A rose by any other name…

Old Names, But New Games. One of the trends for the fall is familiar names (Monopoly, Scrabble, Twister, etc.) being used with all new game play.

U Build Monopoly

The new U-Build Monopoly (Parker Brothers $19.99) looks like an interesting concept, you build the board – allowing you to control how long your game will take. But the traditional game board is completely gone.

Scrabble Flash Cubes

Scrabble Flash Cubes (Hasbro $29.99), one of the coolest games we saw at Toy Fair, has electronic cubes that you use to build words, again no board, no little tiles…no double or triple word points. If you’re a purist about Twister and love the smell and feel of that mat, you may feel sad about Twister Hoopla (Hasbro $19.99) -where your body becomes the mat. We’ll have to see how these test with kids and their parents.  All Available Fall 2010.

Brand new. We did find some new innovative games. Konexi (ZimZala Games $24.99) brings the fun of Jenga and word play together. Here you stack letters to create words-but watch out you don’t want the letters to come falling down. We loved the design and feel of this game – can’t wait to test with kids.

Konexi by ZimZala Games

We suggested that they could make one of games younger so that the age range of 10 plus could come down considerably.  Available Fall 2010.

An anti-technology theme. Appealing to parents that would like the playroom to be more “real” – we found even more organic and recycled products than last year.  A new approach  – classic toys that now require no batteries – saving money, another bonus.   We all grew up with Spin Art – one of my all time personal favorites!   Innovative for this year, Crayola will roll out  Crayola Color Twister Spin Art (Crayola $14.99) which uses an air pump to make the platform spin.  Watch our video.

Crayola Color Twister Spin Art

We only got to to see the prototype–but look forward to testing the real toy later this season. Available July 2010.

LEGO RACER with Air Pump

The same “air” technology is now being used to propel certain LEGO RACERS ($12.99/ Available now).

Pure Whimsy.

Sing-a-ma-jigs

Sing-a-ma-jigs (Mattel $12.99 each) may turn out to be one of the hottest toys of the season if the real things work as well as the prototypes.  Be sure to watch my video. Each of the dolls will chatter, sing and even harmonize together. To me they look like claymation characters come to life. We look forward to testing these as soon as they are ready.  First collection available May 2010/ more to come for the holidays.

Hexbug Nanos. You either loves these little bugs that come in test tubes…or they’ll  creep you out. I love them. Rolling out right now are habitats that you can put them in.  Our testers enjoyed the portability of these little bugs that go like crazy!  The bugs are each $9.99, the habitat starter set is $19.99. 

Hexbug Nanos in their Habitat

They are to me the tech answer to Zhu Zhu Hamsters. If you’re shopping for that hard to buy for tween, these will be an interesting novelty. Available Now.

May the Force be with you. As a complete Star Wars fan, it makes me so happy that there is a whole new generation falling in love with the saga– thanks to the Clone Wars cartoon.  For my LEGO builders, the Star Wars sets are always the number one request.

LEGO TIE Defender

LEGO has responded with many new models including the TIE Defender ($49.99). This is the Empire’s most advanced fighter, it comes with 304 pieces and includes two action figures. Available Now.

Star Wars Millenium Falcon

We also can’t wait to test, the Star Wars R/C Millennium Falcon (Hasbro $49.99/ Available Fall 2010) – watch our video; the Star Wars AT-AT (Hasbro $99.99/Available August 2010)- a pretty impressive play setting for your own battles against the Empire.

Star Wars AT-AT

It’s more than 2′ tall and 28″  long, comes with LED lights, sounds and phrases from the movie; the Star Wars General Grievous Lightsaber (Hasbro $34.99/Available August 2010) is fun to spin–with double lightsabers that come apart. The lights and sound effects will appeal to Star Wars fans young and old.  Watch our video.

All of these toys will be tested and full reviews will appear on www.toyportfolio.com

Related videos:

Our video of Sing-a-ma-jigs

Our video of General Grevious Lightsaber

Our video of the Crayola Color Twist Spin Art

Our video of the Star Wars Millenium Falcon

Toy Trucks will go head to head: Tonka's Rumblin' Chuck versus Mattel's Stinky Garbage Truck

Hasbro's Tonka Rumblin' Chuck

Last year we’d have to say that Mattel’s Matchbox Rocky pretty much ran over Hasbro’s Tonka’s Talkin’ Chuck.  Rocky just did so much more. (Watch the video of these two head to head.)  This year we’ll have to see how the new Tonka Rumblin’ Chuck- who promises to do many more tricks (including moving side to side as if he’s ready to line dance)…will compare to the farting Stinky Garbage Truck from Mattel. We’ll be interested to test both of these interactive trucks when they arrive..for now you can check out their prototypes from Toy Fair.  Click here to watch Rumblin’ Chuck.

Here’s Stinky…to watch him in action, click here to view our video.

Mattel's Stinky Garbage Truck

Toy Fair Previews: Hasbro's Talking Chuck Truck

Last year we had two talking trucks, Chuck and Matchbox Rocky. Take a look at this updated version of Chuck–he’s bigger and has more tricks. Look forward to trying this one with our testers.  Watch our video.

Monopoly: Old School

I grew up playing Monopoly with my brothers. Truth be told my involvement in any given round was pretty brief.  They were both older, I would trade away all the good properties…and I would be out of the game in what always seemed like minutes. To make matters worse, they had a rule that the loser always had to put the game away–so when they were done, I was left to put the pieces away.  When I got older and could play with my friends, my math anxiety would usually kick in and I would never want to be the banker…but still there was some math to be done. I was a big fan of collection the railroads.  When I first met my husband, I tried playing Monopoly with him. I quickly discovered he learned Monopoly from the same school as my brothers!

So when I had my kids, I determined to create  a kinder and gentler Monopoly environment.  We would be thoughtful and supportive….ok, so that lasted for about ten minutes. I quickly found that my kids loved the wheeling and dealing that their father and uncles enjoyed.  The games were always loud…often ending in some tears (and a family meeting about feelings and good sportsmanship).  I always wonder if other people play Monopoly quietly–or if that’s just our family. We’re pretty noisy in general.

If I look back on my Monopoly experiences, it’s a wonder really why I feel fondly about the game – but I do.

So when they roll out new versions, I’m always game.  Unfortunately, I haven’t really loved many of the “improvements”.  The last few years have brought an electronic scorer–taking away the wonderful math experience of paying for properties. Whether you could always do the calculations in your head (like my friend Lisa)…or needed a little paper…this was part of the game.

This year we got Championship Edition Monopoly…it comes with a trophy –and a nameplate that can be changed as the names change.  Now I don’t know about you–but in any of the houses I grew up in, this is just asking for a dispute. Even if your kids can share the title, I also really don’t like the score pad where you tally up the value of your properties. I much prefer looking at what you have and adding it up…the score pad complicates the whole experience.

For 2010, Hasbro is rolling out two new versions. One is Monopoly Revolution Edition ($34.99, available for fall 2010) – You’ll see that the game board is now round and looks ever so Apple-like. The round electronic game unit keeps track of where you are on the board and promises to have song clips including “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang and “Drive My Car” by The Beatles.  Ok, this may be fun–but it’s not really Monopoly.  Keeping an open mind though. 

Then there’s Monopoly U-Build ($19.99, available for fall 2010)…here you’ll notice you are building your own board.  This version inspired by the original looked like it could be fun.  The big selling point to parents is that the size of the board that you build will determine the length of your game play – so if you only have 30 minutes to play, you can customize the board accordingly…that’s a fun concept.

Toy Fair Previews: Easy Bake…with no oven

A couple of years ago we tried the latest version of the Easy Bake Oven. I tried it with two 9 year olds (a boy and a girl).  After thirty minutes of making mac and cheese that didn’t taste very good, one of them said “we could have done this in the microwave in about two minutes and it would have tasted better!” That was pretty much when I was over Easy Bake Ovens.  I do have disclaim that I LOVED my Easy Bake Oven…it was so empowering to be able to make something all on my own.  I   looked forward to using my Easy Bake Oven or my friend Jeannie Parker–it was on our list of things to do in between playing super heroes (where we would often end up fighting over who would be Wonder Woman).

So I wasn’t surprised that the new rollout for Easy Bake are things you can make in the microwave.  (They still have the oven.) Picking up on the current craze for decorating food (there were at least eight different kits last year from various toy companies)…these new kits are meant to focus the activity on the decorating rather than creating the actual cake.

Sign of the times.

My Little Pony Goes UNDERWATER!

I don’t know why this made me laugh–but some how I thought My Little Pony was silly enough (yes, yes, enjoyed by millions, but still there’s something about the never-ending pink rococo plastic fantasy settings that always gets me thinking about archeological digs centuries from now..and what they’ll think about such design and the civilization that played with them.)  Click here to watch our video.

My Little Pony has now become a merpony…no kidding. So now the merponies have there own new underwater castle. From the press release, you’ll see why this was the next obvious evolution for My Little Pony:

Located in the heart of the sea, this magical castle is an underwater dream come true for the MERMAID PONIES.  Each pony will love to explore this nautical treasure with lights and sounds .  Discover PINKIE PIE’S secret shell bedroom that really opens and closes or take a pony for a ride on the “magical” seashells that allow her to “swim” around the castle. The MERMAID ponies will love to “splish and splash” on the waterslide or hang ten on the “real” waves with the tubular surf boards.

The Castle will retail for $39.99 and be available next Fall.

Baby Alive Bouncin' and Babblin'…not so scary anymore

We’re happy to report that Baby Alive doesn’t scare us as much this season. (If you’ll recall last year’s Baby Alive Learn to Potty won our Ugliest Doll Award).  This year Baby Alive is happy to just be bouncing and babbling. Watch our video.

Strawberry Shortcake is Over the Hill

Celebrating her 30th birthday this year, the little strawberry smelling doll is hoping to capture the attention of another generation.  The pr person taking us through the new line shared that she had a Strawberry Shortcake doll when she was little.  One of those generational markers when you realize that you’re a bunch older than most of the pr people in the room.  In fact, I was distracted thinking about how old all the pr people were when we started the toyportfolio!

In any case, Hasbro is hoping that if you played with Strawberry Shortcake as a child, you’ll want to bring it home to your own kids.

Toy Fair 2010: Hasbro Preview/ STAR WARS

If you’ve followed our reviews over the years, you know I have a soft spot for everything Star Wars. It is the one exception to our rule of no toys with aggressive or violent themes (hey,  it’s fantasy).

One of the coolest toys we saw at Hasbro’s preview is from the Star Wars line…but we can’t talk about it until the 12th.  In the meantime, there is a new lightsaber that is pretty cool.  The General Grievous Lightsaber will retail for $34.99 and will be available in August.  Take a look at both videos…one explains how it comes apart and the other demos the movement.  I’m getting used to using my iphone video for giving you sneak peaks.  Thinking maybe I should get a FLIP for toy fair.

Two quick videos to look at:

How it works video.

Demo of movement.