Feed your mind with brain game

Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

It is time again for New Year's resolutions. While some people choose fitness or organization for their personal improvement goal, this year I resolve to become more ambidextrous. And to help achieve this objective is the "edutainment" video game "Left Brain Right Brain."

"Left Brain Right Brain" is a game for the Nintendo DS that actively uses the touch screen, stylus and unique tablet design to help cultivate motor skills. Subtitled "Use Both Hands, Train Both Sides," this game does just that by forcing you to play with both hands in order to work both sides of your brain and become more ambidextrous.

When the game begins you are asked to identify your dominant hand. This will allow the game to rotate to the right or left so that you hold the DS open like a book with the touch screen accessible to your dominant hand. Throughout the game you will rotate the DS according to which hand you are using.

To begin the game I would suggest starting with an ambidexterity check, which will be the first option on the menu screen. You will perform three tasks with the stylus in your dominant hand: touching the green square, dragging meteors away from the earth, and catching blue stars without touching the red ones. Then the game will rotate and you will perform the same three tasks with your weaker hand.

Unsurprisingly, my dominant hand scored higher, but surprisingly I had more difficulty with these seemingly simple tasks when I used my left hand than I originally anticipated. It was much harder to even hold the stylus in my left hand than I thought it would be.

However, the game is prepared for this reaction and has a series of exercises to help you become more ambidextrous. After you select exercises from the menu, there are three options: left hand, balance, L vs R.

The left hand option provides five levels of exercises with each level providing three different activities. In each activity you complete the game with your dominant hand to provide the game comparative data. Then you compete with your other hand. Each level becomes progressively harder as the game strives to improve your weaker hand's ability.

The balance option is very similar to the left hand option, but after three game-tests it shows you how balanced you are between your right and left side.

The L vs. R option provides an interesting twist to the game. As with the first two exercises, you complete the game with your dominant hand. But in this segment, the game copies your dominant hand and replays your moves back to you as you complete the game with your weaker hand.

For instance, one game is a maze where you drag a circle with your stylus through the passages without bumping into any objects. It was fascinating to have a visual comparison of the smooth moves of my right hand navigating the course versus the erratic jerks of my left hand running into the maze walls.

Disgruntled with my lack of ambidexterity, I used the game's multiplayer and game-sharing capability to wirelessly connect with my husband's DS to play against him. Game sharing sent his DS copies of the minigames like "Pop the Balloons" and "Destroy the Wall." I let him practice before we used multiplayer to compete against one other in games like "Scratch Away" and "Open the Safe."

The multiplayer provided us with a comparison of our individual scores and announced the winner. It was nice to have a comparison of skills and to be able to compete without having to buy a second game cartridge.

But before you begin playing, please note that this game is designed to be played in small chunks of time. It is not intended for extended game play or else your weak hand will ache (trust me). With a little practice everyday, however, I can tell a difference in the ability of my left hand. It is more natural to hold the stylus in the left hand and my scores keep improving. With enough practice, I should be ambidextrous in no time.

Thanks to "Left Brain Right Brain," this year's resolution will be a cinch.

Cathlena Martin can be reached at cathlena@gmail.com.

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