While there may not be much game to it, I had a lot of fun playing with Educational Insight’s upcoming Smash Pong ($22). It’s got an air-pressure canon, ping pong balls, challenge cards, and a bucket that doubles as target and storage. The canon (excuse me, it’s officially called a launcher) is powered by smashing your fist down on an air bladder. Of course, it’s really meant for much younger kids but that didn’t stop me from having a great time blasting balls across the aisles in to neighboring booths.
Providing more of an intellectually-focused experience but still for younger children, the company has Kanoodle Jr. ($15). It’s a challenge puzzle that like its senior counterpart involves fitting a variety of colored pieces in to a tray-base while matching the partial patterns on hint cards. What makes it more suitable for the junior crowd is its square tray and squared-off pieces.
For the very younger children (ages 2+), there’s Peekaboo Barn ($25). As you can imagine for that age, game play is quite simple. Press the chimney to spin the animals around, grab the closest animal, make its sound, and put it in the barn. If instead of a cow or sheep, it’s a rooster that comes up, the rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo will wake up the last animal and draw it back out of the barn.
Sunrise Safari ($22) is, like the company’s Even Steven’s Odd, a fast-play dice-matching game. To make it suitable for players as young as 4, though, the matching process is slightly simplified and done with images of animals instead of typical dice with pips.
An introductory strategy game for ages 5+, Royal Roundup ($20) features a board with a bunch of mixed-up interconnecting paths. Each turn, players cross one path and collect a treasure. The idea is to think ahead, selecting the optimal paths for collecting the most high-valued treasures.
Another strategy title, Wiggle Waggle Whiskers ($22) pits cat player versus dog player, with each adding a new fence section every turn, and the first to surround all their cats or dogs being the winner.
Word on the Street ($20), formerly an Out of the Box Publishing game, plays kind of like tug-of-war with letters. Every time a letter shows up in a word used to respond to a question, that letter is pulled toward the answering team’s side of the street. There’s no right or wrong answers, only answers that pull more or better letters. Word on the Street Junior ($20) is exactly the same. It just comes with questions more appropriate for children.
Finally, another word game added to Education Insights’ catalog this year is After Words ($22). It’s one of those where players try to come up with words that begin with a specific letter. When they do, they can toss a matching letter card from their hand—getting rid of all seven is a win. The twist is they also have to match the final letter to the last letter marked on the board.