Pros: Seven games in one, Girls love princesses
Cons: Everything other than the box is cheap quality, Rules are poorly written
In some ways, I have failed my daughter. She is going to turn six in two weeks, and until this week did not know how to play checkers, Crazy Eights, or understand Tic Tac Toe. My mother and grandmother are quick to point out that I knew how to play these games when I was three (or two, or one, depending on how bad they want to make me feel. So, when I saw the ad for the Disney Princess Game House for $10, I recommended it to my mother-in-law for a Christmas present to my daughter.
The Disney Princess Game House consists of seven classic games that all fit neatly inside the box "house." The games are:
Tic Tac Toe
This house of cards is not falling down
The box of the Disney Princess Game House is well-made, of solid pink wood (about a half inch thick). The top surface has a purple checkerboard sticker glued on and measures about a square foot. Each side of the box is covered in a giant purple sticker highlighting Disney princesses. One side features Mulan, Cinderella and Pocahontas, another has Jasmine, Belle and Ariel, and the back features Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
All of the games fit into the solid baby blue wood drawer, which is about three inches high and easily slides in and out. The Tic Tac Toe board (with giant princess head shots in each of the nine squares) is glued onto the bottom of the drawer (ours is slightly crooked).
Included in the box are 24 checkers. Twelve of these are baby blue with a sticker of Cinderella glued onto one side and a crown molded onto the other side. Likewise, there are twelve pink checkers, with Sleeping Beauty on the non-crowned side. The checkerboard is a little busy, with squares alternating between shades of purple and princess head shots. Other than that minor distraction (which occasionally makes it hard for young eyes to fix themselves on the checkered pattern), playing checkers in the Princess Game House is just like playing it on a traditional board.
Tic Tac Toe
Of all the games in the box, Tic Tac Toe seems like the biggest stretch for my daughter. She is used to playing this game with "X's" and "O's," but here the game is played using the checkers from the checker game. The checkers are about 1/10th the size of the Tic Tac Toe squares, too, so that can make things trickier for kids to visualize where the empty squares are. Personally, I think Tic Tac Toe works best when the "X's" and "O's" can take up the entire square, especially for younger, developing minds.
If Tic Tac Toe was the biggest disappointment, I would have to call Bingo the second biggest disappointment in this game. The game comes with four flimsy carton Bingo cards and a ton of little clear plastic discs to mark the squares with. There is also a flimsy carton spinner. Instead of numbers, each Bingo square is a princess. Here's a sample from the instructions, where the game gets ridiculous:
[The youngest player] spins the spinner and calls out the colored shape that the spinner lands on. Then all players search their cards for that colored shape. If a player has a match, he covers it with a marker...When a player gets "Bingo," four markers in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row, she calls out "Bingo" and play stops.
The most obvious fault here is that there are five rows and five columns, so the winner should actually be the first to get five markers in a row. That's just a minor issue compared to this one: every square in each column is the exact same color and shape! If you play by the "rules," every player will get "Bingo" at the same time. Doesn't anyone proofread these things? This is especially necessary for games that are marketed to children. We managed to avert this problem by adapting the rules to call out the princess the spinner lands on in that particular column (B, I, N, G, or O).
The flimsiness of the spinner was just another thorn in my side on this one. My daughter had trouble spinning because the arrow is so long that there is no place for her to actually hold the spinner while spinning, so that the arrow would not just crash into her fingers. We had to solve this problem by me holding the spinner when she spinned for the markers.
There is a box of cards with Belle on the cover for Old Maid. This game has nineteen pairs of cards for players to match, and Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid is the Old Maid. Each card for the players to match either has one of the Disney princesses on it, or a princess with her prince. The directions say that this can be played with two or more players, but I think it works better with more. When there are only two players, you are pretty much guaranteed a match every time you pick a card from the other player's hand, unless you pick the Old Maid.
Another box of cards has Cinderella on the cover, for Crazy Eights. This game has 36 cards, numbered from one to nine in four different "suits." There are purple squares, pink cloudy squares, green inverted diamonds and blue puffy diamonds. Each number has one of the princesses on the face of the card. For example, one card has a full-length picture of Ariel in a pink dress on it. In the upper left corner, there is a small purple square with the number nine inside of it.
It's been a long time since I've played Crazy Eights, but I always thought the point was to run out of your cards. In this version, the winner gets points for the cards left in every other player's hand, and they keep playing new rounds until someone gets to 50 points.
Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty gets the honors of the deck for Go Fish. In this version there are a total of 40 cards, and players need to get sets of four cards of the same number in order to lay them down and eventually go out. Nothing new here, except that I appreciate there being less than 52 cards in this one. Again, there are four suits (different from the suits in Crazy Eights), numbered from one to ten this time. Each card also has a full-length picture of one of the princesses on its face.
There are 28 inch and a half long domino tiles in the Disney Princess Game House, with two princess heads on each tile. We have the Dora the Explorer dominoes and lost the directions, so it was nice to learn that in the 28-tile version, each player is supposed to start with five dominoes. The goal is to be the first to get rid of your dominoes by placing the princesses head to head with their matches.
Compared to the Dora dominoes, these ones seem kind of cheap. Yes they are sturdy, but they don't have as smooth of a feel to them as the Dora ones.
When it comes down to it, the Disney Princess Game House will provide hours of entertainment to young children. Other than the box, which is very sturdy, the components are low in quality, so if you can find a generic game box with more durable contents, I would recommend that. Otherwise, these games will serve as great entertainment for girls in the 4-8 age range.