“ Brand: Uncle Milton / Type: Operation style game - extract bones from the game without making the dinosaur roar „
Trolling around Argos the other day, I spotted this game. It was raining, it was half-term and I was fed up of arts & crafts, the Wii and endless repeats of Tracy Beaker on kids tv.
It was on offer at £5.99 and so seemed worth a punt, especially since my daughter's game of 'Operation!' was sadly defunct: that red-nosed man having finally gone to the morgue (the bin). This looked to be a different take on the same game, with extra RWARRRGH for my son the dino-fan.
At home, we unwrapped the beast: the base depicts a fossilized T-Rex skeleton in a dig. It's a sturdy plastic design with hollows rimmed with metal, from which you extract the plastic bones of the dinosaur with the attached tweezers. If your tweezers touch the metal sides, a circuit is formed and the dino lets out a formidable roar.
The quality of the game is pretty good: the base feels nice and firm while the bones are decent moulded plastic. I'm not keen on the look of the box: it's relatively plain and a bit cheap-looking. The tweezers were a bit bulkier than I expected, but are easy for my son to manipulate.
The base requires 2 AA batteries, which are not supplied. As you'd expect with a children's toy, you need to use a screw-driver to access the battery compartment.
The game comes with an instruction leaflet, the fossil base, the bones, and two sets of cards.
To play, put the bones in the dino and decide who goes first (youngest in our case). The player is asked a dinosaur trivia question from the question cards.
Sample: "How tall was T-Rex?
~ A. As tall as a basket-ball player,
~ B. As tall as a two storey-building
~ C. As tall as a redwood tree
~ D. As tall as the Empire State Building".
If the player gets the answer right, he or she picks a card from the XCavator cards, that tells them which dino-bone to try to extract with the tweezers. If successful, they keep card and bone, if the T-Rex roars, their turn is over.
The game is for children from 5 years onwards. The questions are pitched well for primary school aged children, although they are somewhat US-orientated as you might see from the sample question above. They were challenging for my son (6) and easy for my daughter (11), although there were a couple that you just had to know, even as adults. The answers are explained, so that you learn some dino-facts as you go. There are only 18 cards, with a question on each side, so it doesn't take many games before you know all the answers to the questions.
In educational terms, it's a game that teaches some dinosaur trivia and requires hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills.
Playing the game was fun to start with: we got some chuckles from the question cards, as well as a bit of excitement and suspense, cheering each other on and waiting for the mighty roar of the displeased dino. However, we had awful trouble with the foot-bone and lower jaw. Now maybe we're just rubbish, but even the adults playing couldn't pick these out! We had real problems in picking them up with the tweezers, despite taking them out and putting them on a flat surface to try (so at least the dino would roar no more). I did manage to get the jaw, but the foot I still can't grab. This level of difficulty was very frustrating for everybody. We eventually hit on the solution of turning the two pieces upside down in the hollows, which at least gave us a shot of getting them out - although when I first tried the jaw pinged over the right way up and was back to impossible! (Foiled by a child's toy! Sob.)
I'm not sure how that level of difficulty can be right when the questions seem pitched at around my son's age. Over all, it's a game I can't see us playing all that often as we now know the answers and those two really hard pieces make it a bit too frustrating. We might yet play it just for the excavation/extraction part, but I'm tempted to doctor the jaw and foot somehow! In the meantime, it's into the cupboard until the next rainy holidays. I'm glad that I didn't buy it at full price.
It's available from Amazon new at £11.99, when it's called the Uncle Milton Dino Xcavator - or at £19.79 when it's called the Chad Valley Dino Xcavator: it's the exact same product. Personally I wouldn't want to pay either of those prices, so check out the bargain bins of your local Argos first!