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Subject: There is a method to the madness in this dexterity game ! rss

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Pete Belli
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Meatball Madness is a children's dexterity game with a whimsical restaurant theme. The design features meatballs made with plastic foam that the players must "carry" through a 3-dimensional obstacle course representing an Italian cafe..





Meatball Madness was published by Tara Toy Corporation in 2010. It was designed to be enjoyed by 2 or more players ages five and older. No reading is necessary to play the game. The rules are simple (less than one page, actually) but quite a bit of manual dexterity is required. This is a colorful toy with enough action to to keep little hands busy but the game has a gimmick that might be frustrating for some children.





The foam meatballs are extremely light... almost weightless. The method behind this "meatball madness" is obvious when the players begin reading the rules: the battery powered ladle contains a miniature fan and the players must guide their foam meatballs by keeping the gossamer orbs aloft with this concentrated airflow. The ladle has a built-in timer that regulates the length of a turn.





The vertical obstacle course is built using a trio of colorful stand-up boards. These are sturdy components designed to absorb rough handling by excited children. One board represents the chef. One board represents the kitchen. One board represents the dining room. The object of the game is to pick up a meatball from the chef and "carry" it through the kitchen to the dining room.





The large (almost 18 inches tall) three-dimensional displays are equipped with plastic inserts that provide additional challenges for the players by forcing the kids to direct a meatball through various small circles. My favorite device is a housefly spinner in the kitchen that is activated by the air rushing out of the ladle/fan device. Clever!

The composition of the rules is a trifle awkward because the illustration showing the proper set-up for the three boards is a tiny little B&W photograph. The best thing about the rules is the flexibility offered to the players; these obstacles can be arranged close together or far apart using any method the players desire. This allows the contestants to juggle the layout and match the difficulty level to the player's skill level... a great idea when small children are involved!

I never really developed an effective meatball carrying technique. I'm not as young as I used to be and I drink too much caffeine -- this is a game which requires steady hands. However, any Meatball Madness session will be a massive gigglefest. Half the fun was watching the balls crash into the floor. Whenever I started laughing a fumble was likely.

I paid three bucks for my copy at the thrift store. The laughter entirely justified that expense. For most adults three or four plays will probably take the bloom off the rose. I would certainly like to try it with with my little nephew. Meatball Madness could also be fun for intoxicated college students to enjoy at home after the bars close. Just be sure to have a designated driver available.
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GMOFreePortland.com
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Someone should do a video of this in action!
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