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When I was a kid, this was a game that I always wanted but for some reason my parents would never get for us. I was never sure why really until I became an adult myself and we were bought it as a family gift for us all to play.
At the time my youngest was 19 months old, which was too young really, but we got it out to play with the people who bought it for us, and it seemed to be a hit, so we decided that it would be a game we could play under close supervision only.
The game is a simple concept. Balls are released into the central part of the board by pressing a small lever. Each player has 5 balls at the start to release, which are a bit smaller than a marble and all white in colour. It is a game of no skill whatsoever. You press a lever on your hippo, one of four on the board. This makes the head of the hippo go up and forward before snapping down and hopefully catching a ball, dragging it back towards the throat area. The winner is the person who gets their hippo to 'eat' the most balls.
Because the concept is so simple, young kids can join in and be as successful as any adult or older child playing with them. I have found it possible to play this with 2 players, 3 or the maximum of 4, and have fun.
The games are really quick, and very noisy. You find that everyone gets really excited and just randomly bangs down on the lever that operates the hippo head, making a heck of a racket. So I now know why my mum never bought it for us, as it is the game we own that is guaranteed to induce a headache within a few games.
I find I like a couple of games maximum of this before the kids get too het up and we put it away again. This can be a pain, as to store it in the box you have to take the hippo heads off the board. Not overly difficult as they just clip on, but a bit of a pain setting up and putting away again. I find it hard to work out quite how to get it all in the box, and kind of wish it had just been given in a larger box to avoid this step. We'd probably play more often if it had.
The only downside I would say to this is you might be fooled like us that it is ok to play this with younger kids. I would offer one word of warning. The balls are small enough for a 2 year old to swallow. We found this out the hard way. I lost attention for a few minutes while the set was out, and turned round to see my son with a mouth full of the balls. We thought we got them all out, but I found one later in his nappy that had obviously gone all the way through. Nice. I felt very lucky he had not choked at the time.
The board itself mostly works ok. The levers can sometimes get stuck from being hammered too hard, but it is fairly easy to unstick them with a bit of a wiggle. I am sure we will play this as a family for a long time to come, so I had best keep a pack of paracetomol in the house for such occasions.