Hidden Folk

There’s a game coming to a device near you. It’s called Hidden Folks. You’re going to want the biggest monitor you have. Not that you can’t play it on, say, your tablet. Just that you’re going to want to see it large. And, yes, it’s that kind of fun – funny enough, challenging enough, different enough that you might even consider it a good enough reason, if you don’t already have a big screen, to get one.

Let me show you what I mean:

 

I know, I know, but please don’t think Where’s Waldo. Everybody thinks Where’s Waldo. It’s not Where’s Waldo. In fact, there’s no Waldo – there’s critters and thingies and stuff to find, each accompanied by a clever clue. Lands to explore – each land different, with different thingies to look for. There’s pointing and clicking and things to open and close and grow and cut down. You don’t have to find everything to get to the next land, which is both a relief and an invitation to come back and try to find the rest of the stuff. A lot of the strategy is figuring out when to zoom in and when to zoom out. Overview. Then close-up detail. Then overview again. It’s more like what Where’s Waldo would be like if it were designed, from the beginning, to be played on a device, by playfully creative people with a deep appreciation for whimsy.

In sum: Hidden Folks is Major Fun

The designers note:

“Hidden Folks is draw by hand, scanned in, placed, layered manually, animated, and scripted. All sounds you’ll hear originate from the developers’ mouths. There are no time limits, no points, just areas with a bunch of folks and objects to be found.”

Such a gentle invitation to point and click your way to significant hours of light, but deep fun. Funny fun. The funny sounds. The funny drawings. Fun so gentle that you can play it with kids. In fact, the kids could even play it by themselves if you’d let them. So inviting that even passing kibitzers will find themselves gleefully included. Playful fun.

Currently, the game has around 15 areas with themes like the camping, the desert, a factory, the suburbs, and many more. “You can expect,” adds the designer, “more areas later.” For sure.

The lead designer of Hidden Folk also happens to be a much-admired friend of mine: Adriaan de Jongh, designer of Bounden (a game I was so fascinated with and by that I wrote three posts about) and Fingle (four posts). Hidden Folk is a big, big game, and required the full engagement of Adriaan, his colleague, Sylvain Tegroeg (and a host of creative others).

Hidden Folks was just made available on this very day! You, lucky folk that you are, can find it on Steam (PC, Mac, Linux) at your local App Store, for iOS, tvOS, and, a bit later (patience playful one) Android.

Happy Salmon

happy fish

The game is called Happy Salmon. You might wonder why this particular salmon is so happy. After all, salmon have a hard life with the, you know, swimming up river and the jumping and the bears and the dying. Could it be so happy because it won a Major Fun award? Or is it because it knows how happy it will make the people who get to play it?

This is one smug salmon. And deservedly so. The game is quick (takes maybe a couple minutes to play). It’s easy to learn. It gets everybody moving. Everybody involved. And, best of all, it makes people laugh.

You could think of it as a card game – that’s because it’s played with a special deck of cards. But it’s really a people game.

It goes like this:

There are six sets of 12 cards, each a different color. First, give one set to each of 3-6 players who are at least six years old. There are four different cards: Happy Salmon, High 5, Switcheroo and Pound It! Each card has an associated action. Your objective is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. You can only do that if you can find someone who’s playing the same kind of card. You can tell, because that person is either trying to get you to High Five or to Fist Bump (Pound) or change places (Switcheroo) or Happy Salmon (put your wrist along the other player’s wrist and wiggle your hand in a salmon-fin-like manner).

You’ll probably play many rounds of the game before you put it back in its neat, salmony zipper pouch. And next time you play, you might want to try the completely silent variation (though it is likely that the laughter will escape you).

Luckily, there are two great videos showing the game in action. First, here’s one with kids playing:

And now, one for the growns:

O, the fun! O, the sheer Majorness of the fun!!

Designed by Ken Gruhl and Quentin Weir, from Northstar Games.

Oogi, Plui, Nello, Mox and Bilibo, too

MOLUK_panorama_2016

Alex Hochstrasser, the inventor/designer of all Moluk toys, is completely devoted to producing toys that are as simple as posslble, as close to indestructible as he can make them, easy to understand, inviting, and deep enough in their invitation to play to keep you on the brink of wonder and delight.

PluiBrush - Sunny - CloudyTwo of his most recent products include Sunny and Cloudy – sensory toys designed to complement his  popular Plui Rain Cloud.

They are both what you might call brushes – the rays from Sunny and the rain from Cloudy follow the fantasy, but introduce a new layer of engagement and tactile experience.

Sunny, as you can see, spins. If you spin it gently. Alex writes:

“The spinning is one of the core functions of the Sunny brush, and kind of works best if you gently set it in motion with your breath. If you accelerate it too aggressively it just wobbles and stops. I keep the Sunny brush on my desk as a fidget toy. It helps me think and concentrate.”

Which brings us to yet another remarkable thing about Alex’s toys: they are as enticing to adults as they are to children – especially to young children and older adults (like me).

I spent a couple hours in the company of these toys. I was enthralled. They took me away to the kind of play I experienced as a young child, but haven’t been invited to for maybe 70 years.

Then there’s Plui. Allow me to illustrate:

01 Awardplui_colors_newThen there’s the Plui Rainball, half of which is now not only removable, but also squeezable. Ah, squeezability. A new portal to physio-conceptual watery delights.

OK. So you can see why all of these toys, that’s right, all. Including the surprisingly simple, yet surprisingly surprising Nello and all the Oogis (especially maybe the glow in the dark one) and the world’s most expressive squeezy ball, the Mox, and, of course, the enthusiastically praised Bilibo; have each and all been granted the coveted honor of displaying the Major Fun award prominently wherever they are found.

And you can understand why we, especially, are so appreciative of toys that have such a wide range of appeal and are yet so elegantly simple.

Defender of the PlayfulAlex comments: “We market the toys for children, but one of the main goals is to create play things that transcend the traditional age and gender categories of the toy industry. Ideally they are beautiful and intriguing objects that trigger your curiosity and your urge to play and explore, regardless of how old you are.”

And that, dear fun-seeker, is the reason why Alex Hochstrasser has, himself, been declared Defender of the Playful.

More Puzzle Blox

Brainwright's Fine Art Puzzle BloxThe Modern Art version of Puzzle Blox has already received a Major Fun Award. And the Fine Art Puzzle Blox, which uses the exact same mechanics (130 cubes which can be arranged into six different images, a plastic box within which to assemble the cubes, and posters the size of the box to help you determine what probably goes where), turns out to be as attractive, challenging, and Major Fun award-worthy as the Modern Art version.

disney puzzle bloxThere is yet another addition to the line – Disney Puzzle Blox. The mechanics are similar, but the cubes are larger and fewer (63 cubes instead of 130). Though the puzzle is understandably recommended for a younger audience (8 and up), it is enough of a challenge to entice deep parental engagement (which may need to be stifled when the kids are playing with it). There are, as you might have deduced, six different puzzles: Mickey, Goofy, Donald Duck, Mickey and Minnie, Minnie herself, and Mickey and Pluto. The space around the figures has fewer obvious details (so the challenge becomes a bit more interesting) but there are always subtle distinctions – spatters, streaks, and geometric designs – to guide players to puzzle Valhalla.

Though the manufacturer recommends that you place the poster for the particular puzzle you are trying to solve inside the box, we’ve found it easier to tape it to the outside (using only a couple pieces of tape). That way, as you make your way through the puzzle, you can lift the whole thing up, remove the poster, and see if the image beneath the puzzle you’re trying to solve is also correct. It proves not only to be a good clue, but adds to the magic and the fun of the puzzle.

cropped-majorfunaward-600.jpgAll in all, both are welcome additions to the line, and we applaud its extension. We especially applaud how the concept has been extended downward, to include younger as well as older players (the larger blocks are easier to handle and manipulate and discriminate between, making the puzzle that much more accessible to seniors as well as juniors).

Our kudos to Brainwright. The fun awaits you.

Plexi Puzzles

Plexi Hex

There are currently three Plexi Puzzles offered by Brainwright. They are beautifully made acrylic puzzles, all designed by Kate Jones (an exceptionally devoted designer and producer of truly elegant, and often profoundly puzzling puzzles). They are as much works of art as they are invitations to play.

Each of the three is as major in the fun it offers, each in a different way. They all include a tray (with transparent cover for storage and display), and a booklet of many different puzzles that can be explore with the pieces.

The Iamond Hex Plexi Puzzle (shown) is composed of 12 angled shapes made by combining equilateral triangles in various configurations – similar in conceptual and geometrical design to Pentominoes. The recommended minimal age is 10. I am almost 75. And let me tell you, both myself and my local ten-year-old found the puzzle to be more than sufficiently puzzling.

Then there’s the Roundominoes Plexi Puzzle – also acrylic, also beautifully made and presented with its own storage and assembly tray, offering an even greater variety of different puzzles to explore. This one is composed, as you might guess, of circles. There’s the 7 red singleround pieces (as you might imagine them to be) and the 7 orange doublerounds (two singlerounds connected), and then the 7 blue triplerounds, and an assortment of “bridges” (pairs of purple, orange and green circles with an extra thingy that fits around a round; and one light blue circle with thingy). Because there are so many more puzzles to explore, younger players (the recommended minimal age is 8) and even I found the puzzle more, well, friendly.

Finally, the Plexi XL, a set of 16 pieces built from hexagons. There’s one piece that’s a simple single hexagon, two pieces that are double hexagons, and the rest are “polyhexagons,” the shapes that result from joining sets of three, four or five hexagons in every possible combination. This puzzle is a larger format than the other two. It also has a recommended minimal age of 8. And the variety of puzzles described in the accompanying booklet is the most extensive of all.

These puzzles are, as I’ve tried to imply, not easy. But they are all enticingly beautiful, well-made, and opportunities to get deeply engaged in exploring the many the wonders of mathematical, geometrical and topological connections. For those of us who appreciate this kind of thing, these are about as Major, fun-wise, as you can get.

cropped-majorfunaward-600.jpg

 

Foooty

(I think Foooty might be pronounced “fooo-tee” to distinguish it from “footy” the game. Though you could certainly play footy, the game, with your Foooty. But Foooty is so much more.)

It’s made of a thing that looks like this.

20160109-_MG_5753

Ten things, actually. Which you can cunningly assemble to look like this:

20160109-_MG_5836

by doing this (but probably not as quickly as depicted):

You can also make a minor myriad other things with your Foooty components, such as a football-shaped Foooty, a Frisbee-shaped Foooty, 5 little juggling Foooties, or Foootie lamps:

alsofooo

It’s not exactly available right now. But, if what I see from the burgeoning success of their Kickstarter is any indication (which it most definitely is), it should be available by June.

I have one. If you are feeling impatient and supportive, a $17 donation to their Kickstarter will get you one too, probably by sometime in June.

CoCoCross

CoCoCross

So, what, you ask, is a “Rolling Block Brainteaser”? It’s a puzzle in which you roll a block, obviously, from block-face to block-face, across and around a grid. The block and grid are designed with raised ridges and grooves so that each face of the block fits snugly within the grid. The object: to roll the block, vertically or horizontally and always landing flat on your the face, from the designated start position to the designated finish position in no more than the indicated number of rolls. There are 24, two-sided puzzle cards, making 48 different levels of inexorably increasing difficulty.

There are two different blocks – one is shaped like a brick, the other like an arch. The arch-shaped block is chock full of more complex implications, and is used only with the second half of the puzzle deck. Its shape is different enough to make the more advanced puzzles feel almost like an entirely different set of challenges, even though the movement principles are the same.

Like many of the best of such puzzles, CoCoCross is a model for how to structure a good learning experience. Puzzle by puzzle you learn more about the kind of thinking you need to do to figure things out. When you graduate to the advanced level, you apply everything you learned in the first to a whole new set of challenges.

puzzlesThe design of the package is especially appealing. The transparent grid forms the lid of the container in which the cards and puzzle pieces are housed. Because there are only two pieces, aside from the cards, it is wonderfully easy to keep track of everything. And it’s small enough (less than 4×5 inches) to take with you everywhere – in the car, the plane, to the beach and beyond.

In sum, it’s a model of good design and good fun. It’s compact enough to be endearingly convenient, complex enough to stimulate curiosity and invite you to exercise your logical and mathematical skills, varied enough to offer surprise after surprise, and fun enough to make you want to play and play until you master every one of the 48 challenges.

In sum: major fun.

 

Buy the Rights

buy the rights

Of all the vast multitude of party games spawned by the success of Apples to Apples (not that this game is a variant or rip-off of any other game, but that it uses a similar, as we say in the game biz, “mechanic” – you got lots of cards [400], and the game is all about being creative and clever enough to convince the person acting in a judge-like position [only here it’s a Producer] that your way of interpreting the card(s) is the most reasonable, or laughable), Buy the Rights is the funniest and funnest. And, it’s definitely not Apples to Apples.

The idea here is to come up with a pitch for a new movie. You know those new movie pitches and how crazy pressured it can get when people try convince a movie producer to invest millions of dollars in a maybe two-minute plot-sketch. And you can imagine how hilarious it can get when you’re doing it all for the fun of it. But you can’t imagine just how majorly fun it can be when someone makes a really good, easy to learn party game out of it.

party-wordYou get this big box of cards, as illustrated. There are four decks, each a different color (there’s a fifth that I’ll tell you about later), each separated by a divider. Each player takes three cards from each deck (so it’s not, like, totally random – I mean, like, you always have a choice, which is totally brilliant because otherwise it would be totally random and not so much fun – the very kind of insight that comes only with repeated and committed play testing). The reason I mention the divider is because it makes it feel like the box is like a drawer in a card file cabinet. And you know how your fingers kind of walk through the cards as you hunt for the right one? Well, that’s kind of what you can do. And it feels, well, near, you know, organized or something. And because of it, you don’t have to shuffle and deal out cards to the players – you just pass the box, and everyone picks their cards – one from each different color deck. I know, I know, that really isn’t what makes the game so fun, but it contributes to what makes it so good.

There are four main decks: Genre, Hero Descriptor, Hero, and Plot. And each player takes one of each. Here, let me completely randomly pick a hand:

Genre: Film Noir

Hero Discriptor: Evil

Hero: Hipsters

Plot: Discovering the existence of Bigfoot during a camping trip.

It’s night. Foggy. Cold. And the chill goes deep. This bunch of kids, see, bad kids, always smoking stuff and doing mean things to plants, just for fun, see, decide to go off into the woods spend the night tearing the heads off of baby flowers – know what I mean? Teens. All cool and just not nice, see. And all of a sudden the fog clears, and in front of them, looking most genuinely angry, none other than the legendary Bigfoot! It’s “The Revenge of Bigfoot!” or is it “Bigfoot Finds Love”?

And then there are the money cards (in denominations of $5, $10 and $20 million) that the producer uses to fund the winning pitches – dividing the prize so she can acknowledge the comparative brilliance of each pitch. Which gives her just the discretion she needs to keep everyone on the conceptual edge. And a list of variations, just to get you started with the craziness.

I can tell you’re just itching to start playing (maybe it was the poison ivy), and I can guarantee that you’ll be coming up with even wackier ideas every time you play. It’s in the cards.

Buy the Rights was designed by Tommy and Riley Day, and Chad and Michelle Yadon. It’s designed for 4-10 movie-watching, party-going, fun-loving players who can devote an hour or a half to plain, crazy laughter.

Klask

klask

Note how each player’s hand is under the playing table. That’s because it’s holding on to a pretty strong magnet which, in turn, is holding on to its chosen striker. This is one of your intrinsically fun things – moving things with magnets, trying to knock something into the other guy’s something else.

We’ve seen games kind of like this before. Heavier ones. More, shall we say, aggressively competitive ones. That’s what makes this one different – because it’s none of the above. Sturdy, you bet. Wood. Fully assembled. It’s, like they say in the video, kind of like foosball, kind of like Air Hockey. But sweeter.Each player controls a “striker” that looks like what a pawn might become if it knew about giraffes. The players move their strikers around the board by use of a magnetic piece below the board. There’s a marble, and a goal pit at each end. A sometimes unfortunately shallow pit which is deep enough to hold a marble as well as temporarily incapacitate your playing piece.

dexterity-family-kids-partyThe magnet-connection, so to speak, works brilliantly. It’s “attractive” enough to keep your striker in place as you engage in speedy, yet strategically relevant scurrying from place-to-place. In addition, there are three small white magnets, plastic covered cylinders about as large as a nose-plug for infant swimmers (keep them little ones away from these highly swallowable innovations). These three magnets are positioned along the center line of the playing table. They easily, yay, eagerly adhere to any close-passing playing striker. Should two little magnets find themselves thus attracted, you are, as they say, Klasked.

So, it’s like this: should you get the marble into your opponent’s goal, your opponent is Klasked and you gain a point (which you demonstrate by rolling the checker-like wooden disc (the one you put in that long groove on top of one of the long walls of the game) into to the next available dip. If your opponent’s striker winds up in your opponent’s goal pit, your opponent is Klasked. You get the point. Your opponent restores the magnets, marbles and strikers to their assigned starting positions. And then there’s the consequence for too much enthusiasm which results in striker-loss. Lose your striker, and you are Klasked again.

Simple rules. Fun for many ages. Easy to learn. Deeply absorbing. Based on a Danish pub game. No wonder.

From Marbles the Brain Store

Sneaky Cards

sneaky cards

“Play it forward!” Oh, how long I’ve longed to find a good excuse to use that wonderful pun “Play it Forward.” Sheer brilliance.

Which is a foretaste of what you fall heir to once you open your box of Sneaky Cards.

The box. Ah, yes. Black and sneaky looking, but in a cute kind of way. With a magnetic lid. Oh, how love magnetic lids. But wait, there’s more, there’s in fact, not even having started.

There are 54 cards, color-coded. At the bottom of each card, there’s a rectangle onto which is printed a unique code for that unique card that you’d be holding in your hand at the time. Beneath that there’s a URL: SNEAKYCARDS.COM. Remember that.

On the cards themselves are instructions that not only you, but also whoever receives the card must follow. Yes, I said “receive.” For in this game, if there were such a thing as winning, you would have given ALL your cards away, playing it, as it were, forward in deed.

Let me further instantiate:

Purple Code.

Mission Objective: Grow

Find a new favorite song

Discover a catchy tune you’ve never hard before and write the artist and title below. Then pass this card along to someone else.

Pink Code.

Mission Objective: Create

Hiaku, once written

Fill the world with endless joy

Create one yourself.

Write a hiaku on a piece of paper, and then give it to someone along with this card.

Code Blue

Mission Objectives: Engage

Start the wave in a food court or cafeteria

When you do: Give this card to a stranger who joined you.

01 AwardYou may want or need to direct the person to go to the SNEAKYCARDS.COM website, click on “track this card” and enter the code on the card. Because that is the gateway to a great deal of fun, including the frequently-updated Sneaky Cards global tracking map.

Warning: just sorting through the cards to determine which ones you’d most likely be willing to use is a bit like riffling through your psyche, if you know what I mean. You learn a lot about yourself when you discover that you are simply not ready to “Lie down in a public place until someone checks on you.”

Yes, yes, this is a brilliant, innovative, fun and often surprisingly instructive little game, that we can’t, for the time being, recommend highly enough.

Sneaky Cards is based on an original concept by Harry Lee. From Gamewright, for one or more players, age 12 and up.

Scroll To Top