In "Papa Bear," players study the colors of hat, coat, and boots worn by Baby Bear as shown on 1 of 12 cards arranged in a circle. A center card is turned over, revealing which two items Baby Bear is to change so their colors swap, and players simultaneously find the 1 card among the 12 that shows the correction combination. The first player to correctly identify the proper new outfit gets the center card as a point; the first player to collect 6 of these center cards wins the round.
Originality = A: The clever backstory---that Papa Bear keeps having to have Baby Bear change into the correct set of clothes---makes the game mechanic accessible to younger kids. The story, though, does not stand up to scrutiny (why is yellow hat, red coat, and green boots improved by wearing a green hat and yellow boots?). Of course, if this were "Mama Bear," she would have laid out a completely matching outfit the night before, making all this changing unnecessary!
Parts = A-: The thick cards are sturdy and color, which bright, appealing artwork for the 12 outfit cards. The center cards and all card backs, however, are blandly 1-color jobs that would be much richer if they had been 2-color duotones with black to add richness. The box is nicely illustrated and sturdy, though I'd rather it be half the size (easily done with folded rules).
Challenge = B: Recognizing pattern changes is a step up from simple matching games, and the lack of downtime for turns means kids have to practice staying focused.
Fun = B: While visually engaging and with a story that draws kids in, "Papa Bear" is still an abstract with a pasted theme that doesn't quite live up in gameplay to the anticipation. Still, it goes quickly enough that it is fun in short doses (1 round with a 5 year old).
Replay = C: Because of its somewhat dry nature during actual play, "Papa Bear" invites repeat play for the look-what-I-can-do factor more than because it makes kids feel like they are actually helping Baby Bear get the right outfit. This makes the game less likely to hit the table after the first several games unless there are guests over, in which case the game is simple enough that kids will enjoys explaining it to new players.
Overall = B: "Papa Bear" takes an elementary-school logic exercise and gives it a fun theme that, while not immersive during play, does draw young players into the game and make the mechanics more easily grasped. This is a pleasant occasiona diversion worth the relatively low cost, though kids who don't like games requiring analytical thought will quickly see past the theme.