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I actually came across Dooyoo in the first place when trying to find out if a toy on my kids' most-wanted Christmas list was any good. Fast forward a couple of years and these days I spend quite a lot of time looking at other people's toy reviews, so I thought it would be useful to share my thoughts, which are my own rather than any official guide, on what makes a useful Toys and Games review.
First things first, in my opinion the best Toys reviews are packed with recent, up to date experience. If you are writing about Connect 4 circa 1980, or a toy that has long languished in an attic, then your experience can't be as helpful as that of someone who has bought and tested out a toy thoroughly and in the recent past. Toys change and manufacturers seem to update features continually so it's helpful if you are describing the exact product that I might be looking to buy now and not remembering how things used to be.
I think it's also important in this category that you are able to give plenty of information on the usage of a product by the age group for whom it is primarily intended, if that's a child then probably if you aren't in a position to have spent plenty of time with the child then your review won't be as useful as it could be. There are some great reviews on this site from parents and grandparents, but second hand experience - ie talking about a present given to someone you don't see often isn't going to be as useful in my opinion. Likewise if you are reviewing a toy for a 2 year old that your 6 month old has played with for a week, then it's probably of little use speculating as to whether they might like the toy in a year or two, and I also find reviews where people suggest that the child might like the toy later rather optimisitic - in my experience some toys are dud from the off and really, when I'm researching the Christmas wish list it's those ones I want to avoid and I suspect that most parents and gift buyers feel that way too. It's why people come to the site, as non members. In Toys and Games it's horribly easy to buy things that look like a good idea that turn out to languish in the toy box forever. Some toys are just not actually very good no matter how well they are marketed, eg on Kids' TV ad nauseum.
I always like toy reviews that make it clear if a range of children have loved something, played with it a lot and where the reviewer has thought about the play value of the toy and made it obvious if it is a five minute wonder or not. These kind of reviews are really useful for the consumers for whom this site exists.
Whilst I always like to know what the toy does and any bits that are not well made, in all honesty I don't think explaining the rules of a game in minute detail is really necessary, and neither is a history of the company producing it of any interest to me in the main, or a a blow by blow description of the box, but a simple idea of what a toy actually does is a must. If, at a basic level, you are reviewing an item and I'm not even sure roughly how big it is then the review can't be very useful for me. The soft toy in the photo in the category could be 5cm high or 50cm for all I know, so it's good to give some idea of how large it is. It's also very handy to know how much you paid and if you think the toy is worth the money or not - so many toys just aren't worth the price you pay in my experience so when something is a winner it's great to know, and I need to be able to understand easily what any particularly toy actually does.
I think the best reviews are heavier on opinion than they are on description. Clear sections and good spelling make it easy for the reader to find out what they need to know to inform a purchase quickly, whilst it's nice to have an idea of what kind of child the toy was bought for, again that kind of information is best quickly covered - I want to know if the toy is any good first and foremost rather than anything else.
Which leads me on to what I think is the most important part of a review - opinion, dooyoo is after all an opinion site and what I think it is really important to know is the actual reality of the Toy or Game behind the enticing pictures or the product description. Your opinion can be concise, and actually often the best reviews are. I really like it when I read a review and I get a real feel of what you think of the toy or game, or actually what the person mainly playing with it thinks, be it that the toy is good or bad. If the toys is badly made, overpriced or just doesn't have a point then tell us - so we don't waste our money! If a toy has been an instant hit with every child who has been around your house, then it's good to know, it's not a guarantee my child will like it, but the kid test is key!
I've been very grateful to this site for some of the opinions that people who have bought toys have given, the case of a cupcake maker that was massively advertised a year or two back springs to mind. Having read that it was rubbish gave me the insight and conviction to say "sorry but no" to my child (always tricky as any parent subjected to pester power will know) and spend my money on something much better, only to find out that I knew people who had bought the item and yes, the dooyoo members were right as I knew they would be it was a total waste of time!
I think that the value in Toys and Games reviews on this site is the real genuine insight that members can provide that will have you running to the shop (or adding an item to your wish list at least), or trying to talk your child into something else or hoping that they forget to put the item on their Father Christmas list. It's a pleasure to read reviews in Toys and Games that are well written, consumer focused and packed full of opinion. As a parent I find those kind of reviews really useful and I'm sure the people using this site to research products do too and ultimately that's what this site is all about. I hope that this review will help some people with writing their Toy or Game review - it's an area that I personally really enjoy writing in and which I think is an important part of the site. I look forward to reading lots more reviews about the latest products and seeing what the top toys will be this year, because, let's face it, Toys are, (or should be) fun! Happy review writing!
Having bought hundreds (way too many actually) of toys over the years, for both boys and girls from tots to teens, I now think I know what I want from a toy and, subsequently, what I find useful in a toy or game review.
For baby/toddler toys:
I want to know what the product guide age range is, and if this differs from the user guide age range is (i.e. would you give it to a younger child than it is marketed for, or would you keep it for an older child).
Is the toy easy to keep clean? (I've had nightmares with walkers and banana)
Is the toy versatile? Can it be altered in anyway as the child grows, by adding parts or removing parts or by buying extension packs or add-ons (and how much would extra bits cost)
Is the toy unisex, or very girlie?
Is the toy easy to store away?
For pre-school children:
Does the toy/game fit with a particular learning scheme (e.g. phonetics)
Is the toy difficult to use? (small parts, heavy to carry/push, lots of fiddly bits that get lost and make the toy/game unplayable)
Does the toy/game take alot of time to set up compared with the time it takes to play (think 'Mousetrap' here!)
Does the toy come in different colours/styles/materials etc..?
For all age ranges:
Does the toy have longevity? Will it be played with for hours, days, weeks, months, even years?
Do I need any tools/equipment (screwdriver/glue) to put the toy/game together (think Warhammer figures for boys, where different glues are needed, different sized paintbrushes and coloured paints, plus modelling knife - none of which come with the figures)
Are batteries included and what size? Do they last long?
How much room does the toy take up? Does the child need to access all sides to get full play value? How high is it?
Can the toy be dismantled for storage? Will this make it less stable if it is put up and down again regularly?
Is the toy made from good quality material?
How long does the game take to play? Is there a shortened version for younger players? Are the instructions easy to follow? Do you have any tips to improve game play?
Inevitably I'll have missed some vital piece of information.... oh, the price and where to get it cheapest would be nice......
As a mother of a young child, I always want to have a look for what I can get for my daughter without wasting my money in the process. I have bought many toys for both my children and realised that they weren't worth the money we paid for them, and we have also bought toys that have been worth the money ten times over.
So you have bought a toy or a game and want to tell the world about it! Where to start?
For me I would start with first impressions of the toy or game. This can be from the first moment you saw the toy, what did you think? Did the packaging attract or repel you? Which manufacturer is producing this toy? Is it packaged well?
I want to know the above answers because first impressions and reputation go a long way when it comes to spending my own money on something. If we're writing a positive review then you will probably have been reccomended to the toy in the first place.
I need to know if the toy is packaged well, as if it isn't then to me it shouts that the toy won't be great quality, and this also goes for the manufacturer too.
After this I need to know what age range the toy is aimed at, as there is no point me thinking a toy is great if it isn't suitable for under three's due to small parts etc.
Why the toy is aimed at the age range it states on the packaging? Is it because of the small parts I mentioned above or is it another reason such as using motor skills or being able to read instructions etc.
What does the toy or game do and how easy is it to work out. Some toys are simple to understand, but I have bought items that I have struggled to understand when I have opened the package and found myself wondering how a five year old for example could understand it.
I don't want to buy a game for my daughter if she can't operate it. A classic example here is the tigger fun time radio which is aimed at children 18 months or over, but yet the dial on the radio is so stiff a young toddler can't operate it without becoming frustrated.
Are you going to need to store this game or toy somewhere safe after use to stop the pieces going missing? Some toys and games need to be constructed before use and then they are left in lots of little pieces to be stored between uses, making it easy to lose little pieces when you don't want to.
If you are going to need to keep this out of the toy box area, is the toy worth buying because the children can't have it constantly?
What is the average life span of the toy? Is it well made? Will is stand up to young children if it's made for slightly older ones and siblings get hold of it? Can it be played by the child alone or does it need adult participation?
The above questions are important to me because if I buy a game to keep my daughter entertained there are times when I won't be able to play with her but might want something that will keep her occupied for a few minutes on her own. If I don't know this before buying it I may not buy it.
If a game or toy isn't well made then I will definitely not buy it.
The final piece to your review should be that you mustn't write the review until you have fully tested it out over a period of time. Don't get it out of the box and play for ten minutes then write the review the next day, it's not a fully balanced opinion.
Add your opinion as well as facts about the toy or game and state why you think it's worth buying or not worth buying as the case may be.
For me the price is important as a guide to see if I would buy it to start with, but I will always look around for the best price anyway.
What do I look for as Toys & Games Guide?
Thats a question that only I can answer and below I have listed out some of the things I think need to go into a toy/game review to make it up to the best standard it could be. HOWEVER, as almost everyone who has written one of these types of reviews has said it is not set in stone and you can actually write your review any way you see fit, with as much information or as little personal information as you like but the ratings will probably reflect that. At the end of the day it is personal experience and very useful information about the product that will earn you the VU from me.
Firstly I look at the title of the product you are reviewing. The first and foremost thing you should do when reviewing something is make sure you have it in the correct section! I have lost track of the amount of reviews that have been put in totally the wrong section earning them NU ratings, when if they had taken a few minutes to look properly it could have been U or above.
Secondly, I look for content. By this I mean I am looking for a review that has included everything I would like to know about the toy/game, without waffling too much. This is obviously a matter of opinion when it comes to how much info is classed as useful and when does it cross the line to waffle? Well for me if you are reviewing a board game like Chess for instance, I would like to read a few basic rules of the objectives of the game but I would not want to read what every piece can do and a blow-by-blow account of all the rules. This would bore me silly and is really not useful when it comes to making a decision about whether I would buy it or not.
Thirdly, I am looking for personal experience of the product. I would not expect a review to be written about a complex toddlers toy just because you saw your neighbours baby niece playing with it in the garden for five minutes, six months ago. I would expect you to own the toy or at least have had regular access to it, so that your personal opinion of the product can shine through and really make a difference in the review. I read a review a while back that told me about how this particular toy had helped a premature baby to pull themselves up, into a standing position and how pleased they were that it had helped their child. To me this is invaluable information that could be the difference between a VU review and a U one.
Fourthly, all the other stuff! By this I mean, it helps to know how hard it is to assemble (without giving me the complete run down on the instruction manual) and again if you need to disassemble to put away. If you can clean it how easy it is to do and what are the results like? Does it take batteries if so how long do they last based on what amount of usage? Is it educational and if so how? What are the recommended ages to use the game or toy? And on top of all that does your child or intended audience like it or not? Is it annoying to the adults who have to listen to the monotonous music or is quite entertaining for grown ups too?
I am not expecting a load of Toys & Games reviews to come spewing forth following this review nor typed in a way that completely replicates what I have said above. These are just points that I feel should be looked at when writing the review and not all will apply to every toy or game, but a lot will and they are things that I will be looking for to maybe nominate the review for a crown.
Also remember length does not always equal a great review. I have read some particularly lengthy reviews that just didnt cut it for me as a large proportion of the review was either listing off instructions on how to play it or terrible padding about how they were bored one Saturday morning and decided to go into town with their mum and ended up in a shop ..you get the picture I am sure.
Lastly I will mention the lay out of the review. I am pretty easy when it comes to how you set things out. I find it beneficial to have headings if the review is longer than the average as this helps the reader to split it up into relevant sections to read. Obviously I would be reading everything in the review but other members or indeed non-members would not necessarily need to read everything you have written in order to find the vital bit of information they need and for this reason headings can be very helpful. I also do not mind if you decide not to put them in. As long as the text is separated by paragraphs and not in one big chunk, which is very hard to read.
Give me good spelling and grammar and I will be happy too. It only takes a second to do a spell check and it makes such a difference to the overall readability of the review.
In essence I am looking for a review to be ..
Detailed information on what it is/does (yet not too much).
Lots of personal experience with it and your findings.
A good layout to aide readability with good grammar and correct spelling.
Not too long and padded but long enough to include everything important.
Thats not too much to ask now is it?
Cheers. House & Garden guide to follow. (maybe!)