Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Five Family Fun Games (review)

In the post-Christmas lull before school resumed, we have had plenty of time for family games.

Five such games that we have played are:
  • Pass the Bomb Junior £12.99
  • Pirate Snakes and Ladders and Ludo £8.99
  • Ravensburger Jolly Octopus Game £16.99
  • Pig Goes Pop Action Game £16.99
  • Timmy Time Pop Up Game £9.99

Pass the bomb was great fun. Press the button on the cartoon style fused 'bomb' and it starts to tick. The illustrated cards give you a location such as: at the beach, camping, in space. The aim is to name something that could be found at the location and pass the bomb to the next player before it 'explodes'. The timer on the bomb is random to make it unpredictable, adding to the excitement and pace of the game. The bomb exploding signals the end of play and whoever is left holding it loses that round.

Some of our suggestions for things that could be found at any given location became quite bizarre as the game progressed although still grounded in logic and therefore permissible by our adjudication. It started to be a new challenge to give the whackiest acceptable answer.

And then, of course, there is that horrible moment when your mind just goes blank and the ticking bomb is in your hands and will you be able to come up with an answer quickly enough so you can pass the bomb to the next pla .....kabooom!!!


There is something delightfully wholesome about playing a good old-fashioned game like snakes & ladders and ludo. This set has a pirate twist for extra appeal. The double sided playing board is good quality and colourfully illustrated.

From an educational point of view, it teaches turn taking, number and counting skills and in the case of ludo, a certain amount of strategy.

I do feel that the manufacturers missed a trick though by failing to extend the pirate theme to the counters. 'Pieces of eight' would have been a lovely touch or maybe dressing up props to create a total immersion pirate experience.

Having said that, there is nothing stopping you delving into your own dressing up box for a 'Pirate Games Tournament'. As ideas go, that's not bad. I might just organise it and let you know how we get on!

The Jolly Octopus game was my least favourite of the five games. It required batteries and a small amount of assembly, which when done meant it did not fit back into the box. 

The jolly octopus himself is vibrantly coloured and friendly looking. Press his head and music plays as his tentacles wave up and down and round.  The aim of the game is to take it in turns to grab the little coloured crabs nestling in the crevices of the rock on which the octopus is perched with the tweezers provided, without touching the tentacles.

If the tentacles are touched, the ticklish octopus stops moving and giggles signalling the end of your turn. 

The things I did not like about this game are:
  • the fact that it does not fit back inside the box once assembled is a 'tidy away' issue
  • the head sits quite loosely on the body and is prone to being knocked off and potentially lost
  • the little crabs are a fiddle to position in their crevices and would need some sort of storage bag to prevent them from getting lost
  • it is frustratingly difficult to play
The thing I did like about this game was watching my two year old deliberately touching the tentacles to hear the octopus giggle and imitating it!


Like Jolly Octopus, Pig Goes Pop is another game based on a lovely, friendly, cartoon-style character. The roll of a special dice determines which coloured burger you are to feed the open mouthed, expectant porcine mammal with the big appetite. On the base of the burger is a number which corresponds to the number of times you must then 'pump' piggy's head. The pumping action inflates the belly of our rotund friend to the point that his jacket pops undone and his arms fly into the air in protest, signalling the end of the game.

I loved the simplicity of the concept of this game. The dice throwing part was a good learning experience for the two year old, along with matching the colour thrown on the dice to the burgers.

The two year old enjoyed posting the burgers into the pig's mouth but the pumping part proved a bit tricky. I was never quite sure if we were doing it right.

As for the 'popping' part, it never really seemed to happen all at once in the dramatic fashion that, for example, the Buckaroo horse would kick off its weighty burden. The coat would gradually loosen and the arms would half pop up either before or after the belt buckle finally popped open. It tended to be a bit anti-climactic.

The most satisfying part, for me, was twisting the tail to release the air pressure of the inflated belly before the game could begin again.

The Timmy Time character from this game was instantly recognisable to the two year old from the TV. The sheep needed to be slotted onto the base and some stickers applied before play could commence. 

 It is basically Buckaroo for beginners. Timmy is clicked down into the base which raises his arms and a leg onto which you must carefully hang his accessories. The ears are also suitable for hanging or balancing on.

The most difficult of the accessories to place was Timmy's bib that can really only be placed in one position.

It was challenging, but not impossible, to load Timmy with all his accessories. If you are not careful, he springs loose from his base, arms and leg relax, he drops his load and you must start again.

The two year old thought it was hilarious every time Timmy dropped his load and it became the outcome she sought in favour of actually completing the challenge.

I thought Timmy himself was gorgeous and I loved all his little accessories but I was bit disappointed in the mechanism for setting the game up ready to begin loading. It took quite a few attempts to get him to click into position, with all the players thinking they had the technique or the magic touch.

Apart from that, it was fun little game with lots of appeal.

In order of merit, as decided by my family, the best game is:


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