Taking a game for adults and making it accessible for a younger audience is tough. You want to preserve the elements that made the original so fun for older players. You have to consider the cognitive development (and sometimes fine motor control) of younger children. You also want your game’s brand to carry through—someone (the parent with the money) should look at your game and say, “I love that game! I bet little whats-its-name will like this kids’ version too!” The wrong way to do it is to have your marketing department slap the game’s name and logo on a board with a spinner and hope the kids will be entertained by the random movement of colorful pieces. The right way to do it is like Word on the Street, Jr.
We reviewed the original Word on the Street a while back. It’s major fun. We wanted to see how Word on the Street, Jr. held up in comparison. Specifically, we wanted to see if the junior set would engage adults and children at the same time. Sound impossible for a word game? Sound like two great tastes that have no business being in the same kitchen let alone the same plate? THINK AGAIN!! It’s a hoot.
The rules: Word on the Street, Jr. has all the letters of the alphabet running down the center of the game board which depicts a street. Each letter is a tile. Two teams compete to see who can get the most letters on to their side of the street. Teams draw a card with a prompt, such as, “name of a vegetable” and then have 30 seconds to come up with a word that matches the category. The letters that spell the word are moved one space toward the team for each time they appear in the word. For example, “carrot” would move the C, A, O, and T one space but the R would move two spaces. Once a team moves a letter to their side of the street, the letter is out of play and can’t be moved the rest of the game.
The Junior version of the game includes the vowels (missing from the original) and the categories are a bit broader to accommodate developing vocabularies. Each category card has two sides, the blue side being a bit tougher than the green side.
I have only played the Junior version and it is plenty nerve-wracking. The 30 second timer keeps the game moving and the challenge is to come up with words that have lots of double or triple consonants. My eight-year-old enjoys playing with me and my wife (the adults play with the no vowels rule), but the most fun I had was in watching my daughter and her friends. The kids caught on to much of the strategy and gave their thinking muscles a work-out. Often they forgot that they were on different teams and volunteered their best responses to whatever category happened to be face up. They yelled. They laughed. They brought out their biggest words. In general, they acted like caffeinated jumping beans — which is a sure indication that major fun is afoot.
If you go to the Word on the Street site, and scroll down a bit, you’ll also find a downloadable form you can use to create your own additional cards for the game. This is major cool, because you can make the game engage players on so many more levels with categories like: “12-letter words,” “family members,” “chores,” “word in a Mylie Cyrus song.”
Original concept for Word on the Street, Junior by Jack Degnan. Copyright 2009, Out of the Box Publishing, Inc.
Will Bain, Games Taster