China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Memory Games: I Can’t Remember When I’ve Had This Much Fun!

I’ll admit that my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Part of that might just be the hectic nature of modern life: With so much going on around us and so many things to keep track of, forgetting becomes all too easy. It’s also a totally natural consequence of aging, says that article that I read, in, uh… some web site or other. The point is, nowadays I write a lot of stuff down on a pad, or I email myself reminders. I’ve also started playing memory games, which even if they don’t re-forge my brain into a sharp instrument of information-retention, are at least a whole lot of fun.

This brings us to the board game Memory, which we’ve all played in one form or another. There’s a set of tiles placed face-down, and one or more players take turns flipping them, two at a time. If a player turns up a pair with of same face, they get a point and go again. The overall premise is simple, yet versatile enough that the game’s been tweaked in all sorts of ways. Meanwhile, the images requiring matching can be anything, which might explain why various intellectual properties have utilized Memory as part of a larger licensing plan. Below you’ll find some interesting versions of the classic game currently on the market, though it’s by no means an exhaustive list:

MonstersUniversityMonsters University Look-A-Likes Matching Game, from Spin Master: This licensed game, intended for kids ages 3 and up, definitely benefits from the distinct visual designs of Mike, Sulley, and the rest of the gang from this past summer’s Monsters University (on DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack October 29). The illustrations are clean and brightly colored, and thanks to how they’re juxtaposed against white backgrounds, they make a better impression on your memory during game play. Meanwhile, each half of a matching pair of tiles features a different colored border, making it possible to split the deck systematically to play a simpler version of the game.

PuzzleMatchPuzzle Match, from Wowopolis: This series, suitable for kids ages 3 and up, mixes the game play mechanics of Memory with that of puzzles. Players still take turns flipping tiles and trying to match them; however, this time the tiles are jigsaw puzzle pieces that connect to form pictures. Wowopolis has already released the game under different themes such as Alphabet Train, in which half the pieces feature a letter of the alphabet, while their respective matches have animals beginning with the same letter. There’s also The Pet Shop, in which the pieces connect to form pictures of bunnies, cats, fish, and more.

I found The Pet Shop more difficult than Alphabet Train, thanks to each picture being composed of not two, but three pieces. Another wrinkle is that some matching sets feature the same animal type, so players really have to focus their attention to detail and deductive reasoning ability. While test-driving the game with another player, it actually took a surprising number of turns before one of us completed a match. Nevertheless, it’s fun and stimulating for all ages, and with all Puzzle Match games, after pairing off all the tiles, players can connect them to form one big jigsaw puzzle picture.

MentalBloxMental Blox, from Learning Resources: Though the game play is quite different from classic Memory, Mental Blox, suitable for ages 5 and up, definitely gives your brain a workout, and is therefore worth a mention. Players break into two teams, draw a picture card from the deck, and compete to be the first to build the structure on the card from three-dimensional blocks. The only catch is, players get no more than 10 seconds to look at the picture. Also, the blocks come in a variety of shapes, colors, and patterns, and may need to be oriented in different ways.

The minimum number of players is supposed to be three, but two players is manageable, so long as there’s a mechanical timer to keep track of the seconds. There’s a total of 40 different structures, some way easier than others to build; however, I cannot imagine how anyone without a photographic memory would complete the highest-level ones. Mental Blox teaches interesting lessons about the subjectivity of memory: I can’t tell you how many times I was absolutely certain that I had the structure built perfectly—or mostly perfect—only to turn over the picture card and find that I was way off. Yet despite under-performing time and again, I keep going back to Mental Blox and other memory games. Maybe a short memory can be a good thing.

For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!