“ Manufacturer: Early Learning Centre / Age: 3 Years+ / Type: Pinball game „
This pink fairy pinball monstrosity was a Christmas 2010 gift for my daughter. It was purchased, (not by me), for £20 in Mothercare and currently retails on the ELC website for £25.00 which I think is an absolute rip off, for reasons that will become clear. It's a compact contraption, measuring roughly 17" by 11" and it takes 4 x AA batteries. The ones we put in at Christmas have just been replaced and it hasn't been played with loads, so I'd say it's a moderately high drain on batteries.
The recommended age is 3 - 8 years. It shouldn't be too hard for most three year olds to get to grips with, but I think it would be a bit young for an eight year old. It took a bit of practise and frustration before my daughter, at three and a half, could get any kind of score, the ball would just ping up and then straight back down through the gap between the bottom flippers. She kept getting too distracted by the flashing lights and numbers to remember to press the flippers. She got the hang of it, or sort of, before too long though.
My daughter prefers to sit on the floor to play this, but it can be placed up on a table for a more realistic pinball feel.
~She's A Pinball Fairy~
Whilst I don't particularly like the look of it I realise a lot of people will think it's really cute - each to their own. I find it sickly sweet to look at; fairies in pink, pink butterflies, pink and white flowers, toadstools, (pink), even a snail that one of the sneaky fairies must have spray painted pink. This is all on a soft baby blue background encased in a baby blue and pink plastic framework. At the top is a folding four figure electronic scoreboard which has a little speaker on it and a few flashing lights surrounded by some derisory attempts at artwork; pink flowers and fairies.
Whilst the machine I'm reviewing is obviously aimed at girls, there's also a blue version for boys. This has a blue and silver racing car theme - but it looks to be the same design and is probably of the same quality, although it wouldn't surprise me if it were better made. (I'm not just being cynical here, ELC sold a pink microscope for girls which was less powerful than the boys version, obviously the makers thought girls would only want to pose with their microscopes while boys would actually want to use them). Anyway; fairies for girls and cars for boys, couldn't they have come up with something a little more original? There is some fantastic artwork to be found in the grown-up(ish) world of pinball machines that the designers/manufacturers could have taken inspiration from, but no, fairies for girls and cars for boys. Let's keep our children's imaginations appropriately stunted.
~How Do You Think She Does it?~
Upon first opening there's a little plastic stopper in a slot to keep the ball from moving around when not in play. I did intend to keep this at first to stop rattling noises in case we wanted to travel with it, but I suspect it has since been mislaid, you could probably customise a piece of card to use to do the job in any case. There are two fold down back legs. On ours, one of these is incredibly stiff and needs to be whacked hard before it will straighten out.
There is music which can be on or off. The sound effects; pings, boings, woo woo noises and so on will sound on both modes - well it wouldn't be pinball without them. The music, as you would expect, is very repetitive, it's quite tense actually, it builds up, gets higher then speeds up - it's not disimilar to the shark theme from Jaws. Under the off/music button is a reset button to put the scores back to zero.
There are three pairs of flippers, and a button on each side to press them with. There are five springs and a couple of rubber bands for the ball to boing off. There's one ball and there's a counter by the knob that counts down from 5 to 1, presumably so that you can use it to keep count of 5 goes and then hand over to the next player, if there is one. We tend to ignore it.
~What Makes Her so Good?~
To get started you pull back the knob and shoot the ball, should be simple enough, but it isn't. Firstly, the ball can get stuck in the bottom channel where it sits before being fired, there's too much plastic around here and if you pull the knob too soon you will knock the ball back and forth along the bottom channel or 'drain' I think is the correct pinball terminology. If you pull the knob too fast even if the ball is positioned correctly, it will misfire and get stuck, very frustrating for a small child. I frequently get the ball stuck here and I should be able to work it out, so it's obviously a design fault, maybe not a major one, but annoying nonetheless.
Once you do manage to shoot the ball and get it up into the field of play, at the top it can go down one of four lanes. Two of these have little sensors that score ten points when it runs over them, but on our machine the ball tends to stick over the one on the left, which means that every time the ball goes down that lane the machine needs to be given a shake or a whack, or else it sits there mounting up points while you do nothing.
~She's Got Crazy Flipper Fingers~
It's difficult to get a high scoring round if you play by the rules. It's a very basic effort at a pinball machine. The fact that there are no lanes or ramps in the main playfield, nothing to give you a breather, means that to keep the ball in play there can be no let up with the flipper pushing.
It could do with some extra features, some kind of points bonus or special jackpot features, but it's just the same thing repeatedly. I have scored a thousand before, (cheating obviously), and all you get is a little wooh! noise, which makes it really worth the effort. Actually my daughter was very pleased with the wooh!, but she'll learn. Ironically, the advert for this on the ELC website uses the phrase, "watch your score creep up," and creep is exactly what it does, we've had some painfully low scores.
There are some 'Playing Tips' on the side of the box, one of which suggests that the game be played with the legs folded flat for beginners to practice, then raised "so the ball falls more easily". This is a ridiculous suggestion, because when folded down the front of the machine is higher than the back and it's impossible to play at all. Another example of the amount of thought, care and research that has obviously not gone into this game.
~That Noodlesandwich's Kid~
If I suggest to my daughter that she play on her pinball machine, usually in response to the cry of 'I'm bored!', she often responds enthusiastically, gets it out and has a bash on it. She can get very excited with it, but it's only ever for short bursts of play, she soon gets bored and puts it away again. Sometimes I'll have a go on it as well, then remember it's not actually very good - I think the sounds it makes deceive you into thinking it's going to be fun. We both cheat, well to be honest the dire quality of the thing forces you to cheat or you'd never get a decent score.
I have never seen such a badly designed pinball machine. There is almost no skill involved at all, just push manically at the flippers, (which makes a right racket too), and hope for the best. There's nothing to stop the ball from heading straight down the middle of the playfield and into the drain, which it frequently does.
~Sure Plays a Pink Fairy Pinball~
Can I say anything positive about it? Well, I have to admit that the sound of it being played on Boxing day morning, which was when it was opened, made it seem more like Christmas. I hadn't bought my daughter anything noisy or flashy and I wouldn't have bought her this, but somehow it did seem the right kind of toy that had been missing from the Christmas experience until then, if that makes sense.
I did make a trip to our nearest ELC to swap this for another machine, but the shop was closed, (Sunday), and I never got around to making another attempt, so we just put up with it. I'm willing to bet the other machines would have been of similar quality, but even if it didn't have the basic faults such as the pulling mechanism that traps the ball, the channel that the ball gets stuck in, the stiff back leg, it would still be a poor quality pinball game.
My daughter likes her pinball machine, but then she doesn't know what a good pinball machine is like. To be fair, she does get some fun out of it, so it's not all bad, but I'm sure the day will come when she realises just what a piece of pink fairy plastic garbage it is.
Don't all groan... I know I am reviewing yet another toy...yes my daughter had this for Christmas too! (She's not that spoilt honestly!!!)
My mum purchased this for my daughter fromt he Early Learning Centre - we have the pink girls version but it is also available in blue for the boys!
It comes folded down flat, both the legs and the top part which dispalys your score fold down - obviously a good storage point. When you take the pinball machine from the box you need to insert batteries - this takes 4 AA batteries -simple unscrew the cover and pop them in like most toys - gone are the days where you didn't need a screwdriver - we never had screws holding battery covers on when we were kids and we never played with batteries or ate them - I think this is over the top but thats another story. So the batteries are in, remove the stopper which is keeping the ball safe and you're ready to go.
Pull down the legs and pull up the scoreboard. You have the option of having the unit turned on with or without music but you cannot turn the sound effects off entirely I'm afraid. The 'music' is not really what I would call music just kind of an ongoing electricy sound which changes tone, it sounds a bit dark and space agey! The sound effects are just like you would get on a regular pinball machine -pooow, drrrrr, brrrr kinda thing.
There is a ball counter so you can have 5 balls. This shows through a tiny window when you pull the bit to shoot ball (I assume this is the pin!?!) It's nice and chunky and easy for little hands to get hold of and pull. We don't tend to bother with this to be honest as only 5 balls is no fun!
Ok so you have shot the ball, sending round the pink and blue fairy designed background (the blue pinball machine has a racing car theme!) You need to press th buttons on the side to use your pink flippers to flip the ball on the spring and make the annoying sound effect and the scoreboard lights flash.... This will give you a score of 1,2,3,4,5, 10 or 15 depending on which one you hit. The score is displayed on the blue scoreboard at the top. When you have used your 5 balls up this is where you will find the reset button to try and beat your last score. The downside is that it is not able to keep a track of your highest or last score so you don't have a record of what you need to beat although I'm sure for a young child its fine. I think I am comparing it too much to a Batman one I had when I was young!
So far this game has given my daughter a good few hours of fun although she doesn't play with it every day.
It is priced at £20 and is only available from the Early Learning Centre, online or instore. It's available in pink or blue and measures approx 42 x 27 cm and 25cm tall at the highest part when it is all set up. It folds down to about 8cm when not in use - the only critisism I have when folded is that you can't push the pin in and this sticks out a further 5 cm which is annoying when you are trying to fit it into a smallish space. It is lovely and sturdy, seems quite robust and has been dropped a number of times without damage! However if you did have a problem take it back to ELC - their customer service is fantastic and will sort it out for you straight away.
Another big plus point which I have not yet mentioned is that everything is enclosed and only visible through the clear top. This means that there is no chance of the ball getting lost, swallowed or choked on as it doesn't come out of the toy.
It helps your child with problem solving skills and also hand/eye co-ordination. Recommended for ages 3+
A winner in our house and just a nice fun toy without the empahasis on counting or spelling/memory as many childs games have nowadays.