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Review CornerSoftware
Brain Bender Puzzles & Activities
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
Featuring popular Nickelodeon characters from 9 TV shows (the Rugrats, CatDog, and more), this program provides plenty of opportunity for exercising both sides of the brain (the logical left, and the creative right side). Puzzles, turn-based strategy games, creative play with cartoons, and more make this software title great fun and educational too.
Award
Ages: 8-up  Subject: Thinking Skills  Brand: Mattel Media/The Learning Company
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Nickelodeon's BrainBenders Puzzles & Activities is a software program designed to engage both sides of the brain! There are 8 activities that give each side of the brain a workout, all featuring characters from 9 of Nickelodeon's top TV shows including Rugrats, CatDog, Hey Arnold!, and more.

Left brain (logical) activities are:

  • ToonTiles: a game that requires creating a sequence of matching characters that are linked to each other — the longer the sequence, the more points you get.
  • SplatHurl: (see screenshot above) splat favorite characters and colors onto the grid, but watch for a pattern! If your color blob lands on numbered squares, your score increases by that number of points.
  • Nickinos: customize dominos with favorite Nickelodeon characters, then print them out for an off-the-computer game.
  • ToonMaze: find your way from one side of the board to the other by following a given "code" (sequence of characters).
Right brain (creative) activities are:
  • Dancing Toons: playing alone involves choreographing dance steps of favorite Nicktoons; 2 players can make 2 Nicktoons dance (use special keys on the keyboard).
  • ToonDraw: choose a Nickelodeon show and character and you can watch a movie that gives tips on how to draw the selected character from Nickelodeon designers and animators. Printable drawing guides are also given.
  • ToonMaker: make cartoons by mixing characters, props, backgrounds, and writing text in text bubbles. Toggle through all sorts of wacky poses.
  • Mad Lobes: answer a bunch of questions and your text will be used in a silly story or party invitation. Questions asked include "If you were a rap singer, what would your name be?" and "What's something you'd never do in public?" The final results are hysterical.
A wonderful feature of this program is the ability to customize each activity with endless combinations of characters, sounds, music, and backgrounds. You can choose from splashy backgrounds, music that includes categories like Techno, Disco Toons, and Jungle Beat, crazy sound effects, and, of course, Nick characters. Be sure to read the instructions on how to use the customization feature, as it is not immediately intuitive. Players can click on the Randomizer lever and see which characters and backgrounds the program brings up for them (great fun in itself). Difficulty levels are easily adjusted.

Send the fun to a friend!

Many of the activities include an option for E-Candy. Kids can create a small program file in ToonMaze, SplatHurl, ToonTiles, and Dancing Toons and send the file to a friend as an attachment via email. That friend can then play the activity without needing to own the CD-ROM. Creations from MadLobes and ToonMaker can be saved as bitmaps and can also easily be sent through e-mail.

We enjoyed the program and found it to be rather unique. Testers' favorite activities included Mad Lobes (they never wanted to stop this one) and SplatHurl. The silly stories generated in Mad Lobes are fun, and kids loved answering the often silly questions, not knowing how their answers would be used in the final story. Note that there is no limit to children's responses — as such, mischievous kids may experiment with using "bad" words.

SplatHurl also had tremendous appeal with kid testers (and this reviewer). Anyone familiar with The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis will find SplatHurl reminiscent of the Mudwall activity. It gets kids thinking logically and trying to score as many points as they can before the paint runs out. The only disappointing activity was Nickinos because it is merely a printable activity (we would have preferred to have a choice from a number of printable activities in this section).

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 133MHz processor (166 MHz recommended), 16 Mb RAM (32Mb RAM recommended), and 4X CD ROM. It requires a fair-sized chunk of hard drive space — 80 Mb.

You can use the keyboard to race, but it takes some getting used to. We used a gamepad and found it much easier to control that way.

Skills Covered
problem-solving, logic, strategy, creativity

Educational Value
With a good mix of logical and creative activities, this program requires players to use their brains in fun and original ways. Players are given the opportunity to explore and experiment.

Entertainment Value
Plenty of games, puzzles, and creative activities with favorite Nickelodeon characters combine to make a very entertaining program. Kids will love the idea of customizing activities and creating cartoons and silly stories that they can share with friends via email. The customizable music and sound effects are perfect for the suggested age group.

Design
The graphics are very sharp and program options are many. Although the interface is not entirely intuitive at the outset, it doesn't take long before kids understand how to customize their activities.

Replayability
There is a fair amount of content to keep kids busy for awhile. Difficulty levels provide a good range of challenge.

Dollar Value
This program retails for $29.95 US.

Released: 2000