Monday, December 8, 2014

Sphero Ollie Robot Review

Sphero Ollie is a cool app-controlled robotic toy that was released in 2014 by a company called Orbotix Inc. who introduced the world’s first robotic ball. Sphero Ollie robot a fun toy that you control using your smartphone via an accompanying app. 

Ollie can be driven indoors or outdoors and is similar to an RC car, but much better, in my opinion. Fun things you can do with Ollie include drifting him while you drive, spinning him around his axis, flipping him over, and many more tricks that your creative mind can think of.

I’ve been able to test-drive Ollie for a few days and had fun doing so. I’ve created a few videos based on my experience playing with this cool robotic toy and here you will find an in-depth review on Sphero Ollie. Overall, I think it will make a great gift for kids ages 8+.

First off, you will require a smartphone (iPhone or Android) in order to control Ollie the robot as it does not have a remote control like RC cars. Also, you will need to download the Ollie app which is available in Android (4.4 and above) or iPhone (iOS 7 and above). And if you’re wondering what technology allows you to remotely control Ollie using your smartphone, it’s the Bluetooth functionality on your cell phone.

Sphero Ollie: Specifications and Android App



When I first saw Ollie, I was skeptical whether it was built tough enough to withstand drops, hits, and flips. However, I was surprised how tough it was after having tested it out. Sphero Ollie has a tubular designed body built from polycarbonate material making it tough. Its tubular shape along with two independently rotating wheels, makes Ollie easier to handle and perform a variety of tricks.

Ollie’s cylindrical body has built-in LEDs that glow, in different colors, while driving or calibrating/initializing. Weighing 1.375 pounds, this rolling robot can reach speeds as high as 14 Mph or 23 Kph. And with a range of 30 meters (approximately 100 feet), it gives a pretty decent range to remotely control Ollie.

This fun robotic toy comes with two rubber tires and hubcaps. However, you can customize Ollie with different types of grip tires (ultra, nubby, and turbo) that come in different colors (blue, green, red, pink, and black). You also get a variety of hubcaps.

Sphero Ollie is equipped with a built-in rechargeable battery. It takes approximately two hours to charge the battery via a microUSB port using a USB cable (included in the package). A fully charged Ollie will provide about one hour of play time. Before recharging Ollie, please ensure that you let it cool down.

As briefly indicated earlier, calibrating and controlling this robotic toy is accomplished via the Ollie app (available for Android and iOS platforms). Therefore, you require a compatible iPhone or Android smartphone equipped with Bluetooth technology. The Ollie app has a virtual joystick and a Trick pad allowing you to control Ollie’s movements and perform fun tricks. 


Also, the app allows you to customize Ollie’s settings like speed, handling, and acceleration. Furthermore, you can change the orientation of the joystick and Trick pad. Ollie’s firmware is automatically and wirelessly updated via your smartphone device.

How to Set Up Sphero Ollie



Ollie is a lot of fun to play with, but in order to get the most of this robotic toy, you need to take the time to learn a few thins and set up Ollie. Follow these steps below and you will soon be on your way to some fun times with your best friend Ollie. If you’d rather watch an instructional video, check the Ollie Set-up video below:
  1. First things first, you need to pump some life into Ollie, after all he is a robot and his life depends on the built-in rechargeable battery. Based on my experience, it takes about two hours to fully charge Sphero Ollie and once charged, you will get about an hour of playtime with this friendly robot. Ollie is charged using the USB cable included in the package.

  2. Next, you need to download the Ollie app available at Google Play (Android) or iTunes (Apple iPhone). The app is compatible with Android (4.4 and above) or iPhone (iOS 7 and above) respectively.

  3. Once you have Ollie fully charged and the app downloaded, it’s time to connect and initialize Ollie. Basically, in this step, you are syncing Ollie and your smartphone. As soon as you open the Ollie app, you will be prompted to tap Ollie with your smartphone (make sure that your Bluetooth is on). This process takes a couple of seconds as Ollie syncs with your smartphone.

  4. The final step, in setting up Ollie, is to aim your smartphone at Ollie in order to effectively control the robot. This is achieved by clicking on the aim button on the Ollie app and then using the illuminated circle to align Ollie’s tail to your smartphone. You can also customize Ollie by changing settings like his speed, handling, and acceleration.



Performing Tricks with Sphero Ollie


As you already know, you can drive Ollie around like an RC car, indoors or outdoors, using the virtual joystick. However, this rolling robot on wheels can do much more than just drift. You can perform tricks with Ollie while it spins and flips. Each of Ollie’s two wheels move independent of each other, which allows Ollie to perform a variety of tricks.

For example, to give Ollie a quick spin, right swipe or left swipe the Trick pad. For a long spin, swipe the Trick pad (left or right) and hold your finger on the Trick pad. You want to see “Crazy Ollie”? Swipe down and hold your finger on the Trick pad. If you need to brake while driving Ollie, just touch the Trick pad and hold your finger.

To see the tricks that you can perform with Ollie, check the Android app Help section. In the video above, you will see Ollie in action and some of the tricks.

Potential Drawbacks and Help with Sphero Ollie


Ollie is fun to play with and I’m sure your kids will love him. This robotic toy is made from durable material built to withstand tough hits, falls, and tumbles. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that you should throw Ollie around. However, Ollie is not waterproof like the Sphero ball, so make sure not to submerge it in water.

One hour of battery life seems a little less, but it takes only a couple of hours to recharge. And I think it may be a good thing that the battery lasts only one hour because it allows kids to take a break given that it requires repetitive hand and finger movements to control Ollie.

While driving Ollie indoors, especially at home with furniture around the house, Ollie can get stuck. However, by using the Trick pad, you can easily free the robot. For example, you can use the “crazy Ollie” trick, which worked for me.

This hasn’t happened too often with me, while testing Ollie. However, if this rolling robot goes out of range (30 meters) or gets ”dizzy” while performing some tricks, you may have to recalibrate Ollie with your smartphone. It doesn’t take too long though.

And finally, this is not drawback, but something to consider. Controlling Ollie will take some practice, especially precision turns and getting used to Ollie’s orientation. My suggestion would be to take the time to set up Ollie and sync the unit correctly with your smartphone. This will go a long way in ensuring that this robotic toy will be one of your kids’ best toy.



If you need any help with Sphero Ollie, check out my videos on my YouTube channel (click the images above). Should you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Credits
Sphero, the Sphero logo, and Ollie are trademarks of Orbotix, Inc.
All other trademarks like Android, Bluetooth and others, belong to the respective ownders.
Images on this webpage belong to author, unless mentioned or linked to.
Official Sphero Website: www.gosphero.com

Saturday, November 22, 2014

VTech InnoTab® MAX Review

Among the top educational kids’ tablets in 2014, VTech has released the InnoTab® MAX. It is VTech’s 4th generation children’s tablet with many improvements and new features.

This educational toy is sure to make learning fun and keep kids entertained for hours. I don’t have anything against regular toy gifts, but I believe educational gifts have an edge because they can keep kids entertained, while making the experience educational.

I’ve personally been able to test the InnoTab® MAX for the past few days and my overall assessment is that it makes a cool educational gift for kids. This tablet is designed for children between the ages of 3 and 9. The beauty of this learning tablet is that it’s interactive and has voice instructions to guide your child as they use the tablet.

Another thing I noticed about the tablet is that it is built tough and has rubberized edges for a better grip. This particular model has a built-in and removable protective cover which also acts as a flip-and-fold stand. If you’d prefer watching a video review of the InnoTab® MAX, scroll down to the bottom of this page.

InnoTab® MAX Specifications


So let’s get down to the hardware specifications of the InnoTab® MAX tablet. Below you will find a Specifications Comparison Chart: InnoTab® MAX vs InnoTab® 3S.


First off, the VTech InnoTab® MAX has a larger 7-inch multi-touch color screen compared to the 5-inch single-touch color screen of the InnoTab® 3S. It also has a higher screen resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (170 ppi). The tablet screen can be used in both, portrait and landscape mode. I found the touch screen very responsive and smooth.

This new tablet is equipped with 8 GB of memory storage, expandable to 40 GB, compared to the 4 GB of its predecessor. The InnoTab® MAX is also built with a faster 1.4 GHz dual-core processor for better performance. It has a built-in Lithium rechargeable battery which takes approximately 4.5 hours to charge which can provide over 6 hours of battery life. When I first charged the battery, it took approximately 2 hours to fully charge.

The InnoTab® MAX comes with a built-in 2 MP 180 degree rotating camera. This makes it easy to switch from a front-facing to a rear-facing camera and vice versa. Kids can have fun taking pictures as well as recording short videos. This tablet also comes with a Movie Maker app which will allow your kids to explore their creativity. Similarly, the Wonder Cam Max app includes a variety of effects to turn photos into fun art.

The Learning Lodge: Age-Appropriate Educational Apps



Talking about apps, the InnoTab® MAX comes with 15 on-board apps, 2 free downloadable apps, and one Toca Boca app (requires registration). Some of the included apps are: Art Studio, Play Games, Music, Videos, Calendar, Calculator, Family Bulletin, and others. The InnoTab® MAX package includes a cartridge which preview videos.

The Learning Lodge (VTech’s app store) has over 650 apps which are conveniently categorized according to age. The age categories include 2 to 5, 3 to 6, 4 to 7, and 6 to 9 years. And includes learning categories like reading and language arts, science and social studies, creativity and problem solving, and math.

You will find a variety of popular eBooks like Disney’s Frozen, Pixar Cars, Wreck-it-Ralph, Toy Story, Tangled, and many others. These eBooks range from $2.99 to $4.99 in price. You will find many of these apps bundled together for a better deal. Apps in the Learning Lodge also include a variety of videos as well as music.

The VTech Kid Connect™ app allows the parent and child to stay connected by sending text and voice messages as well as sharing photos and drawings. This app is compatible with the iPhone and Android smartphones, and can be downloaded via the iTunes and Google Play respectively.
Parents can also keep track of their child’s progress by logging into the password-protected Parental Control section. There is also a "My Wishes" app that allows kids to choose which apps they want in the future. Parents can then access this information by logging in the Parental Control app and approving the apps for purchase, if they feel they are appropriate.

Final Thoughts and Observations



Overall, based on my experience, I found the InnoTab® MAX learning tablet a good educational gift for children. The larger screen makes it easier to navigate as well as provides a better overall experience when reading eBooks, watching videos, or just playing games.

The multi-touch color screen was very responsive and fluid. Both while using the stylus and my fingers. However, the stylus was not as responsive as the older model. Especially when using the Art Studio app, I found that I could not draw straight lines smoothly, it was better when I used my fingers to draw.

Don’t expect this tablet to be as fast as a regular adult tablet like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy. If you’re used to these adult tablets, you will find it quite slow, especially when loading apps. Also, don’t expect the quality of the pictures and videos to be HD quality – remember this is a children’s tablet.

Make sure to register the InnoTab® MAX which can be easily done when first powering up the tablet. It will prompt you to first enter the current date and time, and then give you an option to register. By registering the tablet, you will also get the additional free apps and a one year limited warranty. To get the most of this educational tablet, make sure to set up the Wi-Fi. This will enable you to download apps directly to the tablet from the Learning Lodge and also allow you to stay connected to your child via the VTech Kid Connect™ app.

Another important thing to do is set up the Parental Control because you can access to the internet using this tablet and browse websites. Of course, it will restrict the child only to the websites that you allow access to. Another advantage of setting up Parental Control is that you can keep track of your child’s progress as well as set a time limit on access to the tablet, if you wish.

Below is a Video Review of the InnoTab® MAX. Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, or questions in the comments section below:



Image Credits: Product pictures on this web page belong the author. VTech and InnoTab® are registered trademarks, logos and images used with permission.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

LEGO Friends Building Sets

LEGO Friends is a series of building play sets which are designed for girls between ages 6 and 12. These new range of construction toys were launched in January 2012.

Lego construction toys were introduced way back in 1949 and have been popular among kids ever since. These brick building sets range from basic building bricks to movie themes, Lego City to robotics sets. Lego Bricks were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.

The LEGO Friends sets are designed for girls with various themes that revolve around the lives of five core characters named Olivia, Mia, Andrea, Stephanie and Emma.

The activities and themes of these creative building sets take place in a fictional town called Heartlake City. Some of these sets include Olivia's House, City Park Café, Butterfly Beauty Shop, Heartlake Vet, and many others. Given that LEGO Friends are designed around girly themes, at launch, it caused a little bit of controversy with some folks claiming gender stereotyping.

In response to this controversy, the company's Marketing Vice President remarked "We embarked on four years worth of comprehensive, global research with 3,500 girls and their moms to understand what would make LEGO play more interesting for more girls." Based on this research, the company decided to create this new range of building sets designed for girls. In spite of the initial controversy, these construction sets exceeded their expectation in terms of sales.

The beauty of these creative construction sets is that you can mix and match sets across various themes as they are compatible with each other. If these play sets appeal to you, hope you find this web page useful where you will find information on some of the most popular building sets for girls.

Lego Friends Video Overview


Featured below is an official LEGO Friends commercial. In the sections below you will see many of these top brick building sets and learn about the main characters. These creative building sets can be purchased directly from the reputable, secure and safe Amazon website.





LEGO Friends Olivia's House 3315


LEGO Friends Olivia's House is a play set with approximately 695 pieces which can be built section by section. This creative building set for girls includes furniture, appliances, and accessories for the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. This Olivia's House set also includes mini Lego dolls like Olivia, Anna (her mom) and Peter (her dad). This toy set is great for pretend play, as well as encourages creativity while building Olivia's house. The furniture and appliances included in Olivia's home Lego set are bed, couch, sofa chair, coffee table, kitchen table, chairs, TV, and refrigerator. Also included are a shower, toilet, sink. Olivia's House is built in sections to easily rearrange for custom creation. This play set includes many other accessories as well.

LEGO Friends Olivia's Tree House 3065



LEGO Friends Olivia's Tree House is a brick building set with which children can build a tree house and have fun camping outdoors or sleepover, as they pretend play. This tree house set comes with 191 Lego bricks and includes a mini doll (Olivia) and several different tree house accessories. Kids can get creative building the tree house and arranging the bricks the way they wish. Some of the tree house accessories include folding ladder, telescope, pet cat Maxie, and many others.

LEGO Friends City Park Cafe 3061



LEGO Friends City Park Cafe is a kids' play set which comes with 222 buildable pieces with which children can pretend play by serving their customers in their community. This brick set for girls is an attractive-looking restaurant which includes two mini Lego dolls (Andrea and Marie) and various restaurant accessories to enhance the playing experience for your kids. Some of these culinary accessories include cash register, tables, chairs, bowl, baking tray, mixer, frying pan, and so much more. The City Park Cafe set can be set up in various seating arrangements allowing your children to use their creative abilities.

LEGO Friends Butterfly Beauty Shop 3187



LEGO Friends Butterfly Beauty Shop is a Beauty salon brick building set for girls which includes 221 colorful pieces allowing kids to custom build a fashionable beauty salon and pretend play. This Butterfly Beauty Shop set includes two mini Lego dolls (Sarah and Emma) along with creative accessories like cash register, mirrors, hairdryer, makeup, and other beauty salon accessories. Kids can use their creative abilities to build, arrange and rebuild the beauty salon as they wish and have fun building a community with other LEGO Friends sets which are compatible with each other.

LEGO Friends Heartlake Vet 3188



LEGO Friends Heartlake Vet is a veterinary building set which comes with 343 Lego bricks. This Heartlake Vet play set for girls is great for children who love animals and aspire to be vets someday. This creative construction set includes two mini dolls (Sophie and Mia) along with realistic elements like an examination table, X-ray, horse pen, registration chart, and many other veterinary accessories. This toy set also includes pet animals like horse (name Bella), dog (named Scarlett) and hedgehog (named Oscar).

LEGO Friends Adventure Camper 3184



LEGO Friends Adventure Camper is a fun play set for girls which will help them build a camper to pretend play and have an exciting camping experience. The camper can be built with an opening door and roof to play inside the camper. This cool play set for girls includes two mini Lego dolls (Olivia and Nicole), barbeque grill, picnic table, two bikes, trailer, surfboard, and several kitchen accessories like plates, bowl, spatula, frying pan, etc. This Adventure Camper is compatible with other LEGO Friends sets.



LEGO Friends Characters: Olivia, Andrea, Emma, Mia, & Stephanie


Olivia is one of the main characters of LEGO Friends. She is the one with chestnut hair and light brown eyes. Olivia is an environmentalist and inventor at heart. She enjoys nature, science, hiking, photography, and drawing. You will find Olivia in several of the play sets like Olivia's House, Olivia's Tree House, Olivia's Speedboat, Adventure Camper, Olivia's Newborn Foal, Olivia's Inventor's Workshop, and Olivia's Desk.

Mia is the red-haired, amber-eyed animal lover within the main group of LEGO Friends. She is a vegetarian and loves training animals, camping, enjoys sports, skateboarding and horse riding. Mia also enjoys entertaining the community within Heartlake city with her magic tricks. You will find Mia in building sets like Heartlake Vet, Mia's Puppy House, Skateboarder Mia, Mia's Magic Tricks, and Mia's Bedroom.

Andrea is the dark brown-haired, green-eyed musician and singer of the LEGO Friends group of main characters. She enjoys dancing, theater, and of course music and singing. Andrea enjoys cooking and works at the City Park Café at Heartlake city. You will find Andrea in play sets like Heartlake City Pool, Andrea's Bunny House, Andrea's Stage, and City Park Café.

Stephanie is the blonde, blue-eyed leader who is a natural leader among the main group of LEGO Friends. She is very social by nature, loves to party, and enjoys sports, especially soccer. Stephanie loves interacting with people, ballet dancing and writing stories. You will find Stephanie in counstruction sets like Heartlake Flying Club, Stephanie's Soccer Practice, Stephanie's Mailbox Bagged, Stephanie's Cool Convertible, Summer riding Camp, Rehearsal Stage, and Stephanie's Outdoor Bakery.

Emma is the black-haired, green-eyed fashionista of the LEGO Friends group of main characters. Emma loves to keep up with the trends to maintain a stylish look. She is into fashion and interior design, and designing jewelry. Emma enjoys staying active and is into karate and swimming. She owns a show jumping horse named Robin. You will find Emma in building sets like Heartlake Pet Salon, Emma's Karate Class, Emma's Design Studio, Emma's Splash Pool, Emma's Car, and Emma's Horse Trailer.

These LEGO building sets for girls will make great gifts for girls birthdays or Christmas and the Holidays. Many of these sets are at discounted prices at Amazon. Feel free to share your thoughts on Lego Friends for Girls in the comments below.

Image Credits: Product pictures on this web page are used from Amazon with permission as a Amazon Associate.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Vtech InnoTab 3S Review

Vtech's InnoTab 3S is one of latest kid's learning tablets. I got this Wi-Fi capable tablet in November 2013 and some lucky kid will receive it. I gave it a test drive and am writing a personal review on my experience with it.

I’ve also created a few YouTube videos on various aspects of the tablet which you will find in the sections below. With the popularity of tablets, many manufacturers have be introducing new models every few months. Instead of letting your kids use your expensive iPad or Android tablet, getting a Vtech InnoTab 3S may be a better option.

Priced at US$99 (C$110), it's not very cheap for a kid's tablet, but I would definitely recommend it as an educational gift. Overall, I think it is good gift idea, for kids between 3 to 9 year of age, because it makes learning fun through a variety of apps. Also it has some useful features like parental control and "KidConnect" which allows parents to track the of the child's activity and instant text message from an iPhone or Android phone via an installed app. The tablet comes in two colors: blue and pink.

There are many features that I like on the InnoTab 3S. Some of the features I like are: the responsive 5-inch touch screen; the rotating camera which turns it into a front and rear camera; the several navigation options; 9-hour battery life; hundreds of educational apps including games; and of course the Wi-Fi capability. So let's explore and find out what else this tablet has to offer.

Pros and Cons: Vtech InnoTab 3S Tablet


First off, I have to mention that this is a kid's tablet, so don't expect its performance to be as robust as an iPad or other popular Android tablets which are designed for adults.

Having said so, I think kids will love this educational tablet because it makes learning fun. It has many features that I liked. To navigate, you can use your fingers or the stylus. I preferred using the stylus for overall navigation and especially when using the coloring pages and Art Studio app. For games, you can use the D-Pad (or thumb pad). Overall I was impressed with the responsiveness and fluidity of the touch screen.

To get most out of the apps and their functionality, make sure to set the tablet up for Wi-Fi in order to connect to the Learning Lodge, Vtech's app store. Some games and apps will only operate when connected to the Learning Lodge. So make sure to register your tablet and create an account. It does take about 15 minutes to set it up, so be patient, but it will be worth it.


By logging into your account, you can keep track of your child's progress, provide access to specific websites, as well set up parental controls. I also liked the KidConnect feature which allows parents to text message their kids on their Innotab using their iPhone or Android phones. Other kids who have the InnoTab 3S can also text each other once they are set up.

Some of the free apps that I enjoyed were: the Art Studio which is a creative app for freehand drawing and painting; the Twist H2O game in which you have a guide a drop of water through a maze; the Color and Pop app which has several coloring pages, and the Wonder Cam which allows you to take silly pictures to create funny faces and effects.

On Vtech's Learning Lodge website, you will find over 600 apps and cartridges in various categories like reading, math, problem-solving, learning games, just plain fun games, as well as video and music apps. There is also a free app called "Wish List Maker" that allows kids to build a wish list of apps that they wish to have and parents can approve them directly from the iPhones or Android phones.

In order to maximize the power of the rechargeable battery pack, make sure to fully charge it the first time. The User Guide indicates that it takes approximately four and a half hours to charge the battery, but my battery charged within a couple of hours. Once charged, the battery will give you approximately 9 hours of battery life.

The Vtech InnoTab 3S tablet does have some drawbacks. Like I mentioned earlier, it feels a little sluggish in terms of performance, but then again, it's a kid's tablet. When operating InnoTab 3S learning tablet you may find it a little slow when compared to adult tablets. When I first powered up the tablet, it took about 30 seconds to load. Also, when moving from app to app, it's a little slow to load. After all, it's processor is only a 360-MHz ARM 11 CPU.

We as adults are used to high powered, robust processors which kids don't really need. If you're going to be installing a lot of apps, you will require additional storage space. The tablet comes loaded with 4GB of internal memory. The good thing is that memory storage can be expanded using a microSD card (up to 32 GB).

Overall, I think it makes a great educational gift for children who will enjoy learning and keeping themselves entertained - this big kid surely did!

Vtech InnoTab 3S Video Review and Help


The video below is a review on the Vtech InnoTab 3S. You will also find other video tutorials on my YouTube channel on the unboxing of the Vtech Wi-Fi learning tablet, and a tutorial on how to install the rechargeable battery pack in the InnoTab 3S tablet.



Share your thoughts on Vtech's InnoTab 3S kid's tablet.

Image Credit: Images on this webpage belong to the author unless otherwise mentioned or linked to.

Squashed 3D Board Game Review

Squashed or Be Squashed

Squashed is a fun Board Game that makes you think in three dimensions. I got this cool kid's board game in November 2013 and it's a game that children will enjoy playing. What I like most about it is that it's simple, yet makes you think before you move your pieces to squash your opponents while protecting your own positions on the board. The other aspect of this 3D cube game that I liked was that it doesn't take too long to finish the game once you learn how to strategically maneuver your board pieces.

So you're probably wondering, how the game is played. Well, first off, the board itself is a 3D cube. It comes with a King piece and 16 pawns (four of each color: red, purple, green, and orange). The game is designed for two to four players. Each player chooses one pawn color. That is, each player will have four pieces of the same color placed on four sides of the cube on the respective spot marked on the cube. The King piece is placed right on top, in the center of the cube.

Basically, the aim of the game is to squash your opponents pawns by either landing on them or over them. Alternatively, you can squash your opponents pawns by flipping the cube once you land on one of the four spots surrounding the King piece. The last player with their pawn standing, wins. The pawns can move only vertically and/or horizontally, that is, diagonal moves are not allowed.

To start the game, you have to first decide who goes first. This can be determined by rolling the die (yeah, I said die, not dice). The die looks like a dice and has six sides, however, it's numbered 1, 2, and 3. So essentially, you can move up to 3 spots upon rolling the die. Another interesting rule of the game is that you can split your move between any of your pawns. So for example, if you rolled the die and got to move 3 spots, you can choose to move one pawn two spots, and another pawn one spot.

What makes this game very interesting is that you are sometimes left with a choice to either squash a pawn or get to the four spots surrounding the King piece which allows you to flip the cube and squash multiple pawns in one move. You have a really play the game to enjoy it - I sure did! 


This 3D board game is designed for children ages 6 and up, but I'm sure you adults will enjoy playing with your kids too. By the way, if two players are playing Squashed, you are allowed to choose two pawn colors each. That is, you will each have 8 pawns distributed on four sides of the game cube, which makes the game even more interesting.

Until you actually play the game, you won't really experience the fun of it. Given that you can finish the game rather quickly, you may want to play the game best of 3 or 5 games. The game pawns are quite tiny, so make sure that you keep them away from younger kids and pets.

You can watch the video below to get a better understanding on how the game is played. The cube is 7-inches so it's a good size and portable enough to tag along.

Watch Squashed 3D Board Game in Action


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Perplexus 3D Maze Games Review

Perplexus Original, Rookie, Epic 3D Puzzles from PlaSmart Inc. are fun and unique 3D puzzles for kids ages 4 years and up. As opposed to your regular two-dimensional, flat surface puzzles, Perplexus mazes add another dimension and take you into a 3D world.

The mazes are designed with different obstacles, paths and barriers, and are enclosed in a large transparent sphere through which you maneuver a small metal ball or marble.

The concept of the game is fairly easy to understand, however, getting through the 3D mazes is challenging enough to keep kids engrossed and entertained.

Given its unique design, the Perplexus maze games are also a great way to help improve problem-solving, hand-eye coordination as well as motor and dexterity skills in children. The Perplexus 3D maze games come in 4 different difficulty levels: the Perplexus Rookie, the Original, the Twist and the Epic. I have personally tested all the Perplexus 3D maze games from PlaSmart. On this web page you will find reviews on all of the Perplexus 3D maze games, including videos and pictures of this fun children's toy which adults will enjoy too.

Perplexus 3D Maze Game Video


Watch this short 30 second video commercial of the Perplexus 3D maze game and take a quick peek at this fun and unique educational toy for children. In the sections below, we will review each of the unique 3D puzzles in more detail.



Perplexus Rookie 3D Maze Game by PlaSmart


Perplexus 3D maze games have become popular because of their unique design and educational nature of the fun toy. The original one is designed for children above 6 years of age. Given the popularity of this innovative toy, the company decided to design the Perplexus Rookie for children ages 4 and up.

The Rookie 3-dimensional maze game is easier to maneuver for younger kids and has 70 challenging barriers. Though it’s easy to maneuver, it’s still challenging to solve. The Perplexus Rookie has different types of obstacles in the form of twisty paths, stairs, tubes, and much more to provide a fun experience for kids.

The mazes are enclosed in a transparent plastic sphere 6 1/2 inches in diameter. In order to solve the 3D puzzle, you have to maneuver a small metallic marble through the various twisty, bendy barriers from start to finish. Arrows and numbers marked on the paths direct you from the starting point to the finish point.

When you first look at the Perplexus Rookie, it may take you a little while to get used to maneuvering through the paths and barriers, however, once you get the hang of it, you will find it very interesting and it may even get addictive. Younger children may need help initially when they start off solving the 3D maze, but they’ll soon get the hang of it. As Perplexus puts it, “Easy to play, hard to master”.

Video Review of Perplexus Rookie



Perplexus Original 3D Maze Game by PlaSmart


The Perplexus Original was among the first 3D maze games introduced by PlaSmart Inc. This innovative children’s educational toy includes 100 challenging barriers designed in a colorful, three-dimensional obstacle course.

The 3D maze includes adventurous and gravity-defying obstacles with twists, turns, bends, a swing arm, a super spiral, a tight rope and much more. Believe it or not, there are 23 feet of track inside the Perplexus Original to provide a super-thrilling puzzle-solving experience. The concept of this 3D maze game is similar to the Perplexus Rookie in which you maneuver a small steel marble through the 3D obstacle course from start to finish.

The Perplexus Original is designed for children ages 6 years and up. You can race yourself, the clock or your friends with these puzzles. The Original one has a slightly bigger transparent sphere and requires no batteries to operate. Just take it wherever you go and have unlimited fun with this 3-dimensional maze.

Video Review of Perplexus Original



Perplexus Epic 3D Maze Game by PlaSmart


The Perplexus Epic is among the newest in the line of these 3D maze games and is designed for kids ages 8 and up, and for those who have mastered the Rookie and Original. The Perplexus Epic comes with 125 challenging barriers which include twists, turns, tubes, serpentines, a gondola, launch ramp, Escher’s stairs and many more exciting gravity-defying obstacles.

The concept of this innovative three-dimensional maze game is similar to the Perplexus Rookie and Original. However, the obstacle course is much more challenging and requires a higher level of skill and patience to complete.

The plastic transparent sphere is larger in diameter (8 1/2 inches) compared to the Rookie and Original, and makes it easier to handle for older kids. The Perplexus Epic comes with a plastic stand to rest the game when not playing with it and requires no batteries to operate which makes it great for travel.

Video Review of Perplexus Epic



Perplexus Twist 4D Maze Game by PlaSmart


The Perplexus Twist is the latest in 3D puzzle games introduced by PlaSmart. Designed for children 6 years and up, they will be enjoy solving this 3D maze game which has a twist in it. If they have enjoyed the Perplexus Rookie, Original, and Epic, they are sure to love the new Twist. With 30 different types of obstacles to maneuver through, it packs in a lot of fun with twists and turns, traps, dead ends and cliffhangers, and much more.

I’ve tried all of the earlier Perplexus puzzles, including the new Twist, and really enjoy these puzzles. Similar to the other 3D maze games, the Twist is enclosed in a plastic transparent sphere, 7.5-inch in diameter. In order to solve the Perplexus Twist, you have to through the obstacle course filled with challenging turns, and different types of tracks, however unlike the earlier puzzles, the Twist adds a new dimension in which you have to twist the handles in order to align the paths and navigate to the finish line. The Twist adds a new challenge to test your skills and patience.

Apart from fun and challenges, these Perplexus puzzles are great for developing and enhancing hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning and dexterity as kids try to guide the marble to the finish. For beginner’s, it’s best to start with the first track and then work your way up. The Perplexus Twist comes with a plastic stand for easy storage, it requires no batteries to operate the puzzle, and is a great travel companion.

Video Review of Perplexus Twist




Share your thoughts on Perplexus 3D Maze Games and Puzzles.

Image Credits: Pictures on this webpage belong to the author unless otherwise mentioned or  linked to.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dark Knight Rises Toys & Costumes

Dark Knight Rises Toys are among the hottest gift ideas for kids who consider Batman as their superhero. The Dark Knight Rises movie, released in 2012, increased the popularity of Batman and toy companies have introduced some new Batman and Bane toys.

On this web page you will find many of these new "The Dark Knight Rises" toys like the U-Command interactive Batman and Bane toy action figures, U-Command Batmobile and Batpod bike, as well as, The Dark Knight costumes, and much more. I've tried and tested the Batman action figure as well as the Batmobile myself.

Batman and Bane Action Figures


The action figures of Batman and Bane, featured above, are interactive toys that can be controlled with an infrared remote controller. The controller enables animated body actions like waist swivels and other special actions as well as sound effects. Both action figures are 14-inches tall and requires 3 AAA batteries as well as 3 cell batteries for the IR remote control. When used in the interactive mode, the two action figures, Batman and Bane, can communicate with each other.


There are a couple of different models of the Batman action figure. The one featured in the video below is called the "U-Command Batman Action Figure" which uses a dual-joystick remote controller. This particular action figure model can move forward, backward and do a 360 degree spin in both directions. It also comes with over a thousand pre-programmed action sequences and sound effects.

It stands 13-inches tall and requires 4 AA alkaline batteries for the action figure and 3 AA batteries for the remote controller. Recommended for kids ages 4 and up. This action figure model costs a little more compared to the ones featured above. You can see Batman in action, in the video demonstration below.

Video Review of The Dark Knight Rises U-Command Batman




U-Command Batmobile and Batpod with Remote Control



The Batmobile and Batpod make great gifts for boy ages 4 and up. The Batmobile featured above "U-Command Batmobile with Remote Control" is a cool 10-inch (in length) RC car which can be controlled with a wireless infrared remote controller with dual-joysticks. The user can control the Batmobile free-style or through several pre-programmed commands that preset or that you have programmed yourself.

With the IR remote, you can control the movements of the Batmobile like forward, reverse, left and right side movements, as well as spin the car in both directions. Also, the windshield of the Batmobile lights up along with various sound effects when making specific maneuvers. The Batmobile requires a total of 7 AA batteries: 3 AA batteries for the IR remote controller; and 4 AA batteries for the Batmobile.

The Batpod motorcycle is similar to the Batmobile, in terms of overall operation, however, it has quite a different "look and feel". Just like the Batmobile, you can control the movements of the Batpod using an IR remote control to move it forward, backward, and sideways. It has over a thousand action sequences which can be programmed via the Batpod IR remote controller.

When using specific action sequences, the wheels of the Batpod motorcycle light up along with special sound effects. The Batpod also requires 7 AA batteries: 3 AA batteries for the IR remote controller; and 4 AA batteries for the Batpod.

Video Review of The Dark Knight Rises U-Command Bat-Pod Bike




Dark Knight Rises Kids Costume 


If you're looking for The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Costume for your kids, you can get everything you need from head to foot to get the Batman look. The Batman Action Gear package includes the Batsuit, cowl, sculpted chest plate, Batman cape, and gloves with adjustable straps. The material used in the Batman costume featured above is made of soft and flexible material for comfort.

The Batman Utility Belt is sold separately and includes a light projector (requires 2 AAA batteries), a pretend GPS, a dart launcher, a couple of soft folding Batarangs, and a storage pouch. The Utility Belt size is designed to fit up to a 26.5 inch waist.





Share your thoughts, comments, and feedback on the Dark Knight Rises Toys and Costumes.