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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2013

 


2013 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Mandalorian Speeder
(Lego Systems, Inc. $24.99 Score:)

With 211 pieces, this is a great place to start for fans of Star Wars and LEGO. The small blue and grey vehicle comes with Darth Maul and two Mandalorian Super Commandos. Be forewarned there are projectiles on this build. Also smaller, the Corporate Alliance Tank Droid comes with 271 pieces. The circular middle portion of this build is unusual in that it has a moving track like a tank. Comes with Jango
Fett, Clone Trooper, and Battle Droid. Also top-rated, the Homing Spider Droid (295 pieces):  this spider- inspired droid,  comeswith Stass Allie, Clone Trooper, and two Super Battle Droids. For beginning builders - these two sets are just right.  While the bigger kits look appealing, start small so that your child has a positive experience to "build" on.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Heads Up
(International Playthings $19.99 Score:)

 A game designed by Professor Higgins perhaps? Heads Up challenges players to balance fake books on their heads. Rolling the die tells each player how many books to add to their mortar board. It may also instruct you to remove a book. Comes with 40 "books", four mortar boards and a die. You have to bring your own sense of balance. Marked 5 & up. 

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
NADA Game
(Blue Orange Games $15.99 Score:)

Our testers loved this fast-paced dice game. You're trying to be the first to see the matches of the icons on the dice and scoop them up. The icons include: cherries, an anchor, a cactus, a ghost, a palm tree, skull & bones, and a butterfly.  If you don't see any, you can shout NADA.  Watch out though if you do and there is actually a match!  There are different variations on the game that appealed to our testers depending on their age. Also great fun, Flash - same concept but with numbers and making combinations.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Sifteo Cubes Intelligent Game System
(Sifteo $129.99 Score:)

Sifteo Cubes is a revolutionary toy that looks to change how kids, and tech-loving adults, play with blocks. Co-founder David Merrill's 2009 TED Talk originally opened our eyes to the possibilities of Sifteo blocks. Each Sifteo Cubes set comes with one home speaker, three cubes, one USB cable, and a carrying pouch. Additional cubes can be bought separately to enhance the learning and gaming experience. New games can be downloaded by plugging the home speaker into a computer and purchasing games from Sifteo's website. Although the cubes are still a new product the games are innovative, educational, and most importantly, fun.

Sifteo Cubes sets come with four games, Cube Buddies, Code Breakers, Word Caravan, and Chroma Splash. Each game presents different learning challenges to young users.

Word Caravan is a word puzzle game that utilizes the tilt and neighbor-awareness of the cubes. The goal of the game is to create a specified number of words from the letters displayed in the cubes; each cube shows two letters whose order can be switched by tilting the cube in each direction. Word Caravan is a fun and thought-provoking game that requires young readers to creatively access the situation and make words on the spot. For more experienced readers the cubes do not always recognize advanced vocabulary, and simply ask for low-level words to complete the level.

Chroma Splash is a challenging puzzles game that incorporates the tilt, touch, and neighbor-awareness capabilities of the cubes. The game asks that players match colored bubbles on neighboring cubes and then pop the matching bubbles to move to the next level. Each level has different color and positioning combinations that require gamers to think through the puzzle before starting.

Code Crackers proved to be a great mathematics puzzle game. The objective of the game asks players to combine the numbers displayed on the cube using different mathematical functions to make the target number at the end of the equation. Beginning levels test basic addition and subtraction skills. As difficulty rises the equation lengths are extended and multiplication and division are added to the game.

Cube Buddies tests the facial recognition abilities of players, and asks gamers to recreate the scrambled faces of various cartoon characters. It uses the familiar neighbor-awareness function to match the various misplaced facial features together.

In addition to the four games sent with every Sifteo Cubes set, we tested two additional games, Sandwich Kingdom and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Slide, as well as two smaller color and sound programs, Bliss Bomb and B!

Sandwich Kingdom quickly proved to resemble many of the old Sega Genesis and Gameboy RPGs such as Shining Force and Golden Sun. Like the beginning of all these games Sandwich Kingdom has long-winded dialogue and movement motions. Unfortunately the redeeming quality for all of those old games, the turn-based fighting, is not included in Sandwich Kingdom. Despite the lack of fighting the method used to move throughout the maze-like levels is spectacular, and redeems Sandwich Kingdom as a top-notch puzzle-labyrinth game. The use of multiple cube displays to reveal the level layout by laying them next to each other is ingenious. It allows players to investigate multiple routes before moving the character by tapping the display you wish the main character to walk to.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Slide is my favorite game of the Sifteo Cubes set. It is reminiscent of Rush Hour with the addition of slight cartoon violence. Each stage asks the player to tilt and click Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, or Rafael to a specified end point. The player slides through the puzzle-like courses, ranging across multiple cube displays, occasionally dispatching enemies with one of the four ninja turtles' unique weapons.

Bliss Bomb and B! are two interesting additions to the Sifteo Cubes set. Bliss Bomb is a strobe color program that allows users to combine the different cube displays to create different colored and patterned shapes on the screen. Unfortunately this can be a bit irritating to look at after an extended period of time. B!'s function as a interactive sound system is a interesting concept. Each screen displays a different pattern that has it's own color and sound. When the cube screen is tapped a sound is emitted and the pattern changes. Overall both of these programs are not the most engaging additions to the otherwise stellar Sifteo Cubes set. They would likely only keep users occupied for a matter of minutes before moving on to the one of the more extensive and lengthy puzzle game programs.


  - review by Matthew Weinstein

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Journey Girl Dolls
(Toys R Us $39 Score:)

Another beautiful collection that rivals other more expensive dolls. We were taken with Chavonne, an 18-inch African American girl, she wears a satin ruffled party dress topped with a white lace jacket and matching bow in her luxurious hair. She is heading to Paris to see the sights along with the other multi-ethnic Journey dolls. Each has a soft fabric body and plastic legs, arms, and head.   

 

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Playmobil City Action Cargo Boat with Loading Crane
(Playmobil $79 Score:)

An 80-piece cargo boat with working crane that pivots 360 degrees. Ideal for loading important products from the cargo boat to crane and onto the plane. This comes with a two containers, three action mini-figures, and a ship's galley complete with coffeemaker for the crew's long nights at sea.  4 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Clementine, A Girl for all Time
(A Girl for all Time $134.99 Score:)

Clementine, is a 1940's English girl, with an instantly lovable wistful look, auburn hair, green eyes, and clothes from the WWII era. Her sheer green floral print dress has slightly puffy sleeves, a dainty buckled belt and a brown satin Peter Pan collar. She wears wonderful brown sandal-like shoes with mesh white knee socks that can be folded down. Her brownish red be-ribboned felt hat has a rolled brim and is a perfect foil for her lovely bobbed hair. As extras: we love her fitted pink coat with matching beret and she should be heading to Covent Garden or some such place in her lilac party dress that is topped off with a feather boa and party shoes to match. Clementine's story actually begins during the evacuation in 1939 wartime London. Newest of the Girl for All Time collection, she is 14-inches tall and totally jointed at the knees, elbows, and hips, making her easier to pose than comparable dolls. Like previous Girl for All Time winners, Matilda, a Tudor girl and Amelia, a Victorian girl, Clementine's details are noteworthy.  Designed for play, she and others in the collection will likely become treasured collectibles for the lucky few. http://www.agirlforalltime.us/

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Awards
YBIKE Explorer Go-Kart
(YBIKE $179.00 Score:)

Our test family raved about this low-to the-ground go-kart.  Unlike your plastic Big Wheel, this is made of metal and has tires with rubber treads. It does not go super fast and it can be adjusted to grow with your rider.  We suggest adding a flag since it is so low to the ground.

SNAP: For all the reasons stated above, this is a vehicle that is a good choice for some kids with special needs. For kids who cannot balance on a standard trike or bike, this is a safer alternative. It does not tip.

It is also heavy enough so that it will not take off with just a nudge. This is a kid powered vehicle.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Hexbug Nano V2 Black Hole
(Innovation First $49.99 Score:)

Hexbugs are fun all on their own, but we really love this new system with see-thru tubes. The little robotic vibrating bugs now make their way up and down the chutes and then free fall into the black hole - only to re-emerge on the base of the set and begin the trek again. We combined the Black Hole set (with 58 pieces and two nanos) with the Infinity Loop and the Watch Tower. Putting these sets together will require some parental assistance. What we really love about this set is that involves some building and then the play begins. Everyone who plays with this toy starts talking about what may happen next and where the bugs may go. You can change the set around so it's not static - there are also gates that can be moved to change the direction of the bugs. Occasionally the bugs did get jammed in one of the chutes - usually a little shake will move them. Sometimes we had to open the chute to unclog - but that's part of the fun.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Disney Sofia the First Royal Prep Academy Game
(Wonder Forge $19.99 Score:)

Imagine a game that combines aspects of Battleship (but you're looking for charms), Memory (you're supposed to remember where characters are located) and a wild card (pure guessing to win a charm). The actual set up of the game is quite clever. There is the Royal Prep Academy Building with lots of windows that are covered with moving shutters. One player puts on a plastic charm bracelet and has to try to collect charms by guessing where the other player has placed them behind the shutters. Much more fun to be Sofia the First and wear the bracelet than being the "hidder." The idea is that you take turns. We have a feeling that a lot of parents will end up playing hidder more often, although our 4 year old tester equally enjoyed being the hidder! Marked 3 & up, but will be enjoyed more by 4-6 crowd.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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