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This review, complete with pictures (but not pictures of me covered in cream) is available on my blog at AlwaysBoardNeverBoring. Feel free to stop by and subscribe. I promise not to hit you in the face.
Pie Face! (complete with the exclamation point) isn't really a game. I mean, you play it, it's got rules, and there are winning conditions; but it doesn't really feel like a game.
If I was feeling generous I would call it an activity.
But honestly, it's just a torture device.
A torture device designed by The Three Stooges.
Kids love it though. Why wouldn't they? It involves squirty cream and slapstick humour. Playing it is like starring in your own episode of The Chuckle Brothers*. And yes, that is as bad as it sounds. Let me explain...
My five-year-old daughter has spent weeks desperately pleading for me to buy Pie Face! for her (because "I want to hit you in the face, Daddy"), and while I strongly believe that you should never shy away from an activity that allows you to spend more time with your children... well... in this case it was very, very tempting. However, I finally caved to the pressure and purchased the game, and I have to admit, when it arrived in the post my daughter's excitement was infectious, and I was almost looking forward to playing.
Until I had set up the game, that is.
Credit where it's due: In some ways, Pie Face! is a stroke of genius. Taking its cues from visual comedy means the game has a certain kind of elegance that transcends words. You see, the game doesn't feature a board, dice, or playing pieces. It's just a spring-loaded hand aimed at a target with a hole cut in it. You get instructions for how to play, but really, if you need to read them after seeing the game set up, you really are missing the point of what a game called Pie Face! is trying to achieve.
So, the game (or activity) couldn't be simpler. It's an exercise in randomness, involving zero skill, and zero decisions. You start by priming the spring-loaded hand, and covering it with a dollop of squirty cream (or a wet sponge, if you prefer), and then you spin a spinner which has numbers on it ranging from two to five. The result of the spin dictates how many times you turn the handle on the Pie Face! machine; but of course, first you have to put your face through the hole in the target. If you turn the handle without the hand springing forwards, you win points equal to twice the number you span... spun... span...
If you turn the handle without the hand springing forwards, you win points equal to twice the number you spun.
If, however, the hand springs forward, you get no points. You do get a face full of delicious, squirty cream though.
I set up the game on our garden table, while my daughter excitedly danced around, clapping her hands and occasionally trying to squirt cream into her mouth when she thought I wasn't looking. I was, it was fair to say, not keen on playing.
"I want to go first," says Little Never Boring, so she pulls down the hand to prime it, and I squirt on the cream. She spinned the spunner and gets a two.
My wife, who somehow gets away with not playing, gets out her camera phone.
Little Never Boring puts her head in the target, screws up her little eyes tightly, and starts turning the handle.
The sun beats down. The squirty cream starts to melt a little bit and trickles along the plastic lever.
It's my turn. I feel like I should be wearing a bandanna.
I spun the spanner, and it's a five. Of course it's a five. Why wouldn't it be a five? Why would I possibly expect to spin anything other than a damned five?
I put my head in the target, and start to count as I turn the handle.
The hand springs up, and I've suddenly got a blob of sticky cream on the end of my nose. I look like an anaemic clown.
My wife takes a picture. Obviously.
I wipe the cream off my face. My hands are sticky. I can already feel residual cream turning into a horrible crust on the bridge of my nose and across my cheek. The sun is impossibly hot. I am suddenly aware of the buzzing of bees.
"Let's play again," says Little Never Boring.
So, I prime the hand, and load up a new spiral of cream. Needs a cherry on it.
Little Never Boring spans the spunner, and she gets another two. She almost looks disappointed. Almost.
She puts her face in the target, and she screws up her eyes, and she slowly, slowly, slowly turns the handle.
My go again. There's an inquisitive bee sitting on the picnic table. It's just waiting there. My wife has zoomed right in on my face with her camera phone. I know this, because she says she can see the beads of sweat on my forehead. And some cream.
I spin the spinner.
It's a five. Of course it's a damned five.
I put my face in the target, I touch the handle. I probably breathe a bit too heavily.
I see it coming and I turn my head slightly, and the cream pelts me just above the left eyebrow. My wife snaps the photo. Obviously. And OH GOD IT'S IN MY EYE. It's in my hair. The bee launches into action, it wants to nibble out the splash of cream that's gone inside my ear. And is that ants? I can't see properly. I'm frantically clawing the gloop off my eyeball with a wet wipe. Everything smells of slightly gone off cream. And is that a wasp? Wasps are worse than bees, because they're massive dickheads and like to sting you just for laughs.
I'm out of my chair. I'm done.
Screw this game.
And Little Never Boring...
She's laughing. She's laughing so hard snot is coming out of her nose. And I don't mean endearing little snot bubbles, either. She can hardly breathe.
She's laughing so hard I think she might fall right out of her chair.
And my wife's laughing too. Obviously.
I stand there for a moment, licking my fingers. Then I smile. "Want to play another round?" I ask,
And that's Pie Face!
One of the worst games ever made. And also, possibly, one of the very best.
* Apologies to any American readers who haven't had the pleasure of watching The Chuckle Brothers. I envy your ignorance.
My little niece got this as a present for Dezember 6. My brother and I suffer.
Seriously though, this is lots of fun to play with children. Teaches them both to ridicule their uncle and to take defeat with dignity.