Final answer?

15th December 2000 at 00:00
Debbie Davies puts the latest batch of board games to the test

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS; Blue Peter World Explorer Green Board Company pound;14.95 each. Tel: 01494 538999. VOCABULON. In Cahoots. pound;19.99. Tel: 0116 279 1111.

STARE JR. Ravensburger pound;16.99 Tel: 01869 363837.

QUIZ MASTER. Big Fish. pound;4.99 each. Tel: 020 7978 6330 ELECTRONIC WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? Tiger Electronics pound;34.99 Tel: 01423 501151 JUNIOR WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? Upstarts pound;24.99Tel: 01473

Most children have games on the brain at this time of year. Among the many new board games, puzzles and quizzes, which ones fit into class and break time or might fill a lull in the festivities?

The Green Board Company has teamed up with the BBC to launch two board games: Blue Peter Explorer and Walking With Dinosaurs. The TES invited children, aged nine upwards, to try them - with mixed results.

Blue Peter Explorer challenges players to complete a map of the world by answering questions that require a detailed, archive knowledge of the TV series. A typical question is: "For which airport's 50th anniversary in 1996 were viewers asked to design a poster?" Those who have watched every edition of Blue Peter since the Eighties have an unassailable lead over recent or lapsed fans. An option with younger fans, would be to sort through the cards and exclude questions from series shown in the late Eighties to mid-Nineties, in which case they will probably enjoy the game.

Less enjoyable is Walking With Dinosaurs. The BBC's TV series has not transferred so well to a board game. Players race to be the first to evolve from Jurassic to Cretaceous creatures, but this proves far less engrossing than evolving your Butterfree Pokemon or hatching eggs in an artificial intelligence computer game.

New from publisher Kingfisher is Vocabulon, a game for seven to 12-year-olds which challenges them to guess words selected from the Kingfisher Cildren's Illustrated Dictionary. Clues include the first letter of the word, the number of letters it contains, and a synonym or opposite. Correct answers win the player a letter and, once all the letters to make the player's secret password have been collected, that person is declared the winner.

In practice, our child testers grew bored with guessing words, and the format seemed to sideline rather than support literacy skills.

More enjoyable and well suited to indoor playtime is Stare Jr from the German publisher Ravensburger, for six to adult. Contestants have to stare at the game's 150 picture cards for 30 seconds, then test their powers of recall by answering a series of questions. The game was designed by teachers to encourage concentration and memory skills.

Given the national obsession with quiz shows, Big Fish is on to something with its Quiz Master packs of cards. Each game, designed to be played in pairs, includes 540 questions on a theme, with three levels of difficulty. Topics include world knowledge, science, general and "super" knowledge.

Questions are mounted on a frame, and sliding one out reveals a picture to one player and, on the reverse, the relevant question and answer. Children enjoyed the mechanics of the game, sped through reading the text and collected general knowledge.

More popular than any of the above with our testers, young and old, were games based on the TV quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. The electronic version, from Tiger Electronics, can be played by up to six contestants at a time and plays just like the TV programme. There is a handy pause button, so we gave our testers (aged 10 to 14), a dictionary and encyclopedia and challenged them to win a million, which they duly did by racing through their reference books to check or discover answers.

The Junior Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? suits children aged seven to 14 equally well and involves lots of reading as children take it in turn to ask the questions, like presenter Chris Tarrant.

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