Loopin’ Louie is a game that I bought solely because it had a good reputation on BGG. It has a rating above 7 and for a children’s game that makes it pure gold. Frankly, if it hadn’t been for BGG, I’d never have touched the game. Luckily, I heeded the recommendation of BGG and bought it.
Here’s why you should do the same, and why you shouldn’t waste valuable gaming time letting the children play this game – it’s far too good for them.
Loopin’ Louie comes in a deep, square box with suitable cheesy graphics on the outside:
My version is the English (UK) MB Games version (yes, the new version) and the box side says 2-4 players, age 4+ and a 10-minute playing time. The only thing they got wrong is the age range; it’s definitely 18+. The box looks like a typical pre-school toy that gets unwrapped on Christmas day, played with for 30 minutes, then lies broken and abandoned in the corner until thrown out during the summer holidays.
Inside the box is:
a central base containing a battery-powered motor
a bag containing four plain white arms with chicken coops at the end that slot into the base – and are quite a loose fit, so hold on to yours with your other hand during play
a bag containing Louie in his aeroplane, along with a dozen plain blue disks that will transform into chickens at some stage
a bag containing the 4 paddle flippers that players will use to defend their chickens from Louie’s antics
a balance arm on a central cone that plugs into the base unit
two sheets of stickers
Everything is made of plastic and looks cheap and cheerful, but the bits are surprisingly robust and should give many hours of pleasure before you need to get another copy. Luckily the game is often on sale and doesn’t feel over-priced if bought for £10, $20, 15 euro or less.
So now we come to the two main negative points about Loopin’ Louie:
1) It looks less sophisticated than Tickle-Me-Elmo
2) You have to assemble the game yourself
The look of the game undoubtedly puts adults off buying the game, unless they have a 2-year old in the house, and MB games is closing off a huge potential market by not making this game look more grown-up.
Having to put the thing together is also a bit of a bind. Sure, the game is designed to come apart for easy storage, and I’m fine with that. But you have to snap Louie onto the balance arm, snap the paddle arms onto the chicken coops and then stick dozens of stickers all over the place to make the blue disks look like chickens, the chicken coops look like chicken coops, the aeroplane look like an aeroplane and so on. You could play the game in it’s vanilla state as a sort of post-modern uber-cool statement and it will play just the same as if you spent 30 minutes sticking, re-sticking, cursing, re-re-sticking and gluing the stickers in place – usually upside down. If you’re giving this game to children – No! Don’t do it!! It’ll only be wasted on them – then I’d recommend opening up the game, assembling it yourself and re-packing it. It can be very fiddly getting all the stickers in the right place and little hands probably haven’t got the dexterity for it.
Right, you’ve overcome your horror at playing a game that wouldn’t challenge an amoeba, that looks like My-First-Talking-Roundabout™ and that you have to assemble yourself. Don’t worry, you’re over the worst, it all gets much, much better from now on.
To get the game ready to play you have to put new batteries into the central base, then attach Louie, who is placed at the end of the end of the balance arm, onto the top of the base. Take a paddle/coop for each player and attach them to the base, put 3 chickens on the top of each coop and assume the position. With two players, you’ll want to be facing each other, three players is a slightly awkward T-shaped setup, but you can rotate positions, and four players is the best number to have. (With five players, use a House Rule that the winner/first loser sits out of the next game, so everyone gets their turn at the game.)
Louie is placed in an unstable vertical position and he’ll stay vertical forever as long as nothing happens to him. But then, someone switches on the motor and, oops, he’s off. Louie starts to rotate and eventually, either through increased angular momentum or an uneven table, or an inconsiderate nudge, Louie will tip over and come crashing down towards your chicken coop in a reckless attempt to decapitate your Dutch Bantams.
Left to his own devices, Louie’s natural motion is to rotate in a nearly horizontal circle with the bottom of his aeroplane grazing the top of your chicken disks:
If nobody did anything, Louie would hit the top of every chicken in under a minute, and when Louie hits a chicken it tips slightly and falls through a slot in the side of your chicken coop – one dead chicken. Lose all your chickens and it’s game over, man.
Enter the hero with his incredible powers of manual dexterity – that’s you. Each player has a paddle/lever that they can use to bat Louie up into the air, above the heads of their chickens, preserving poultry from an early death. (How this fits thematically into the game I have no idea. Who’d use a seesaw to bat an aeroplane out of the way when a cheap SCUD missile from the Middle East would do the job so much more effectively?) Your paddle can give Louie a bump that puts him over your chickens and gravity brings Louie back down to harass some more innocent fowl and, thanks to the weight on the other end of the arm that holds Louie's aeroplane, the decent is fairly gentle and balletic - unless he's spinning like a whirling Dervish.
Each player uses their paddle as Louie comes their way to save their chickens. But, as your skills increase, you realise that you can also make Louie target opponent’s chickens as well as saving your own pullets. With one smooth blat on your paddle, you send Louie soaring over your own coop, leave him hanging, poised in mid-air, before swooping down above the futile flapping of your opponent's paddle, crashing into those hapless chickens. Yes! Result! And so the fun begins. After a while, you’ll be trying to create all manner of amazing acrobatic feats; spins, dives, climbing into the stratosphere and diving out of the sun to take the head off the next unwary chicken.
If you want a real-time-strategy game, then Loopin’ Louie is it – in spades. If you fluff the hit the first time, you get another chance five seconds later. You need to think quickly, react faster still and prepare to change plans in an instant.
Loopin’ Louie is a ruthless wargame, where the winner takes the spoils. There’s no prize for coming second, there’s no quarter asked or given, it’s an absolute bloodbath, and it only takes 10 minutes to triumph over your puny enemies and reign supreme in the chicken wing market.
For 10 minutes you’re manically flapping your paddle, cursing fate, your friends (who become your deadly enemies once your first chicken bites the dust), the wonky table and every other
excuse reason you can conjure as to why you’re always the first to lose all their chickens. Face it, you’re rubbish at this game, but you’re too proud/stubborn to admit it. Just one more game and you’ll prove your superiority; just you wait and see.
Never mind the dicefests of Titan, the backstabbing of Diplomacy, the chicanery of Intrigue or the carnage of every other wargame on the planet; Loopin’ Louie distils war into a 10-minute romp where strategy, dexterity, psychology, quick thinking and a huge dose of luck combine to teach every gamer just how humbling an experience it is to lose.
Some Observations On Gameplay
If you hit your paddle too hard, your chickens might fall off the coop – dead from the shock of your wallop – so take care and learn the art of the gentle, but perfectly placed, tap.
Some chickens seem super-glued to the coop – and they always belong to other players. If everyone drops their chickens into the upper part of the slot on top of the coop, then there is no chance of deliberately wedging a chicken in place – not that anybody would stoop so low, no siree. Even so, sometimes those chickens just won’t die. Of course, when it’s your heroic chickens, fighting off the depredations of the maniac Louie, then it’s only natural that they stay put.
Kismet/justice/Sod’s Law plays a huge part in this game. If Louie doesn’t fall at the start of the game, then the person who gives him a nudge inevitably loses a chicken in the next ten seconds. If you hit Louie in a wild, uncoordinated way, you’ll only watch him whiz round, do a complete circuit, missing everybody else's chickens, and take out one of your own. Play rough with this game and it’ll wreak its revenge, and it won’t be served cold. Justice comes hot and swift in this game.
Use one hand to hold down your paddle/coop as this helps to stabilise the game and usually prevents sudden chicken death from over-eager paddle slapping. This also helps to anchor the game on the table, preventing it sliding away from those with an over-strong paddle slap.
Skill really does play a huge part in this game, but there’s enough randomness to make it interesting for all parties, from the young and feeble to the old and feebler still. The paddles can be set in two positions - easy and hard - so you can up the difficulty for those too skilled for you to beat.
Don’t get carried away with the acrobatics, concentrate on the getting him off your chickens first, and then try for the well-aimed drop-shot onto someone else’s coop. Of course, if you’re cunning, you’ll throw in the occasional wild loop-the-loop just to unnerve the opposition.
If you take this game too seriously then everyone else will gang up on you and blitz your chickens quicker than Superman on turbo-boost. If winning means everything to you, then this isn’t the game for you, although everyone else will think it’s actually the perfect game for you.
Stock up on LOTS of batteries, you’re going to need them. The only improvement I'd make to the game would be the ability to use a mains adapter to power the game, so you don't need to change batteries during play. (Invest in two sets of rechargeable batteries for this game and keep them charged/charging at all times.)
If you play this game in public, you’ll have dozens of people eager to give it a go, so make sure you’ve got the rest of the day free. Never lend this game to anyone; you’ll never get it back again.
Is Loopin’ Louie The Game For You?
It’s the perfect game for everyone:
at a party
as a family bonding activity (dad's are expected to be the first one out EVERY time)
at family gatherings (although I wouldn’t play it in the church during a wedding, getting it out before the speeches at the reception is just fine)
as a game day starter/finisher
as an icebreaker with those terrible kiddies who’ve just moved in next door
Absolutely everyone on the planet should enjoy this game – no exceptions.
If you play this game and don’t have fun; there’s something wrong with you. This game is all about having FUN, then having some more FUN and then having some more FUN, finished with a big dollop of FUN. If you’re not having FUN, you’re either dead, or might as well be. This game could be professor of FUN at FUN University, FUNtown, FUN County in the United States of FUN.
This game is pure-dead-brilliant. It’s taken all the enjoyment of gaming and distilled it down into a short exercise in frustration (when you lose) and ecstasy when you win (purely down to your superior motor skills of course, no luck involved).
Get this game and bring it out at every opportunity. It’ll make friends and influence people like nothing else on Earth. After watching the Big Match, this is the game to unwind to, especially if everyone is on their fifth pint. Bring it out when dinner is smouldering at the bottom of the oven and everyone is waiting for the pizza to be delivered. Use it to wake everyone up in the morning, it's better than coffee.
I’ve played this game with just about every demographic there is and, once people get over the childish look of the game, EVERYONE HAD A BLAST – and I do mean everyone.
This game deserves to be in every home – go out and buy a copy today.
And don’t waste this game on children; it really is too good for them. It’s like Scalectrix, Hornby model railways, and model aeroplanes; use the children as the excuse to buy and own the game, but only bring it out when they’ve all gone to bed. But do remember to keep the noise down in case you wake them up and they want to join in all the fun.
(And when they ask what all those rude words mean that they heard from the top of the stairs, you've only got yourself to blame. If you don't like losing, you should learn not to swear.)
Life is too short not to live it up a little!
My sons, age 29 and 31, now live in Chicago. We visited in December, when I delivered a copy of the game for EACH of them AND took my own to actually PLAY. (They likely thought I was nuts buying them a KIDDIE game for Christmas!) Everyone present played several games and had a BLAST! The language around the table was anything but little-kid talk, that's for sure!!!
I LOVE this game! Thanks for a GREAT write-up!
This sounds an awful lot like Bobbin' Bumblebee...in fact, exactly the same! Except you have a bee and honey instead of an airplane and chickens...But I've played the Bee version of this game and it is a lot of fun.
This game brings back some SERIOUS memories for me. I remember playing this as a little kid, good times. Great review.
Great write up!
I introduced this to my gaming group today, having only played it with the children before, and they absolutely loved it! My oldest son (only 9, but we let him play LL anyway) was included, as he often is for the start of gaming sessions, and he was especially thrilled as he proceeded to beat the pants of everyone else - must be an inherited skill, ahem ahem.