Reviewed by: Herb Levy
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(USAopoly, 2 to 8 players, ages 8 and up, 10-20 minutes, $19.95)
Another one in the recent spate of mass market offerings from USAopoly is a word game category game twist which is described as a Touch Activate Press & Play Letter Eliminator or, for short, Tapple.
As a category game, Tapple derives its inspiration from the original German word game Pim Pam Pet, a game that has been popular in Europe for almost 100 years. But games like it have appeared in America too.
Vintage games such as Quick Wit (Parker Brothers, 1938) and Dig (another Parker Brothers game which first appeared in 1940) share similar goals. The goal in Tapple, as in both its decades old predecessors, is simple: find a particular item or thing that fits into a particular category. In Quick Wit, cards expose different categories and letters and players try to be the first to call out something that fits; Dig uses cork “shovels” to “dig out” letters from a pile to construct a word fitting a specified category. Tapple modernizes this basic play with its “touch activator”.
The “touch activator” is a circular piece of plastic with a large red button in the center (powered by 2 AA batteries) and letters of the alphabet around its perimeter. (Not all letters are in play, however. No Q, U, V, X, Y or Z here.) And play could not be more simple.
A category card (from the 36 category cards with 144 categories) from the game is chosen and a particular category on that card announced. In turn order, a player presses the red button of the activator and has 10 seconds to call out a word that fits the category and press down the corresponding button that matches the first letter of the called word. No other word beginning with that letter may now be used. The player then presses the red button again and it’s the next player’s turn. He must call out a different word beginning with a different letter before time runs out. If a player cannot think of a word that fits the category, uses a word that begins with one of the used letters or just runs out of time, that player is out. The next player continues until only one player is left. That last surviving player ends the round, claiming the category card of the round and the next round begins with a new category card and all players once again involved.
The first player to amass three category cards wins!
Tapple is sturdy, a desirable quality in a item where you will be pounding the letter keys constantly. The yellow, circular, reset mechanism of the keys works well too (and it’s kind of cute to see all the letters pop into place all at once). Rules are about as simple as can be.
Tapple is one of those oddities: a game that functions like a toy. The time element adds a certain amount of frenzy to the action and fun. You will be amazed at what comes out of people’s mouths when the clock is ticking and “easy” answers are no longer available. For this reason, it is good to a be a little flexible as to what constitutes an acceptable answer. Otherwise, the game can bog down.
Although category cards are divided into “hard” and “easy” categories, that tends to be a distinction without a difference because what would be considered “adult strategy” is not a factor here. This is purely an exercise in quick thinking, leaning heavily on “gimmick” rather than “game”. Because of this, Tapple may not have much staying power with those of us who take their games seriously. But with kids, it’s a different story. This is the kind of game where rules are easy, play is quick (and noisy) and one that forces you to think fast, a combination that kids often find irresistible. And when you think about it, that, actually, is not a bad thing.
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