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Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

More fun, more often, for more people and other living things.

Catch Phrase

What do you get when Charades meets Hot Potato? What do you make it electronic so that the whole thing weighs maybe eleven ounces and contains 10,000 words and phrases, voice-synthesized scorekeeper, and increasingly nerve-wracking countdown timer? And two teams of two or more people each sitting around a circle so that every other person belongs on the same team? And three AAA batteries?

You get Hasbro's Major FUN Awardwinning party game called "Catch Phrase."

Catch Phrase is easy to learn. The game itself is readily understood because it is in fact a combination of hot potato and password. You try to get your team to guess the word or phrase on the LCD display (it's not very high contrast, so good lighting helps). In the mean time, a timer is sounding. As soon as anybody on your team guesses correctly, you hand it off to the next player, who is on the other team. Meanwhile, the timer, the other player, and the other team are all getting more frantic. As soon as they guess it, they hand it off, etc., etc., et not much more cetera, because the timer isn't very long, and when it goes off, if you happen to be the one that's holding it, the other team gets the point.

You have to press a button to tell the computer that the other team won (a good opportunity to manifest sportspersonlike behavior whilst massaging more salt into your conceptual wound). The voice chip proclaims the added point and the total score, rubbing in both victory and defeat. The next round begins with the selection of a new category, or not. And so it goes, until one team reaches 7 points.

This game is most definitely fun. Way more fun than you think you could get out of an electronic gadget. The hot potato part adds tension and makes scoring feel very easy and natural. Because you don't get points for guessing correctly (you just pass the pod to next player), the focus remains on the complete round of play rather than on a single correct guess. This makes the whole game even more fun. Because your team is working together to guess (yes, this is one of those more-the-merrier games that could easily accommodate twenty or even more players), there's a wonderful sense of teamwork that transcends individual performance, again making the game even more fun. Being able to select a new category at the beginning of each round provides a good break, adds a bit of information, a sense of control, and is totally optional. And there are so many words and phrases, and it's all so elegantly designed that you don't need to come up with variations to keep it fun, but, if you want to, there's nothing stopping you. Younger kids might have difficulty with some of the vocabulary, but if you're playing with a mixed age group, you don't need to get so serious about the competition that you can't find a way to make the game fun for everyone.

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