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noodlesandwich

noodlesandwich
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Member since: 21.09.2005

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    • Visiq 2000W 442/5928 / Hair Dryer / 48 Readings / 45 Ratings
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      07.04.2013 23:21
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      basic, solid, value for money

      I must have had this hairdryer for two or three years now. I don't remember the exact price I paid, but I am pretty sure it was under a tenner from Argos. I don't spend a lot of time styling my own hair with a dryer, the main reason I bought this was to dry my daughter's hair with, as she has her hair washed on the evening and so needs it to be dried before bed. (Our previous ancient dryer died when my daughter, a toddler at the time, managed; during 10 seconds of not being watched, to set fire to the bedroom carpet with it - a compelling reminder to always, always, unplug when not in use.) I chose the Visiq mainly because of the price and the fact that it looked adequate for my needs. It looks nice enough if not exciting; quite sleek, silver and black. It's a bit clunky and it's not light, but not too heavy either. It has only one attachment, a black concentrator nozzle which I detached as I don't really need it. My daughter's hair is very smooth and silky, all she needs is a quick blast and a bit of a brush, and her hair naturally falls into a smooth straight style. At 2000w this has all the power needed to do the job and do it quickly. The back filter detaches for cleaning, this also makes it easier to detangle hair in the case of accidental too close use, (only once!). It has a small loop at the bottom of the handle so it can be hung up. There are two speeds and three heat settings, as well as a cool shot button. I usually have mine on at high speed, which is pretty powerful, I lower it if I need to speak or hear someone, as it is too loud otherwise. The hottest temperature is too hot to hold in one place for long and the lowest is quite cool, so I generally stick to the middle setting, which is hot enough. The handle has a decent grip, but at 1.5 m, the cord is short. This isn't a problem for me, but I imagine it would annoy some people. It does mean that I have to make sure my daughter doesn't wriggle away too far as I have to stay in the same place with it when drying. The cord length also means an adult wouldn't be able to comfortably dry their hair in a standing position if the plug socket was close to the floor. On the rare occasions I use the dryer on my own hair I sit on the floor with it. I'd have to give this good marks for durability as we've had it a while now and used it regularly with no issues. It may be basic but in my experience it gives a solid performance and given the price, there's really nothing to complain about.

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      • More +
        04.04.2013 22:55
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        great value for money

        This Nikko Vaporizr was a Christmas gift for my daughter who had asked Santa for a remote controlled car. We chose it because it looked robust, claimed to work on all kinds of ground and to be able to traverse water. It was also reasonably priced; £29.99 in Smyths, where the shop assistant assured us they had been flying off the shelves, (note - does not fly). This was an attractive looking present to open on Christmas morning and was greeted with delight upon being unwrapped. Looks-wise it is a fun, chunky design, with something of the Beetle about it, despite the racing style stickers and huge tough looking wheels. I much preferred it to some of the more souped-up macho designs available. Ours is the blue and white design pictured, there's also a green one available. In the box is: the car, remote control/transmitter, battery pack and charger, 9v battery and instruction booklet. The 9v battery is for the remote control. The booklet is fine, with lots of pictures and good explanations of how to use the controls. One quirk I noticed was that the instructions say the battery should be charged for 4 hours, but on the charger it says 5 hours, it also says it's important not to overcharge - we charge ours for 4 hours. There's an on-off switch on the underside of the carriage. There's a wire aerial at the back of the car which is floppy and can drag along the floor if not properly fixed in place; into a little plastic holder that makes it stick up. It can be tucked in instead, which is what we do, doesn't seem to have any effect on it's, erm, effectiveness. The battery needs to be charged before the first use. The battery life isn't great. The first play lasted only around 20 minutes before it needed to be recharged and we've since had little more than half an hour out of it. The instructions say that the battery life increases with the first six charges; we haven't charged ours more than a handful of times as the weather this year has meant that we haven't had as many opportunities as we'd have liked to take it out. It's too big, (roughly 28 x 15 cm), to get much mileage out of indoors or in a small garden. We've played with ours at the local basketball court, park and go-kart track. The remote control unit is nice and chunky for little hands. It has two small joystick style controls and a short stick-up aerial encased in hard plastic. The controls are simple enough for a young child to get to grips with. The basic manoeuvres are: forward, backwards, left turn forwards, right turn forwards, left turn backwards, left turn backwards, left spin and right spin. The controls are fairly intuitive and the response is excellent. It's maximum range seems to be about 20 metres. It's fast and fun. It has been bashed, banged and flipped many times over and withstood it. It has been spun around in circles and launched through puddles. It has been repeatedly bumped into walls/kerbs/railings. It has attracted a crowd of admiring children all wishing they could have a go while my daughter showed off her skill at noisily spinning, bashing and flipping it over, making no attempt to get it to actually race around the track. It's done well on moderately rough ground, but will flip onto it's back if it goes too fast on rough ground. My daughter loves to make it do high speed spins. We haven't tested it in deep water, despite the claims on the box, I wouldn't want to risk breaking the motor, but it has charged through plenty of puddles with no problems. It's a fiddle to remove the battery after it's run down; something best done by an adult. The body needs to be removed in order to place the battery inside. The aerial slots into a hole in the upper body and needs to be removed and re-slotted each time the battery is taken out and replaced again. It might be better if it was possible to charge the whole car, rather than remove and replace the battery each time, but as it's possible that the battery can be replaced if broken or run down, then I suppose the pack is more practical in the long term. The Nikko Vaporisr would probably not be classed as a top of the range remote controlled vehicle, but factoring in durability, manoeuvrability and price, it's definitely a toy that gives excellent value for money.

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      • Asus X54C SX282V / Laptop / 61 Readings / 60 Ratings
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        24.03.2013 22:25
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        great value laptop

        I received this laptop for Christmas. My partner did the research on it; whilst looking for a laptop that cost under £400, he noticed this one appeared in several 'best value' lists. He gave two main reasons for choosing this one over others; it had a fast processor and seemed sturdy. I don't need anything with a long list of specifications as I mainly use it for research, writing, and visiting a few favoured websites. I'm not sure exactly what price was paid, although I believe it was around the £300 mark in an online sale direct from Asus. It looks smart and simple; matt black textured casing with the ASUS logo in silver on the top. With it in the box were the power pack and cables and a couple of bits of paper. The instruction manual is installed on the hard drive and is a general Asus laptop manual covering several models, it's not particularly detailed and could do with being more specific. Getting started was easy. To set it up, the battery pack slides into the back. The power socket is to the left of the machine in the centre, and the connecting cord is right angled, so the cable can be awkwardly situated depending on where you place the machine in relation to the wall socket. I linked it to my router easily enough and installed the one year security package that came as part of the deal. *Screen - I have no complaints about the screen, it has adjustable brightness, a high definition LED backlit panel and the image quality is excellent. The desktop came without tons of useless clutter and trials, which was welcome. Original desktop icons include: 'Asus Vibe Fun Centre' which gives access to all sorts of media - music, video, audio books - some of it free; Windows Media Centre; 'Browser Choice'; Asus web storage - this includes a sync folder that you can add your favourite apps to and access files from anywhere; an Asus organiser; the e-manual and a couple of others. Microsoft Office is pre-installed. *Keyboard - It's quiet compared to the clattery old one I was using previously with my pc, yet not as sensitive. I do find that I make more frequent typing errors, oftenmissingoutleteranspacesbetweenwords. I thought this would change as I got used to it, but I still seem to make more errors than on my old keyboard. It would seem that the keys need to be definitely pressed, rather than lightly flown over. The keys are quite large. There are various special functions and 'hot keys', which I tend to ignore, the keyboard is extended and the right hand number pad can also be used for multimedia functions such as play/pause/forward etc. There is a touchpad or 'Elan pointing device' placed slightly left of centre below the keyboard. This does all you could expect of it, but I much prefer to use a mouse. When I first plugged the mouse in I found myself making all sorts of infuriating mistakes, because I hadn't realised I needed to disable the touchpad. Once I found the box to tick that automatically disables the touchpad when the mouse is plugged in, then the problems stopped. *Ports - There are two USB ports; one USB 2 and one USB 3, I tend to use one for a mouse and the other for a cruzer switch. Other ports include a HDMI, VGA and RJ45, I don't care about admitting that I don't really know why or what for. There's a headphone and mic sockets at the front under the keyboard alongside a flash memory slot for SD card or MS cards. The speakers are Altec Lansing and the sound quality is pretty good. On the right hand side to the back is the DVD multi recorder, the slight issue with it being placed here is that when you lift the laptop up there's a natural tendency to hold it from under the disc tray which could possibly lead to damage. *Battery life - The icons tells me that a fully charged battery gives around 4 hours on a balanced power plan - different power plans are available and include battery saving, high performance and balanced. I've had little cause to use it unplugged so the battery life hasn't been tested much. I recall one occasion where the battery only lasted around 2 hours, not sure what power plan I was on. *Speed - This is fine, very good. There has been the occasional screen freeze, but usually everything runs quickly and smoothly. At a rough guess I'd say booting up and shutting down take around ten seconds each. There are all sorts of features that I haven't used, there's just more to it than I actually want or need. I haven't explored it as much as a lot of people probably would, I just do what do and leave it at that. It's been fairly intuitive and I haven't felt the need to refer to the e-manual much at all. There is a camera above the screen, but nothing in the instruction manual on how to use it, other than to point out that there is a built-in camera, microphone and indicator light above the top of the screen that can be used for video conferencing etc. I searched online to find out how to access it; various people recommended downloading software from Asus which I didn't want to do, then someone mentioned it is called 'Lifeframe', so I searched 'my computer', found it and added it to the desktop in case I want to use it. At first glance the images seem very pixelated and a little slow or 'laggy', not great quality. I'm sure it would be fine for Skype, but perhaps not for making videos, but as I say I haven't actually used it for anything yet. *Issues - few worth mentioning. I was having a problem with reading certain internet files; I would get a query about allowing something from 'Zeon Corporation' and despite giving the okay to go ahead, the page wouldn't load. This happened a few times with different pages. A little research led to me to discover that this was because a Nuance pdf reader was installed. Once I disabled it and installed adobe reader instead the problem was solved. When I first got my Asus X54C I preferred to use the family pc and keep the Asus as a back-up for when I couldn't get on the pc, or for using in another room, or away from home. Over the last three months however, I've got used to a few nice little features here and there, enjoyed the lack of glitches and the processing speed, hence the pc has been overthrown in my affections and the Asus is now my machine of choice. *Technical Details (copied from Amazon): Brand Asus Item Weight 2.6 Kg Product Dimensions 43.4 x 39.6 x 9.8 cm Item model number X54C-SX282V Screen Size 15.6 inches Processor Brand Intel Processor Type Intel Core i3 Processor Speed 2.3 GHz Processor Count 2 RAM Size 6 GB Computer Memory Type DDR3 SDRAM Hard Drive Size 750 GB Graphics Card Description Integrated Graphics RAM Type DDR3 SDRAM Wireless Type 802.11n Operating System Windows 7 Edition Home Premium Lithium Battery Energy Content 2600 milliamp_hours Lithium Battery Weight 1.4 kilograms

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        • Toy Story 3 Jessie & Bullseye / Doll / 56 Readings / 56 Ratings
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          20.03.2013 12:56
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          They look good but don't do all you might expect for the price

          My 5 year old daughter loves Jessie of the Toy Story films and this Jessie and Bullseye Partner Pack was bought as a birthday present for her last summer. Jessie has since been a frequent companion, travelling around with us on trips out, sleeping in my daughter's bed, even becoming a multi-contestant, (complete with homemade swimming costume, diving board and gymnastic equipment), in the 2012 Back Garden Olympics,(BGO). Sadly for Bullseye, he has not been so favoured and despite brief glory in the BGO show jumping event, his whereabouts are currently unknown. *How Does Jessie Look?* She is well crafted and characterful, with typically crazy eyes, (these are painted on). Her hair is made of wool and tied back into a plait with a yellow bow. Her hair stays as it is; the bow holds it tightly into place and is not meant to be removed, because under that ponytail she sports a bright red bald patch. Her hair went a tad bobbly quite quickly and I did think she would soon look a sight, but it's actually fine, still a bit bobbly but okay. She has a big head, just like in the films. She has well-made hands, nicely detailed clothing and looks very much like her character in the film. *Clothes* Jessie has four items of clothing; all in one outfit, belt, boots and hat. The suit she wears is removable and being light-coloured tends not to stay clean for long. Ours has been washed two or three times; the flyaway collars soon curled up and the 'buttons' ( these look like little iron-on transfers) have almost washed away. The belt holds the suit in place and needs to be removed before the suit can be taken off. Our belt spent most of the winter in a plant pot in the garden and has been recently re-discovered in good condition. It has two little pop in and out fasteners, which don't always stay in place and are a bit awkward for little hands. Jessie's boots are easily removed and put back on; unfortunately ours disappeared soon after Jessie's arrival. (One was recently recovered which resulted in a hopping party, but that's not really relevant.) It would be good to have replacement clothes easily available. Jessie's hat doesn't stay on. This is probably the thing that has most irritated my daughter, who really wanted her to wear that hat, but has had to become resigned to the fact that it's not much use. *Movability - Jessie's Joints* Jessie is reasonably pliable and has jointed knees although not elbows. Her legs arms and head are all in sockets and she can wobble her head about and nod. The legs occasionally come out of their sockets if played with too enthusiastically, but are easily righted due to being attached to each other by sturdy elastic, (and it has had to be very sturdy). It's difficult to get her to sit on the horse unless you hold her on. Her feet won't go in the stirrups. It can be done, but not easily and once on, if you want Jessie to ride around the room you'll have to hold her in place. This not staying on properly is possibly part of the reason our Bullseye was abandoned. *Bullseye* Bullseye looks just like Bullseye in the films and is in proportion with the Jessie doll. It seems durable enough, made mainly of hard plastic with a slightly softer more squeezable neck. Only Bullseye's front knees are jointed, it would be better if he were a little more pliable. He falls over easily. I don't have as much to say about Bullseye, possibly because after a few weeks he was chucked to the bottom of the toy box and forgotten about. *Durability* The Jessie doll is of excellent durability. Despite major number one toy usage she has only a couple of minor chips and marks, her woollen hair is a tad bobbly and she has slightly chewed fingers. Her clothes aren't so durable, but I suppose that's to be expected. The Bullseye is as good as the day it was bought. *Price and Availability* This is currently available for £59.99 on Amazon, I bought mine for closer to £40.00 on Ebay, although it would probably have made more sense for me to buy Jessie without Bullseye. I think it's probably a bit expensive for what it is; it doesn't talk or do anything special, just a doll and a horse. On the other hand it is a much loved doll and worth the money just for the excitement on my daughter's face when she opened the box, as well as the many, many hours of play she's had with it since.

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          • More +
            25.11.2012 22:38
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            Creative toys are a safe bet

            Obviously if you know a child well, you'll have a good idea of what to buy them for Christmas, so these tips are aimed at those buying Christmas presents for other people's children, who they may not know that well. These suggestions are based on my own personal preferences and opinions as parent of a five year old girl, and are aimed at roughly 3 - 7 year olds. CREATIVE TOYS - This tends to be the kind of toy I buy for other people's children. They always go down well, but try not to get anything too messy if the parents are houseproud types. My advice would be to steer clear of things like moonsand and play dough, instead go for bumper activity packs, puzzles or paintable models. Crayola do all sorts of kits with special pens and paper for different effects; colour explosion, colour wonder, models, craft packs and so on, great for keeping a child busy, involved and creative. We are always running out of paper in our house and using up pencils, paints and felt tips, so the replenishment of stocks is always welcome. It may sound an unimaginative gift, but paper and colouring equipment are amongst the best presents for a child's imagination. BOOKS - A good book makes a great present, but that doesn't mean any old book. There's an awful lot of rubbish out there for children, some publisher's seem to think children's stories don't need a great deal of thought but they are very wrong. Parents get fed up of reading and rereading boring, badly written books, so make sure it's a book by a great children's author that will encorage a love of reading in the child. Some books may look great and have favourite colourful characters on the cover, but the well worn phrase about a book and it's cover is well worn for a reason. I find books written to cash in on films and tv series' almost always fall into the badly written category. Good Authors for younger children include Julia Donaldson, Shirley Hughes and Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Obviously it needs to be age and interest appropriate; for cat lovers there's Judith Kerr's Mog series, if it's for a child that loves Doggies there are The Hairy MacLary books by Lynley Dodd. For slightly older children there's the inimitable Roald Dahl. Classic children's books will always be in print, if you enjoyed it as a child the chances are children today will too - I can't wait to start re-reading Enid Blyton's The Enchanted Wood to my daughter this Christmas. Do check with the parent that the child doesn't already have the book. Audio books are a good idea too, a way of keeping the children entertained when parents are too busy to read to them and they're not able to read well enough themselves, (better than sticking them in front of the telly). DVD's - Again, there's an awful lot of rubbish out there for children. One of my pet peeves is the lack of representation, (or misrepresentation), of girls in family movies. Girls are outnumbered 3 to 1 by boys in family films, not fair really is it? Plus half the time they are only there to be looked at and don't take an active part in the story. I'm not keen on Disney as a rule and have found Studio Ghibli films to be much better in their representation of girls and highly watchable for both genders. When it comes to recent releases, Pixar's Brave stands out for me as one of the better children's movies of 2012. COMPUTER GAMES - Just one recommendation if anyone is thinking of a Nintendo DS/DSi game for a young child. My 5 year old loves Electroplankton. Often games aimed at young children are badly made tv/movie tie-ins or have a ridiculous amount of text or complicated instructions, but this game is really simple and lots of fun. It's a game of messing around and experimenting, there's no frustration, no way to fail. It's all about making different patterns and sounds and there are different games to choose from. It's good fun for adults too. The quality of the speakers helps, for which reason I'd say it's better for the DSi than the DS, but my daughter has played hers lots on a DS. EDUCATIONAL TOYS - lot's of people think a lot of 'educational toys', but I don't because I think all toys are educational anyway, it's a by-product of fun. Pre-school and early years children have more than enough attention focused on academic targets by nurseries and schools. I think it's unneccessary, also children may find anything too overtly 'educational' boring. Science kits are an exception to this rule of course, because anything that explodes is fun. ELECTRONIC TOYS - As a rule I'm not a big fan of electronic toys, but hey it's Christmas and there should always be at least one noisy flashy toy around to drive everyone mad. DON'T GO FOR THE STEREOTYPES - I'm talking about pink princessy stuff for girls, action toys for boys, unless you already have a good reason for thinking they'll like it. I gnash my teeth inwardly when my daughter receives Disney Princess toys, I don't like them and I know a lot of parents don't. I also think this kind of buying smacks of laziness - not seeing the child as an individual but rather as; 'he's boy therefore he must like A', or 'she's a girl, therefore she must like B'. My main tip would be to just ask their parents what they like. People who buy presents for my daughter at Christmas usually know us well and I'm quite happy to answer requests for ideas. Sometimes parents may have a theme they're going with, say for example they are buying a doll's house, they might like friends and relatives to come up with some of the furniture. There are lots of ways main presents can be supplemented by additional gift givers and it's better to ask than to duplicate or get something that won't be played with.

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              22.11.2012 14:57
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              Looks good, educational, not very exciting.

              My five year old daughter has owned this mobile for around five months. I bought it for her as she is interested in the stars and planets and in stories about outer space. It came from our nearest Smyths store where it cost around £30 without the batteries, (it needs 3 x AA batteries for the sun and 2 x AAA batteries for the remote control). One of the things that attracted me to the box was the fact that it had a picture of a girl and a boy on the front, (albeit the boy appears to be impressing the watching girl), I thought this was good because outer space themed toys are often aimed squarely at boys and children can be very aware of whether a toy is genderized. ~Assembly~ It needs to be put together, which doesn't take very long. There are straightforward instructions in an 'educational booklet' that comes with it. Pre-assembly, the main kit consists of; a Sun in two halves, eight complete planets and eight pieces of wire. All you need to do is line up the eight pieces of wire and hook the ends into the planets. There is a list that gives the order in which to do it; Mercury being the nearest planet to the Sun is on the shortest length of wire, Venus is next, then Earth, and so on. The planets also have discreet numbers on them. The next step is to insert the wires into the equating numbered slots on the sun. The widest part of the sun rotates on three levels, (it's like three stripes around the middle where the planets hook in), so the planets can rotate at different speeds. Once assembled, a mounting plate needs to be affixed to the ceiling. This involves drilling a hole. The sun is then screwed into the mounting plate. It can be taken down easily enough, which will need doing when the batteries are to be changed. Once our box was opened the whole thing was up and away in less than half an hour. There is a small on/off switch at the top of the sun and the booklet recommends that it be switched off if it isn't going to be used for a while. We've never switched ours off. The remote control has two large buttons and one small, the big buttons are on/off switches for the light and movement, the smaller button is a sleep button which is somewhat redundant. The big buttons can work together or separately, ie you can have just light, just movement or both together. The remote is rather small, so has the potential to be easily mislaid. There is an auto shut-off system which is activated after fifteen minutes. ~How it Looks and Moves~ The huge sun in the centre can be used as a night light. My daughter doesn't need a night light, but she liked the idea of having the remote by her bed so she could switch it on in the night if she wanted to. The planets around the sun are scaled to give an approximation of their relative sizes. They are made of lightweight plastic and encased in plastic wrap. Each has details to make it look like the planet in question and they look good. Saturn comes with some cardboard rings to hang over it. I did wonder if Jupiter might fall down, it's size does cause the wire to bend slightly and when Mercury passes underneath, the wires clip each other, but so far all planets have remained fixed in place. As mentioned, there are three orbit levels, so the planets rotate at different speeds to each other. Of course it can't be entirely realistic, the planets don't rotate on their own axis, and their positions can't be entirely accurate, but it does give a general idea of how the planets are situated in space. The movement is a bit creaky and noisy. Our original batteries are still in, but it is only just managing to crawl around at the moment and we need to put new ones in. It hasn't had a great deal of use so I'd say the battery life isn't great, but it's not too bad. ~Does It Get Played With?~ It doesn't get much use. At first it was switched on every night at bedtime. Rather than a bedtime story, my daughter would have her mobile on, then choose a planet for me to read about to her. The accompanying booklet contains a couple of pages of facts about The Sun, The Moon and the planets, (Eureka also make an illuminated moon). It can be quite interesting to watch how the planets move in relation to each other. My daughter sometimes lay directly underneath the mobile and watched the planets 'having a race'. The novelty soon wore off however and apart from showing it to people who haven't seen it before, it now rarely gets looked at, although it did recently return to favour as something to taunt our new kittens with, (they really want to play with it, but can't reach). In summary I'd say this isn't very exciting as a toy, it doesn't do much and it can't really be played with interactively. It does looks good and will please upon first opening of the box, but it looks more exciting than it is. It's worth bearing in mind that it's a mobile, rather than a toy. Children who are interested in the solar system will probably like this initially, but the novelty may well wear off. In terms of quality and longevity it seems reasonable value - not cheap, it is only a few bits of plastic and a motor after all, but not all that expensive either. It is educational, my daughter knows where all the planets are in relation to The Sun and I think this mobile has helped to consolidate her knowledge of the solar system. This review may not sound overly enthusiastic, but I do like this, so have given it 4 stars.

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              • Nokia Asha 300 / Mobile Phone / 63 Readings / 59 Ratings
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                19.09.2012 11:22
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                inexpensive decent enough phone

                I've owned the Nokia Asha 300 for around 6 months now, ever since my previous phone got washed up, (literally - in the machine). I'm not a big phone user and didn't want anything expensive. I do however have an extremely cute child, so like to have a camera handy for those smiley ice cream face moments. So, my requirements were for a basic phone, but maybe one that also had a decent camera. The Asha 300 was recommended to me in a couple of different shops as being a basic phone with a decent camera. I liked the look of it and the fact that it's both touchscreen and manual. It's 3G and has all the kinds of things people who buy phones more often than me might expect, like the Nokia browser and Angry Birds Lite. There's a list of typical apps and various tones and themes to choose from. The layout is fairly traditional, with the keypad at the bottom and the 2.4 inch screen taking up more than half the space on the front. Above the keypad are three buttons, the usual red and green call/end call keys and a messaging key which is pressed to send a message or check your inbox. To make a call you can choose to use the traditional green phone button and end the call with the red one, or you can use the screen to open the menu and tap on your contacts list. There's a key lock button on the side of the phone at the lower right of the screen. To unlock it you swipe the screen across a moving arrow. This had me confused at first and I couldn't unlock it until I'd read the instructions. To remove/insert the sim card, memory card and battery you need to take the back off, something I've found very tricksy. The homescreen can be customised with the icons for your favorite apps. Mine looks like this: Across the top is the signal bar and indicators such as internet, new message and so on, below that is the clock and date. A third line has four shortcuts, I have mine set to; compose message, internet, camera and gallery. Then there's space for pics, (the default is silhouettes), of four favourite contacts who can be called, literally, 'on tap'. The bottom section has Go To/Menu /Names or has call options when in use. Add to this the fact that I have a photo of my daughter on a colourful fairground ride peeping out between the icons and you can see why my screen is crowded, but it's possible to swap the order or choose to have less onscreen. If you go to 'settings' you can change how the keys are used. You can basically fill the screen in or have it relatively clear, my problem is I like having the shortcuts but I also like a photo wallpaper. I'd recommend a cover, I haven't got one and my screen has acquired a scratch. The touchscreen is easy enough to navigate once you get used to it, a bit of tapping unlocks menus that you scroll through, tap or hold. You can swipe through the photos and hide the screen icons. Apparently it has 'a fast 1Ghz processor' but I tend not to use the internet much on my phone and when I have I've found it a bit glitchy, maybe that's because I don't have any real desire to sort it out. I'm probably either not interested enough or not savvy enough to use this phone to it's best capacity to be honest. Another owner may find they use it completely differently to me. The 5 mega pixel camera has come in handy, particularly when I was on holiday and went out without my camera. It does take a decent general snapshot but I've struggled to take clear detailed close up of things like small flowers. Photos can be cropped, enhanced, generally messed about with and sorted into albums. They can be printed directly if you have a compatible printer. There's a video option too. I use my partner's USB lead for transferring photos to my PC, but it can be done via bluetooth. It came with a charger, headphones and instructions. The instructions are fine, although occasionally a tad assumptive. God knows where the headphones are. Battery life - it seems to need recharging far too often, especially considering I don't use it that much. The battery lasts less than a week with little use. That mightn't sound so bad, but my old phone had a much better battery life and I would happily take short trips without my charger, with my Asha 300 however, I wouldn't feel comfortable going for even a weekend away unless I had my charger with me. Presumably I'm recharging all the stuff I don't really need. I did get it quite wet, (in a pocket in heavy rain), one day after a few weeks of owning it and it wouldn't work for several hours afterward, but luckily it dried out and seemed to recover okay. I suppose there's a possibilty that the experience has affected it long term, but I doubt it. Anyway, I find the need to recharge it when it's barely been used rather annoying. It takes longer than previous phones to fully recharge too, a couple of hours I think. The sound quality is fine and for what I use it for; mainly texts and making calls, I have no complaints. It's available on contract or pay as you go with various networks. I paid around £70 for mine on payg from Phones-4-U. For a phone described as simple, small and cheap there's a lot to it. I've given it three stars but would give it three and a half if there was the option. It looks and feels nice and is quite user friendly. It doesn't really feel that sturdy though. Having already experienced problems because of a bit of rain, I don't expect it will last for years, but who knows, maybe it will prove me wrong.

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                • Out - Natsuo Kirino / Fiction Book / 50 Readings / 50 Ratings
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                  16.09.2012 21:14
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                  interesting but drags in parts

                  Out is a literary crime novel by Natsuo Kirino. It was first published in Japan in the late nineties and the English translation by Stephen Snyder came out in 2003. I found my copy in a charity shop where the phrase 'perverse feminism' in a cover comment, along with the fact that it won the Japanese Grand Prix award for crime fiction, persuaded me to part with a couple of quid.   The story concerns four friends who work the night shift in a boxed-lunch factory. One of them murders her abusive husband and the others help her to cover up the crime, but this is only the start. What follows is a mixture of horror and farce as this unconventional psychological thriller unwinds in the suburbs of Tokyo. The way the husband's body is dealt with is pretty grisly and I was close to discarding the book here as I couldn't have coped with that level of graphic gore throughout, but thankfully the author eased up a little, at least until later on.   Of the women, it is not the killer - little pretty Yayoi, who drives the novel, but her colleague Masako. Masako is a strange figure, steely and smart, she has admirable qualities but isn't easy to like. Yoshie is the oldest, most sympathetic of the women, and Kuniko the least sympathetic and most shallow, although she did feel a little easy - too much of a stereotype. There are some well drawn male characters; a local nightclub owner, Satake, who has a very dodgy secret and an interest in finding out who the killers are, and then there's Jumonji, a loan shark with big ideas who further complicates the plot. None of the characters are particularly likeable. There is some excellent subplotting and it all comes together without feeling too contrived. For some reason I was reminded of the film 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels', even though I'm sure many people would struggle to draw comparison. As for the 'perverse feminism', well I'd disagree with that. There were some interesting points made about the womens status in society, but I'd imagine the comment was based more on the reasoning that it's a story about four women who commit a crime, which isn't enough to make it feminist. There were actually some distinctly anti-feminist elements, such as the idea that one character was pleased by the idea that she looked young enough to be an attractive target for a 'pervert' hanging around the factory who had sexually assaulted some of the workers. I found there to be some strange fallacies around the issue of sexual violence. Maybe there was a problem in the translation. I have heard the translation criticised, especially the ending, and wonder if a female translator would have done a better job, particularly with regard to translating female thoughts and emotions in a rape scene.   Out isn't just about a crime and it's repercussions. At times it reads like a meditation on the pointlessness of existence. It explores the question of how well we can ever know another person and what acts they, and ourselves, are capable of. Kirino is pretty good at creating atmosphere too. The womens' daily three minute journey along an 'unpaved, ill-lit road' between car park and factory had me tense every time. At 416 pages Out is a lengthy read and took me longer to get through than anything I've read in a while. I found I was happy to read a little each night, but wasn't so taken by it that I either stayed up late or started reading chunks of it during the day. Some sections flowed much better than others and I was occasionally bored, but it had enough hooks to keep me with it until the somewhat bizarre end. In summary Out is a decent enough novel, but it's not light reading and can be gruesome. It's clever, atmospheric and unconventional, but longer than it needs to be and not always a page turner.

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                  • More +
                    02.07.2012 12:17
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                    A book with good intentions but doesn't deliver a great story

                    Whenever the question of feminist books for little girls is raised, Babette Cole's 'Princess Smartypants', (Picture Puffin), is one that gets recommended. Originally published in 1986, it's seen as an alternative to old fashioned fairy tales in which the inevitable ending is the happy ever after marriage of princess and prince. The heroine of the title lives happily with her motley collection of animals, but lots of princes want to marry her. To foil them, she sets her suitors tasks which none of them can accomplish - until the arrival of smarmy Prince Swashbuckle, but Smartypants knows how to deal with him. As a challenge to the assumption that a princess does little more than look pretty, Smartypants holds her own - she rides a motorbike, can defeat anyone in a roller disco marathon, and is fiercely protective of her independence. The cartoon illustrations add humour, the funniest moment being a kiss that turns a prince into a giant toad, but ultimately Smartypants is little more than a raspberry blow at the pink princess stereotype. While the main character may break traditional rules, Smartypants is still a part of the princess genre it ridicules, so the idea of princesshood, something many feminist Mums want to steer their children away from, remains desirable. The heroine is described as pretty and rich, the reasons so many princes want her to be their wife. The princes are figures of fun and Smartypants doesn't behave well towards them, she also doesn't deliver on her promise to marry the prince who completes all the tasks. The send up of romantic heroes doesn't leave young readers with anything positive to take from the male characters, who are all either weak, foolish or slimy. While older readers may see the joke, children are unlikely understand the context. By making her demean the male characters I feel that Cole also demeans the main character. Other problems include the strange use of 'Ms'; in the early pages we are told Smartypants doesn't want to get married, she enjoys being a Ms. This doesn't make sense as married women also use Ms as a title, although I suppose it opens up discussion around the titles we use. Then there's Smartypants mother, the Queen; a keen shopper, it is she who insists that Smartypants finds a husband in the first place. One stereotype may be challenged, but others are compounded. On the plus side it's a lively light hearted story that pokes fun at the princess cliché and it's certainly preferable to a book full of Disney princesses. For little girls who are drowning in pink princess culture Princess Smartypants while not princess-free is at least Princess Different, but although the main character is an independent spirit who wears motorbike leathers and likes big spiders, she lacks integrity and the storyline is weak. My 4 year old daughter has owned this book for several months but after the initial 'new book' liking of it, has read it less than a handful of times. She says she likes it, but it's clearly not one of her favourites. Smartypants is a reactive tale that rebuts a genre, but isn't enough to satisfy as a stand alone story. It may stand out on the shelf as a feminist book for a child, but on closer inspection it leaves a lot to be desired. It's an indictment on the lack of strong female characters in children's books that twenty five years after it's original publication Princess Smartypants is still praised as a challenge to the prevailing literature.

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                      19.03.2012 11:16
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                      Beautiful book for young children.

                      ~ And Mum said to me, "Remember this time. It's the way life should be." ~ Pleased to have found a children's illustrator who gives her little girls practical clothes, rather than the ubiquitous pink dress, I was in search of more books with Jennifer Eachus' impressive watercolour illustrations for my daughter, when I discovered 'The Big Big Sea,' (Walker Books). This picture book for young children in which a little girl and her mother visit the sea on a moonlit night was originally published in 1994 and re-issued a couple of years ago. It's a simple tale told and illustrated exquisitely. Because of the little girl on the cover I imagine many people would think of it as a book for little girls, but just as girls are commonly expected to read books with male leads, so this book is fine for either gender. It's such a straightforward story that it can be read to very young children, who after all, care not about the gender of characters in books until it is impressed upon them by others that certain books are for girls or boys. My daughter loves this and I just wish she'd had it from a much younger age as it is beginning to feel a little young for her now, at the grand old age of four and a half. The story begins with the words: "Mum said, 'Let's go!' So we went ...", the accompanying picture is an almost silhouette of a woman waiting by her daughter as she puts her sandals on. The spontaneous mood develops throughout the pages into a celebration of nature, freedom and the love between a mother and child. The pair cross over a field and under a fence then pause to take in their surroundings before they run to the sea and splash in the water. A double page spread shows the little girl looking up in awe at the moon, and is so well done that the reader must surely pause and appreciate a moment in time. We may not actually be at the sea ourselves, but this is as close as a book can get to taking us there. On the following pages the girl's face is sheer exhilaration as she jumps and splashes about. Later, she gets cold and tired and is carried back to eat warm buttered toast and fall asleep on Mum's knee. The rhythm and repetition in both words and images reflect the rhythms of life and nature. The symbolism of moon and water add to the powerful feminine atmosphere and Eachus' silvery hues help to convey a profound experience in a moving, almost mystical tale. The characters are not named which adds to the sense of freedom, they could be any mum and daughter on any beach. The fact that the characters are female may seem incidental to some, yet they make powerful role models. I wonder how many women would actually feel safe and confident enough to behave like the mother in the book. Sadly I fear I would be looking over my shoulder for the bogeyman were I to take my daughter down to an empty beach at night, but here mother and daughter are strong female characters in the most natural sense, they feel free to be themselves. I doubt that experienced children's author Martin Waddell set out with the intent of writing a book for feminist mothers to cherish, (although I find it intriguing that he often uses the female pseudonym Catherine Sefton), but against the backdrop of a culture obsessed with looks and body image starting at the toddler stage these days, a book in which a little girl runs around a beach at night feels revolutionary. Waddell and Eachus' beautiful book conveys an energy of pure joy.

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                        13.03.2012 13:03
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                        an insult to anyone who can read

                        'Carol smiled at the dreamy look on Jacqueline's face. "I thought I'd died and gone to heaven the first time Doug kissed me," she recalled.' This is not the kind of book I would usually read, it was a promotional copy, shoved unasked for in my carrier by a BHS cashier. No, I didn't have to read it, but I did, whilst tutting, during ad breaks and mundane conversations. While I wouldn't have bought it, I don't mind the odd bit of low brow fiction and will read in any genre provided the writing reaches a basic level of credibility, which this didn't. The main characters are; Lydia - spunky cancer survivor, scared of relationships; Jacqueline - wealthy, image conscious snob; Alix with an I - young, punky and tough, but vulnerable underneath; Carol - desperate for a baby. They all come together in a knitting class where their problems are shared and solved in a formulaic, predictable bumwipe of a novel. Four more stereotypical women could surely not be imagined; each facing their own cliched issues, each in need of a romantic fix to achieve fulfilment. Let's take Alix as an example. At the start of the book she has purple spiked hair, wears a dog collar, works in a video shop and owes community service hours for a drugs charge, (to avoid being too controversial the author makes it her flat mate's cannabis, don't forget Alix is good underneath so therefore must hate drugs). It turns out she had a rough childhood, although we are spared too many details other than that she spent a lot of time hiding in a closet, this must explain her fashion sense. There's something compelling about the fact that you just know she is going to have to have a make over, because of course no-one with purple spikes could really be well adjusted. Then there's the childhood sweetheart who visits her shop, (he rents out Dumb and Dumber, which made me howl), and has grown up to be a Christian minister. Romance could never be on the cards for this mismatched pair, could it? To say the storyline is unimaginative is letting the author off too lightly, the pages drip lazy writing, cliche and trite moralisation. But who am I to criticise? After all this is the first book in a best selling series, so obviously it has a wide appeal, even if it makes me despair. Surely there's no harm in it for readers who desire a little light escapism, even if it is oh so cosy, as well as being completely removed from reality. Well, actually it sends out some truly objectionable messages such as; women - pleasing the man in your life will bring you happiness, hard work will always bring great reward, we make our own luck and even if something nasty like cancer comes along you can beat it by being a nice positive person. Everyone knows that if you are sick, poor, disabled, unemployed or just unhappy you've brought it on yourself and should just get a job and a haircut or go for a bike ride. Simple. I'm not entirely sure why I read this to the end. Maybe the sheer dreadfulness made me persevere just to see if it really would turn out to be as dire as I thought, a bit like the times I watched Neighbours. But no surprises here, (the minister didn't turn to crack, nor did Carol realise that a baby isn't the only way a woman can find fulfilment, and Jacqueline and her husband never discovered the joys of dogging). It reminded me of 'My Guy'. I used to read a cousins stash of the teen magazine that I was told were too old for me but I thought they were great, when I was about eight. Whether Blossom Street reaches quite the same standard in terms of plot and character development is open to question, but it is, undisputably, tired outdated dross and an insult to anyone who can read.

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                          08.02.2012 19:49
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                          a good overview of 40 years of the feminist movement

                          Women of the Revolution is an anthology of feminist writing selected from Guardian archives by journalist Kira Cochrane. The resulting book is a guide to feminism as written about in the Guardian. It would be understandable to expect it to be a largely white educated middle class discussion of the women's movement, and this is true to a degree, but voices and opinions of minority groups within the movement are also represented. Alongside regular Guardian contributors such as Polly Toynbee and noted feminist luminaries like Germaine Greer and Bell Hooks, Raekha Prasad interviews Sampat Devi Pal of India's 'Gulabi Gang,' there are interviews with working class women in the UK, rape survivors in Congo and Rwandan politicians, but the majority of viewpoints come from Guardian journalists or women whose voices are heard in the mainstream. Altogether there are 72 articles. The first piece from 1971 is by Mary Stott, a long serving women's page editor. In it she attempts to answer the question; "What is the Women's Liberation fuss about?" Some of the language in the early articles is almost quaint. Michael Behr's patronising if well intentioned assessment of Betty Friedan back in 1971; "How to be Voluble, Sexy and Liberated," may seem cringeworthy now, but even old fashioned sexism such as that from the union executive who calls a journalist 'sweetheart' and refuses to answer her question about union rules because they're too complex for her, is mild in comparison to the sexually explicit abuse openly directed at women online today, as discussed in 2007's 'How the Web Became a Sexists' Paradise', by Jessica Valenti. The linear nature of the articles makes it possible to trace the changing shape of the women's movement over the years, and often makes disheartening reading. Issues facing women today are acute as old gains in areas such as equal pay, education and abortion are being eroded, while the technological age has brought new concerns such as the explosion of misogynistic sadistic pornography. Many of the later articles discuss the effects of the sexual saturation of our society, sexual violence against women having reached epidemic proportions. Emine Saner's interview with a sex worker quotes her as saying, "I believe there is a conspiracy to turn women into readily accessible semen receptacles," this was one of the first articles I read and I raised a sceptical eyebrow, but after reading through the rest of the book it doesn't seem such an outlandish statement. Ariel Levy's critique of raunch culture makes more salient points. On a positive note the internet provides many women with a space to discuss and organise. In the penultimate article Libby Brooks calls for a debate on what feminism means today and also makes the point that young feminists can find answers to present day issues in the history of the movement. Much current discussion goes over old ground, and marginalises older women in the process. Women of the Revolution makes a good starting point for people interested in feminism. Whilst it could never be a comprehensive guide, readers will discover voices that speak to them and can choose to read further, (although it does lack a further reading list). As a collection of short pieces, there is little room to go into feminist theory, but this is not an academic book, it acts as both an interesting period piece and a springboard for ideas. The range of styles and content means articles may be interesting, amusing, offensive, contradictory, or utterly harrowing, such as Emily Wax's 2003 report on sexual violence during the war in Congo. Whilst 'Forty Years' may seem the kind of book to dip in and out of, it's interesting to see follow up pieces and notice recurring themes, which means it is best read in date order, and every article is worth a read. Although at times depressing, 'forty years' is ultimately inspirational. I read a hardcopy of this book from the library, it is due out in paperback in March this year. Paperback Details: 400 pages, publisher: Guardian Books (1 Mar 2012).

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                          • Lucky Ducks / Board Game / 65 Readings / 61 Ratings
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                            05.02.2012 12:53
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                            easy first game for young children, but a bit noisy

                            My daughter was given this game around a year and a half ago. It's one that's been around for a few years and although it doesn't seem to be available in many UK shops at the moment, there are plenty of online stockists; amazon, amazingplush.com, myhobbyplace.com, but the best place for a decent priced version would be Ebay where you should be able to pick it up for under £10. It's made by MB Games/Hasbro and takes 2 x 1.5 v batteries. The battery life seems quite decent, I don't recall having to change the batteries in ours yet. In the box are twelve plastic ducks and a motorised pond which measures roughly 25cm in diameter. It has a big red button in the middle and is surrounded by blue conveyor belt style 'water' onto which the ducks are placed. The outside is green grass and slightly raised to keep the ducks in. Around the pond are four coloured symbols; a red circle, purple square, blue star and orange triangle - these are the player positions and each duck has one of these symbols on their underside. Once in motion, the motor noise is quite loud, and accompanied by quacks, this can be really annoying, although, as parents do, I usually manage to tune it out.. To play, the button is pressed and the ducks move around on the pond, players take turns to pick up a duck, if it matches their 'home' symbol then that duck is kept, if not it is put back on the pond. We have always played it so that the symbol is seen by everyone, but it could be made trickier if only the player who picks up gets to look at the symbol. The winner is the player who collects their three ducks, (for very young ones a simplified game is suggested where just one duck wins the game). As well as colour and shape recognition this game could be said to encourage memory skills, children can improve their chance of winning by remembering the position of the duck they need, although it's easy to lose track. As the number of ducks dwindles it gets easier to remember that the duck in question may be - at the front of a group for example. The start button is very easy for children to turn on and off, but this also means that it can get set off accidentally. The box only needs to be picked up for this to happen, (I set it off twice earlier when I picked it up to check the shape colours), this leads to fun when the time comes to put it away. We once spent three hours on the motorway with intermittent quacks coming from the tightly packed boot. The fact that it's tricky to get all the ducks back into the box easily doesn't help. The game is for 2-4 players but little ones will happily play with it on their own. My daughter has enjoyed putting other small toys on it and watching them go around, she likes Lucky Ducks, although at four it's probably a bit young for her now, I think she has played with it more on her own than with others. An interesting feature, if not relevant to the game, is that the ducks always turn to face in the same direction; put one on backwards and watch as it rights itself. We've also had our ducks out in the garden in the paddling pool and upstairs in the bath. Lucky Ducks probably won't have much of a shelf life as it is made to appeal to pre-schoolers, but the actual game appears hardy and should last a long time and be fit to pass on to younger siblings/other children, (ours was passed on from a friend of the family who's children had outgrown it). The best thing about it is it's simplicity, it makes a good first game. The age on the box is 3+ but very young children will pick it up easily, I'd say a bright two year old would be able to get to grips with this. The worst thing about it is the constant quacking and engine noise. On balance I'd recommend it, but only for children with parents who are happy to deal with yet more noisy toys.

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                            • Lanky Cats / Soft Toy / 55 Readings / 53 Ratings
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                              09.01.2012 21:06
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                              characterful toy cat

                              Cats, gotta love'em, especially if you have a young child who has been obsessed with them for as long as she can remember. Due to her enthusiasm we have an assortment of cat-related objects. This means family and friends have an easy enough time choosing birthday and Christmas gifts and it was for Christmas 2010 that my daughter was given a 'Lanky Cat', probably so named because they are long and skinny. Lanky Cats are soft toys available in a variety of colours and patterns which include; gold, 'White Tiger', and 'Cheetah'. They are made by Manhattan Toy and at the time of writing they retail on Amazon.co.uk for between £7.50 and £17.90. We have the black 'Ziggy' Lanky Cat. It has a cute and characterful appearance. It was an instant hit with my daughter, she was very excited when it was unwrapped and it became a favourite. 'Floppies', as it was aptly christened, was soon a regular fixture at bedtime, in the car and at the nursery. So what is it that makes this cat special? Well, there are a few details that make it different from other toy cats. The most obvious are the distinctive large green eyes. These are emphasised by the uncat-like heavy brows, a small grey triangle for a nose and big ears pointing off to the side. The lack of a mouth also adds emphasis to the wide eyed expression, oddly it does seem able to express different emotions, depending on which angle you look from. A soft black coat covers the thin body, while the paws are disproportionately big and heavy with velvety grey pads on the underside, (the paws are good for drumming with). The long thin tail has a kink in the end. I think it could do with a little more stuffing as it's very limp, especially the upper spine area which has no stuffing at all, but I suppose this contributes to it's general body shape and floppy factor. They are deliberately understuffed which makes them quite poseable. A few months ago some of the stitching came undone from the seam on the lower back, so it has a little hole in, none of the stuffing has escaped but it needs to be sewn up. To be fair it has been played with a lot, and boisterously, but still, other toys have managed to remain unscathed after a lot of play. The body stuffing is polyester fibre with polyethylene pellets packed into the paws. The big eyes are obviously a part of what gives this toy it's character but their size makes them prone to getting bashed and marked. Poor old Floppies has been dragged all around the place and his eyes are a bit glazed with all the scratches, (admittedly my daughter has bashed out rhythms on wall and table with his head). They make good weapons too; very hard if you get hit with them, for which reason I'd say Lanky Cats are better for slightly older or well behaved children, rather than toddlers, as ideally they should be treated well and not thrown around. ('Do NOT throw cats, especially Floppies!' is a rather more well worn phrase in our house than it should be). I note the Manahttan Toy website recommends them from age three up and I'd agree, maybe even four up. I'm not sure how long these have been around, I'd guess at about five years judging by the reviews I've read and I don't know if there's been a fashion for them, but I do know that when my daughter took hers into nursery last year it was well liked by other children, at least one of whom started bringing theirs in, so perhaps they are quite popular. Apart from the hole and the bashed eyes the rest of the coat has kept quite well. The material is still soft and very black. It's surface clean only, but it hasn't needed to be cleaned much. I'd say Floppies the Lanky Cat made a good gift and has been much loved, although he's not as popular now as a year ago, he did enjoy a Halloween revival and is still well liked.

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                              • Hasbro Elefun / Electronic Toy / 56 Readings / 55 Ratings
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                                03.01.2012 15:35
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                                can be fun but may seem like more faff than it's worth

                                The Elefun game seemed to be everywhere in the run-up to Christmas 2010, I noticed it on offer for a fiver in a few supermarkets but had no idea whether it was any good, then my daughter received one from a friend. The price seems to vary wildly depending where and when you buy it, at the time of writing it's priced around the £12 mark on Argos and Amazon websites, and under a tenner from Tesco. It's made by Hasbro, designed for 2-4 players, takes 4 X 1.5v batteries and the age on the box is 3+, with the word pre-school highlighted. *In the Box In the box is the base elephant or 'elefun', it's trunk, 4 butterfly nets, 30 'butterflies' and an instruction sheet. The nets need to be assembled which is very simple. The handles are either red, yellow, blue or green. The butterflies lack artistry, they remind me of pasta bows, but are made of paper thin plastic a bit like thin carrier bag plastic but tougher, they're coloured red, green and yellow. The plastic base looks like a blue elephant with it's head looking up, the bottom half houses a motor, the rest is a holder for the butterflies. I'm sure the inspiration for this game must have come from a hairdryer because the whole thing is hairdryeresque. The trunk detaches, a bit like a hairdryer attachment, one end is hard plastic but most of it is a tube of some kind of thin polythene like material. This is so that it can be blown upwards. In play it looks a bit like a drainpipe. *In Play First you put all the butterflies into the base then attach the trunk and switch it on, you'll probably need to hold the trunk up at the beginning until it gets going, as the motor isn't powerful enough to lift it up. The on/off switch is under the elephant's tail, there's also a safety button on the base which ensures that the motor will not work unless the base is upstanding. The butterflies are blown up the trunk and out of the end, (it's about 4ft high). The idea is that players catch the butterflies as they fall and the person with most butterflies in their net at the end of the game is the winner. It's not as easy as it sounds to catch the butterflies as they tend to fall to the ground quickly, rather than flutter down, the motor doesn't lift them very far out of the trunk. My 4 year old gets around this by scrabbling to pick them up off the floor rather than bothering to try and catch them as they come out. Butterflies often get trapped inside the base and it needs to be given a light shake to free them. The motor is quite feeble, there's the odd flurry of butterflies then a wait for others to struggle up the tube one or two at a time and find their way out. Usually a couple get stuck in the bottom and won't be dislodged so get left there. A game usually takes no more than five minutes, (despite the box saying it takes 15mins). The pictures on the box are a huge exaggeration of the games capacity, showing butterflies being chased and jumped for, when in reality they just pootle out of the top and slide down the side of the trunk to the floor. The first time my daughter played this she absolutely loved it, although her parents were less impressed. The motor seemed to change tempo after a few minutes from okay to really quite weak, I assumed it would eat up the battery power, but I don't think we've actually changed the batteries, not that it's been played with a great deal, but maybe it doesn't eat up energy as much as you would think. I think it's best when played with solely by children. Adults need to adapt the game to be able to play fairly, either on their knees or restricting the nets to child height. My daughter has played this other 3-4 year olds and they get very excited and giggly. It is actually quite fun to play, despite it's shortcomings. It's also over very quickly and needs to be set-up again, usually by an adult. At four, my daughter can almost set this up on her own, but needs help to fully straighten out the trunk. *In Conclusion I don't really think this is worth the money. It has spent most of the past year in it's box under my daughter's bed. To be fair she has asked to play with it a few times and I may have persuaded her to do something else instead, as I don't think much of it. It looks good, and it's a good enough idea but not that well executed. My daughter and her friends who have played it do get very excited when it works, but it usually involves much faffing about - straightening it up, rescuing trapped butterflies etc and it's over very quickly. The motor is feeble, (it would take a long time to dry my hair), but even if it wasn't it would use up too much battery power. I wouldn't recommend it, but I can't say it's all that bad either, because I'm pretty sure my four year old would say otherwise.

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