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Tongue Tanglers Review by Camilla Anderson

22200 Carroll Oaks Way

San Jose, CA 95120

Tongue TanglersTM is a tongue-twister party game for up to 12 players, intended for ages eight through adult. Each player creates tongue twisters that the other players must say to earn their points. The game consists of 900 "clean" words on cards, 12 word pads, 12 matching scoring markers, scoreboard, electronic timer, and a clever rack that holds it all inside a sturdy cardboard box.

To play, each player has a word pad that has place holders for four word cards, and a matching scoring marker (a little round disc). In turn, each player draws a word card and places it in any position on any other player's word pad. Once your word pad fills up with four cards, the timer is pressed and you have ten seconds to read your "tongue twister" as many times as you can without mistakes. You may then advance your scoring marker on the scoreboard for each correct reading of your twister. The object, of course, is to create the trickiest tongue twisters for other players to read—the harder the twister, the fewer times you will be able to repeat it in ten seconds, so the fewer points you get.

My two oldest children, ages 9 and 13, love tongue twisters. We eagerly started up a game. The box says, "2 Minutes to Learn." But that was not true for us. The instructions were vague and confusing. After reading and re-reading the instructions, I gave up on understanding fully and decided we would work out the kinks as we played. We were never able to reconcile the method of play with the given instructions, but we came pretty close. And we were disappointed. Although the selection of the 900 words on the cards is very creative, drawing a card at random often did not come up with a good "match." In other words, even though there were many words on the cards that could be used to build good tongue twisters, drawing them from the top of the pile just wasn't putting good tongue twisters together. Drawing them from anywhere in the pile didn't help, either. At best, we were building very lame tongue twisters and repeating them easily up to seven times in ten seconds. In addition, while trying to build the best tongue twisters, some of us were having our word pads filled up more often while other player's word pads remained unfilled with one or two "dud" words. When we "played fair" and made sure everyone got to read a twister once each round, the tongue twisters were not "twisty" at all. We got the most laughs when we had our 2-year-old join the game, and we had him repeat his tongue twisters after us.

I consulted with my children, and we decided to try to work out some new rules to increase the game's pace and excitement. We tried several different approaches, and soon we found a fast-paced way to play that had us laughing and getting into the game a little bit more. We decided that each player would be dealt four cards (eight words total). Then each player would use their words to build the most difficult tongue twister they could for another player. When it was your turn, you chose the player to whom you would give your tongue twister, laid it out on their word pad in order, started the timer, and had them read. This method seemed to work well. If, by chance, you were able to create a real "doozie," then you would give your twister to someone whose tongue was hard to trip. If you were dealt words that, at best, created a simple word list, you would choose to give that to a younger player. I enjoyed teaching my children about the tongue twister tricks of rhyming and alliteration, and then watching them work out their hand by quietly mouthing out different options and organizing their words the trickiest way.

The bottom of the game box tells parents and teachers, "Warning: May cause unexpected reading improvement." That might be a true statement, since the game is made up of 900 word "flash cards," many of them with similar sounds. I think my children actually learned more about poetry and creative writing. For example, my daughter, partly inspired by the game, is in the process of writing a story with lots of catchy rhyming words and names full of alliteration.

What I liked best about the game was its pristine packaging. I don't like it when games are just tossed into a box, and every time you play you have to sort and straighten the pieces and cards. The design of this game as a whole package just delighted me, as someone who loves order and neatness. It has a place for everything, and everything is in its place. The rack holds the 900 word cards neatly in four piles, and it also has a place for the timer to snap in and a slot for the 12 scoring discs. And the score board and word pads all slide neatly in to form the bottom of the rack.

What I like least about the game are the cheesy-looking cartoon characters drawn on each word pad and scoring disc--all of which had a revolting, speckled, two-foot tongue hanging out of their mouths, tied in a knot. Why be gross? Gross never makes the grade in our house. The game would be just as playable if it were designed with something more stylized and aesthetically pleasing. If I were game shopping, the goofy graphic design would keep me from giving this one a closer look.

Will we play it again? Yes. But we will continue to work on new rules and definitely not play by the written rules. My son and I were considering sorting the word cards into groups that helped form better twisters and then color-coding the cards. We'll see if that works. Unless Enginuity re-engineers this game a bit, I don't see it taking off as a huge hit. The pieces are there, and the idea is there, but they just didn't quite pull it off!

Product review by Camilla Anderson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, March 2008