Flex Your Brain Muscle
It’s a fact; the majority of people tend to favor one hand or the other, when it comes to writing, brushing their teeth, and engaging in other manual tasks. Ask them to use their off hand, and you’ll end up with a mess. For most folks, this lack of dual achievement among limbs isn’t a problem.
They rarely think twice about the fact they’re right or left-handed. Only a year after its first failed brain and hand training attempt to boost ambidexterity among gamers, Majesco has returned once again in hopes of convincing you that relying too heavily on a single hand is not good enough.
Last year, Left Brain Right Brain on the DS revolved around the interesting concept that playing mini-games to train your brain and improve your manual dexterity could also make you ambidextrous. While the premise seemed mostly sound in theory, the bare-bones package, shoddy presentation, and uninteresting gameplay made it hard to stick with long enough to see if it actually worked. Does the sequel hit many of the same pitfalls? Yes and no. Substantial improvements have been made to the design, yet it’s likely not enough to change the minds of players lured-in by the budget price and burnt by the empty promise of the first game.
Left Brain Right Brain 2 is essentially more of the same of last year’s offering. Generally speaking, that would be a bad thing; but a greater level of effort and polish was clearly put into the game this time around, and it actually ends up being rather fun at times. The game features 20 mini-games (five more than its predecessor) designed to stimulate the left and right sides of your brain. You’ll primarily be completing challenges that test your motor skills and hand-eye coordination. While many games on the DS give you the option to play with a left or right-handed setup, LBRB 2 forces your to alternate playing the same games with both hands. You’ll play a challenge with one hand, and then play it again with the other hand. The idea is to quantify the level of skill in your good hand and attempt (through practice) to get your off hand up to that same level.
The DS is held comfortably on its side like an open book, and all of the challenges utilize the stylus. You’ll poke, drag, swipe, tap, and execute other actions on the touch screen in each mini-game, before flipping it around to test your other hand. If you thought wielding the stylus was initially awkward to begin with, try figuring out to get a comfortable grip on it in your off hand. It’s easier said than done. While it will definitely feel odd and somewhat uncomfortable to play the games using your off hand, it makes the experience more entertaining, since you can see how it weighs in against its adversary. Surprisingly, my right handedness seemed to make little difference in my scores. Though it felt odd using my weaker hand, I frequently did better with it score-wise. Perhaps I’m more ambidextrous than I thought. Or my off hand has a heightened sense of competitiveness.
As before, the hand and brain training experience begins with an ambidexterity check. Playing a short trio of random mini-games with each hand will yield a score for your respective limbs that is translated into a percentage representing your abilities between the left and right sides of your brain – at least for those particular challenges. You can re-test at any time, though you can get a better indicator of how well you’re doing by tracking specific scores elsewhere in the game.
After establishing a baseline, you can compete in a broad range of exercises in an attempt to improve your weaker hand. The 20 different mini-game exercises are spread across five different difficulty levels. In each case, you’ll still have to play each game with your good hand first before testing the off one. You can re-calibrate your good hand at any time, which is handy. Additionally, it’s nice to be able to track your scores for both hands in each event using a calendar features. This allows you to track your progress over time. Though it still doesn’t rise to the occasion of needing a separate play mode, L vs. R returns in the sequel, letting you race each hand through a maze to see which is better.
On the whole, the mini-games themselves are more enjoyable this time around. The objectives are still painfully simple, but the challenges are better put together.
Balloon Attack has you swiping away at crows before they pop the many balloons holding your basket afloat, Color Match has you tapping a series of color orbs rotating and undulating around a central piece that shifts in color, and Pachinko has you collecting falling pucks as they work their way down the pegboard. Other games like Block Buster, Cosmic Seesaw, Dark Dungeon, and UFO attack are equally enjoyable. Still, there are some crummy mini-games in the bunch, and most players will come to discover which they enjoy and which they hate pretty quickly.
The visual presentation is possibly the most improved aspect of LBRB 2. Rather than the sparse, mostly black and white backgrounds populated with basic shapes, the sequel sports colorful mini-games featuring a variety of graphical styles. The hand character that serves as your host and cheerleader is slightly improved, but the games are a far cry from the lame offerings in the previous version.
By most accounts, the original Left Brain Right Brain certainly didn’t warrant a sequel, but a number of changes from the first failure have made LBRB 2 the definitive version to own – at least for anyone convinced it’s worth the meager price of admission. There’s still some question over whether prolonged use of the game really has any substantive impact on your abilities to use both hands with equal skill, though similar arguments can be made for most entries in the latest brain training gaming craze. Anyone hell-bent on training their weaker limb might find some amusement here. More seasoned gamers will find greater pleasures elsewhere.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
A vast improvement over the first title but still nothing amazing to be found here. 3.5 Control
The stylus controls work alright most of the time. There are a few instances where they falter. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While not memorable, the audio is relatively upbeat and pleasant. 3.4
The games are more fun this time around, but it’s still more of the same.
3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.