June 2, 2010
The San Francisco–based toy and game company Wild Planet has a niche to itself, comfortably between the designers of expensive, high-end tech-y toys you’re afraid to give your young kids for fear they’ll break them, and the producers of cheap, disposable toys you expect your kids to break instantly. Its products are well-made enough to last a while under the high stress our kids put toys through, but also generally come in at a reasonable price point. I’ve long been a fan of the company’s remote-control SpyGear vehicles, several versions of which—it can now be told—terrorized the halls of the Cookie art department a few years ago. (The responsible party or parties remain at large.)
Parents will also appreciate the Wild Planet’s focus on active games for pretty much all ages—most welcome when you’re trying to find ways to pry your children away from DVDs for an afternoon or two. Its latest of these is Woody’s Run-Around Roundup, branded to the upcoming Toy Story 3 movie. The game features five pieces: one large handheld “tagger,” shaped like Woody from the movie, and four character “targets,” in the form of Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Hamm, and Rex. The tagger shouts out instructions (in Woody’s voice), telling a player to tag the character whose name begins with R, for instance, or the one wearing a white spacesuit; that player must then “tag” the correct character with the Woody figure to advance to the next question. (Embedded microchips allow the “tagger” to recognize automatically when someone has made the right or wrong call and respond accordingly, with either encouragement to try again or a new character to tag.)
The game has several modes—solo and multiplayer timed games, in which you’re trying to get through a set number of questions in the fastest time; a memory game, in which you have to remember a sequence of challenges as it builds up; and a hide-and-seek treasure-hunt game. You can set up the four target characters just about anywhere kids can get to, and thus make the timed games quite exerting in a decent-size backyard—but the games can also be played indoors on a rainy day, in one room or spread throughout a house. Parents can join in and play with the kids (depending on how much sleep you’ve been getting, you may or may not have to ease up on them) for a whole-family game, but it’s also simple enough for kids age three and up to play on their own. In short, you have lots of options.
And if you’re not into the branding (which in the case of my son did provide a little extra help in getting him away from the TV), never fear: This is in fact a variant on a previously existing Wild Planet game, Animal Scramble, in which the characters are simply various animals—a monkey, an elephant, a giraffe, and so on. (Both the branded and unbranded versions require three AA battteries.)
It’s not super-high-tech, but all in all, you and your kids end up with quite a lot for your 25 bucks or so. Which is precisely what I’ve always appreciated about Wild Planet.
[Photo courtesy of Wild Planet]