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Product Type: Toys
Age: Late Elementary School Years

 


2013 Award
Cirplexed
(MindWare $29.99 Score:)

Our game day testers loved this game that requires a careful eye for detail. Each player starts with a certain number of tiles that each have a different color on each corner. As players pull more tiles from the bag the goal is to make circles where all four quarters are of the same color. The player with the most matches at the end of the round is the winner. You can play individually or if you have younger kids we'd recommend playing in teams.  The pace of this game is lovely since you're working on your own board (or team's board) rather than competiting on one board against other players.

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
LEGO The Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush
(Lego Systems, Inc. $99.99 Score:)

"You're kidding!" was the response we got from our die-hard LORs fans when we told them that LEGO was now doing builds inspired from the trilogy. The Pirates Ambush gives fans the opportunity to build a LEGO version of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas surprise the Orcs with the Army of the Dead. We have a feeling there will be many teens and adults eager to help with this set!  Comes with a satisfying 9 mini-figures. With 756 pieces, this is a good parent-child build or an independent build for more advanced builders.

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

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2013 Award
Justice League Axis of Villains Strategy Game
(Wonder Forge $24.99 Score:)

Wonder Forge's Justice League: Axis of Villains is a great game for DC Comic fans. Players control Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern in their fight against each character's numerous villains. Through a combination of dice rolling, Justice Power cards, and Villain cards the heroes and villains duke it out until either the satellite is destroyed or all the villains are captured.  This is an old fashion and fun strategy game for fans of the Justice League.

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

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2013 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Jek 14 Stealth Starfighter
(Lego Systems, Inc. $69.99 Score:)

Our LEGO STAR WAR testers were very eager to build this Stealth Starfighter that belongs to rogue clone, Jek-14. If you're saying "who?"...you may not be watching the cartoon series that has captured the imaginations of a whole new generation of Star Wars fans. Once built, our testers used the starfigher for their own stories involving Jek-14. The build comes with 3 minifigures: Jek-14, Separatist Bounty Hunter and Special Forces Clone Trooper. 550 pieces.

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

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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
LEGO STAR WARS AT-TE
(Lego Systems, Inc. $89.99 Score:)

One of the larger builds introduced this year, this classic Empire fighting machine is anadvanced set with 794 pieces. Comes with five figures: Battle Droid Commander, Battle Droid, Mace Windu, Coleman Trebor, Clone Trooper Commander. High marks for the moving pieces that lift panels of the AT-TE as well as the circular base feet. Be forewarned there are projectiles on this build.

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

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2012 Award
Matilda, Your Tudor Girl for All Time
(A Girl for All Time $135 Score:)

A lovely 16" Tudor girl comes dressed in a long gown of grey velvet with a plum colored underskirt, known as a kirtle. She wears historically styled undies and a petticoat and wears typical Court shoes, a key necklace and a grey headdress. A book about the 13-year old Matilda and her life in the court of Henry VIII makes for good reading. Stunning wardrobe choices are also available. We loved the silk lined velvet cloak ($29.99) and her masked ball gown($29.99). Like other Girl for All Time dolls she is fully articulated at the knees, and elbows for more playability. Though she is designed for play, she is totally collectible and likely to be treasured by anyone lucky enough to receive her as a gift. They say 5 & up. We'd say more like 8 & up. 


Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012. 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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