting but ill-developed concept that could have used significantly more development time.

Left Brain Right Brain holds data for four people; like Brain Age, most people will not actually use this, but it seems to be a standard feature. After selecting a data slot, you choose your good hand (the title earns extra kudos for not falling into the blatantly obvious trap of assuming the right hand), and then measure the talent level of that hand in three simple challenges: selecting the green block among a set of white squares, tapping blocks repeatedly to reveal objects underneath, and tapping a large number of circles. You then test your ability with your non-dominant hand, and you get a skill comparison of the two, which seems arbitrary in nature but gets the point across. However, this does little to show how good you are at actually using your weaker hand because you have no clue what to do the first time, when you're using your dominant hand, so your weaker hand has an unfair advantage.

Once you have completed this initial examination, chances are that the game has judged your non-dominant hand as superior to your good hand — probably in part due to the "unfair advantage" mentioned above. Thus, the game opens up its three main play modes, consisting of individual minigames, "Balance Tests," a training mode, and an "L vs. R" mode. The meat of Left Brain Right Brain is split between the first two modes, consisting of 15 simple minigames, all of which can be categorized as requiring you to tap things, draw lines (including handwriting), or drag things around.

The Balance Test runs a grouping of three minigames in a row, first for your dominant hand and then for your weaker hand, while the training mode lets you practice any one of the minigames with your non-dominant hand. Finally, "L vs. R" mode has you guiding a dot through a maze by dragging it with your stylus — first with your stronger hand to gather data, and then again with your weaker hand. It's exactly the same maze that's found in a minigame from the main modes, but it's one larger maze here, instead of a series of well-defined smaller ones.

With only 15 minigames, Left Brain Right Brain really shouldn't have the exact same premise repeated so often. You'll be dragging a dot a lot, drawing lines often, drawing letters twice, and simply tapping things again and again. At least there's pretty visual variation, right? Well ... sort of. The graphics consist of the plainest of 2-D, often hand-drawn sprites, which is admittedly a fairly effective look. However, with nothing on the screen except these sprites and a childishly drawn anthropomorphic hand on the top screen, the graphics are as boring as can be.

Given that there is a whack-a-mole game and a "save the earth" scenario (where you steer meteors away from the Earth), you'd think that some level of graphical expressiveness would be desirable. Instead, the developers tried to ape Brain Age's minimalist look, without the minimalist-friendly games to match, or any interesting characters to guide you. Sound-wise, the game does even worse, with exactly four musical tracks, one of which is used in almost all of the minigames. There often aren't any sound effects, but when they are present, they'll be repeated excessively.

The end result of all of this is a budget game of the lowest class. Left Brain Right Brain offers no interesting features, a minimal amount of variety, and a premise that develops very minimally. If it only had more minigames, more statistics to help players chart their progress, and, in general, more development time, Left Brain Right Brain could have been a decent title. Majesco and Japan Art Media had the right idea, but they didn't manage to execute it well.

Score: 4.8/10

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