Tag Archives: games

The absolute worst baseball-themed game of all time.

Although a noble attempt to regenerate kids' interest in baseball cards, the Topps Attax game could very well repel an entire generation.

Let the record show that the baseball card hobby amongst children is already dead, victimized by foolish price inflation, holograms ($3 for 6-card packs, REALLY?) and some crappy toys called Bakugan.

Because I’m a sucker for hopeless causes, I was delighted to see Topps make an effort to make baseball cards fun again instead of creating the illusion of investment. I was thrilled to see the Topps Attax game at Target and hoped it might generate some enthusiasm with my eight-year-old son.

Here’s some advice. Instead of buying the starter set and playmat, take your five bucks to the nearest bank and convert it to quarters. Then take the coins and keep feeding the nearest parking meter until your hands are empty. Because watching those meter numbers go up is a gazillion times more enjoyable than this pitiful game.

Essentially, Attax is like playing “War” with a regular deck of cards with no relevance to real baseball. The hitting team randomly flips over the line-up as the pitching team announces what pitch is thrown. For example, if Zack Greinke throws a fastball, we look at the blue fastball number on his card and compare it to the blue fastball number on Ichiro’s card.

Last time I checked, the number 96 beats the number 88 every single time. So by Topps logic, batting champ Ichiro Suzuki will NEVER get a hit off Greinke, unless he throws a change-up. With a 96 and 97 rating for fastballs and curves, only a handful of hitters could make contact off Greinke, which would give him 100 wins and a 0.32 ERA.

Another asinine rule: If a batter gets a hit, it’s the equivalent of scoring a run. Topps has basically replaced America’s National Pastime with cricket.

Take a look at the above fantasy match-up between Baseball Hall of Fame strikeout king Nolan Ryan and young slugger Justin Morneau, who are not contemporaries. According to these configurations, no natural fastball hitters would EVER even foul off a pitch against Ryan.

The truth is that Ryan, as intimidating as he was on the mound, had a career record of 324 wins and 292 losses. Yes, he struck out an ASTOUNDING 5,714 batters, but he also gave up 3,923 hits. No one strikes everyone out all the time. Except for the Topps Attax Ryan. Which is what makes this game beyond boring. It will never come out of the box again.

My kid has sophisticated tastes, but he’d also be entertained playing Hungry Hungry Hippos for three hours. If you’ve lost him, Topps, you’ve lost America.

And as a guy who grew up on Stratomatic and later became addicted to Fantasy/Roto Baseball, nothing saddens me more.

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The Joys of Plastic Lice: Passover toys celebrate Ancient Egypt’s regime change

Ten Plagues Bag of Toys -- More fun than spilling wine on a paper plate

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
“Passover toys celebrate Ancient Egypt’s regime change”
Originally Published:
The Telegraph, April 10, 2003

**
As an adult, I find the Passover story to be compelling and overflowing with life-affirming themes. Survival. Freedom. Redemption. Triumph of the Human Spirit. As a kid, I was preoccupied with two themes: “When is this story going to end?” and “Why is my family service sponsored by Maxwell House coffee?

Passover, which commemorates Moses’ showdown with Pharaoh, begins next week. On the first two nights, Jewish families retell the story at Seders (a dinner-prayer combo), and read from the Hagaddah. The English translations of these Hagaddahs are horrendous, written by Shakespeare wannabes who sprinkle around words like “whilst,” and “thee.” After the sixth or seventh poem about rams and sheep skipping around the Sea of Galilee, the average kid is zonked.

Many Hagaddahs printed in the 1950s and 1960s, and handed down to the next generation, were published by Maxwell House coffee. The back page shows a happy Jewish family gathered around the Passover table and enjoying a freshly brewed pot of coffee. What better way to commemorate the liberation of the Hebrew slaves, after 400 years of pyramid construction, than to pour your loved one a cup of Maxwell House?

I don’t know if Sanka or Taster’s Choice ever infiltrated Easter Baskets, but I am proud to report that this marketing ploy was not 100 percent effective. I never touch the stuff.

On behalf of all the children celebrating Passover next week, I implore parents to shake up the Seder plate a bit. If cute little Aaron or Rachel are staring at the coffee ads, you have sentenced them to an evening of intolerable boredom. Luckily for the kids, there is a growing adult movement to make Passover more engaging. Two examples are the Exodus board game and the “Plagues Bag.”

The Exodus game is Passover’s version of Trivial Pursuit. Answering the Who, What, Where, Why and How the Israelites bolted from Egypt brings you one step closer to the Promised Land. First one to cross the Jordan River wins.

“Exodus came out of the desire to get my family recharged about Passover,” says game creator Syndi Kercher, a school teacher from Tucson, Arizona. “I invented the game for us to use during our Seder and we had a blast… Other things I’ve done is play Passover Jeopardy, held the Seder picnic style in the backyard, and held multiethnic/spiritual Seders in the park.”

Exodus, aimed at ages 8 and up, is content driven and will delight parents who prefer not to resort to a Moses vs. Pharaoh video game to get their message across. But will kids want to play? You bet. Even without questions about Harry Potter, it is a game that involves winning and losing. I remember even in junior high school our Spanish class would be clamoring for the chance to play “Vocabulary Volleyball.”

Out of context, you may expect the “Plagues Bag” to be filled with anthrax. But of course, it refers to the infamous Ten Plagues that convinced Pharaoh that Moses was backed by the world’s most formidable superpower, God. The Plagues Bag is filled with the following gimmicks/toys:

1. BLOOD – Red food coloring to turn the Nile into hemoglobin.
2. FROGS – A springloaded frog that does a backflip and lands on its feet.
3. LICE – Black plastic lice that could double as plastic ants.
4. WILD BEASTS – A rubber elephant nose representing the wildlife rampaging through downtown Cairo.
5. CATTLE DISEASE – A collapsible plastic cow with wobbly knees recalling Pharaoh’s agricultural woes.
6. BOILS – Bubble wrap which is more pleasant to pop than skin lesions.
7. HAIL – Styrofoam balls.
8. LOCUSTS – A hot pink grasshopper.
9. DARKNESS – Cardboard sunglasses.
10. DEATH OF THE FIRST BORN – A jigsaw puzzle of a distressed Egyptian mother.

The assortment of trinkets is packaged in a handsome burlap sack that summons up the image of papyrus hieroglyphics. Toy quality is also a level above Skee Ball prizes or birthday party booty, making it likely kids can use the same plague props a few years in a row.

Plagues Bag creator Simon Jaffe, executive director of Congregation B’Nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, NJ, was inspired by his daughters Kori and Molly.

“I didn’t want the Seder to be as uninteresting as the one’s I remembered from my childhood,” he says. “… To me the purpose of the Seder is to bring the next generation into the collective memory of our people and our history.”

Jaffe has sold more than 60,000 of the Plagues Bags to raise money for scholarships and educational programs. Beyond the plagues, he also places a bowl of goldfish on the table as a reminder of the parting of the Red Sea and dresses up as Moses for the second half of the Seder.

“My guests’ favorite plagues are the plastic lice and hail balls which they love to hurl at each other,” reveals Jaffe. “The most difficult plague to represent was death of the first born because of the harshness of it. What I decided to use was I think most respectful of the severity of the plague.”

My only critique is that Jaffe doesn’t include enough lice. Six little critters isn’t enough to infest a single scalp, let alone a whole table full.

Lice portions aside, both the Plagues Bag and the Exodus game are two steps in the right direction to make the Seder table a desirable destination for kids. And neither toy contains propaganda for the coffee companies.
**

MORE EXCLUSIVE PASSOVER COVERAGE:

** Why I would have been a horrible Pharaoh !

** Schlock Flashback: Steven Spielberg’s Country Music Moses

** The Joys of Plastic Lice: Passover toys celebrate Ancient Egypt’s regime change

** Schlock Flashback: Origins of the Moses Duck

** Let My Tastebuds Go: I dare you to try Passover breakfast cereal!

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