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ROMper ROOM: Right Brain makes a wrong turn

- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

In Left Brain Right Brain 2 (for DS, Majesco Entertainment, $19.99) the mission is to "hone your mental skills to become truly ambidextrous." It's a lofty goal handled by a battle of minigames between right and left hand to strengthen the weaker appendage.

To get started with this ambitious exercise routine, the DS is opened sideways, in book fashion, and the player indicates whether he is left- or right-handed. A series of 20 challenges with five difficulty levels each follows, based mostly on speed and accuracy, though speed is truly the benchmark here.

As the player advances by furiously clicking away with the stylus, the game requires association, recognition, memory and strategy skills — but in the end, it's really about being fast with the stylus.

The game does have a few fun, mindless moments. I particularly liked lobbing the snowballs at the snowmen, however the games become boringly similar after awhile as each is nothing more than a series of repetitive movements that don't necessarily require skill. It is simply how many crows can you pick out of the sky before they break all the balloons, how quickly can you move the basket to catch the falling objects, how fast can you turn can the wheel to the right sequence.

Even on higher levels, the motivation is minimal and not enough to want to find all of the game variations. In fact, after three levels, it was repetitious and boring.

By the way, even though I am firmly right-handed, I managed to handle most of the virtual tasks in the game with either hand. Amazingly, for the first five levels, and with fairly consistent parity, my left and right paws fought a near equal war for superiority.

So what does that mean?

Well, I still can't cut my dinner with opposite hands holding knife and fork or button a shirt backward. So much for finely honing my noggin.

I will note that even though my left hand seemed to work equally well when responding to tasks involving hand-eye coordination, it did get tired a lot quicker. So there is value in the game if you want to increase muscle tone in your nondominant hand, but typing exercises or a squeezy ball probably would do the same.

Learning time: Consider that most children — and many adults — already live in a two-fisted world, Left Brain Right Brain 2 is not much of an eye-opener. We text on BlackBerrys using two hands — well two thumbs. We keyboard with two hands and video games have us using both hands working independently.

Living in an age of multitasking technology already has retrained our brains.

Age range: Anyone can play — but few will want to after about 60 minutes.

Final advice: Is this game really a sequel? I appreciate the effort, but how long will it take until I am able to legibly write with my left hand?

Joseph Szadkowski's ROMper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washington times.com.