Angry Birds, the game app that has taken the world by storm, is now available in a board game called Angry Birds: Knock on Wood. The basic concept is the same: Greedy green pigs have stolen the birds' eggs, so to exact revenge the birds must launch themselves at the pigs to knock them over. Meant for players age 5 and older (due to the number of small parts, it is not recommended for children under 3) the game comes with rubberized versions of three of the angry birds, four plastic pigs, and some plastic building blocks used to create the pigs' various structures.
A deck of mission cards shows pictures of structures to be built and where to place the pigs. There are four levels of difficulty, and each mission is worth points (the higher the level, the more points you score). Using the birds shown on the card, you launch them at the structure using a plastic catapult, aiming to knock over all the pigs. If your mission is successful, you collect the points on the card, and the first player to collect 1,000 points is the winner.
Much like the app it's based on, many reviewers say that Angry Birds Knock on Wood is fun to play. The game is flexible, so while some players enjoy meticulously creating the structures on the mission cards, others can use the game pieces however they like for freestyle play. A typical sentiment from someone who liked the game a lot reads like this Amazon user's feedback: "While Angry Birds is very fun in its original format, it's as much if not more fun when played in a more physical form! I love flinging tiny birds at blocks and pigs." Reviews indicate that younger children get a genuine kick out of playing.
There's no shortage of issues brought up by owners, however, even in reviews that are generally positive. One common theme is that the catapult -- an essential component of the game -- is stiff and inaccurate. "The biggest downfall of the game is the launcher, and its lack of consistency. There is no skill involved with the game, and the wide variance from one shot to the next actually makes it frustrating to play."
Many users note that the game pieces have a tendency to scatter, and they suggest either setting up the game in an enclosed area or being prepared to chase after the pieces following each turn. One owner posting to Amazon.com says it's important to be vigilant about keeping track of the parts because a couple of missing pieces can make it impossible to build a structure as shown on one of the game cards (for freestyle play, which a lot of owners say their kids prefer, this is probably not as big a deal.)
Only three of the birds are used, and they don't have the special characteristics their digital counterpoints possess -- no explosive birds here. And as is pointed out in user reviews, even though the three included birds are sized and weighted differently, how they perform is basically random, due to the spotty consistency of the launcher. The game is also devoid of sound effects, so be prepared to insert your own squawking bird and snickering pig noises.
Adults reviewers have some legitimate complaints about Angry Birds: Knock on Wood, but kids -- especially younger ones -- seem to enjoy the fine art of setting things up just to knock them back down. For them, it's a win. Older players, on the other hand, might be better off sticking with the app that spawned this kids' game in the first place.
More than 75 customers review Angry Birds Knock on Wood on Amazon.com, and an overwhelming majority gives it a 4- or 5-star rating. Most reviewers say they are parents who bought the game either for children who are too young to play the smartphone version or older children they don't want spending too much time on computer games. While most kids enjoy playing the game, parents suggest having them play in an enclosed space, as the pieces have a tendency to roll away and need retrieving after each launch. A few reviewers are disappointed that the game only includes three of the bird characters and that they don't have specific characteristics like the birds in the app game. Most of the reviews say that kids enjoy playing the game and find it easy to learn, but a few find the constant restacking of the pieces to be tedious.
Review: Angry Birds: Knock On Wood Game, Contributors to Amazon.com
More than 10 customers review Angry Birds Knock on Wood on ToysRUs.com, and most give it at least a 4-star rating, with over 90 percent saying they would recommend the game to others. Most find it to be a fun game to play with kids, whether following the instructions on the cards or just randomly building and knocking down structures. A couple of reviewers note that the catapult can be a bit challenging to use and takes some practice to become adept with.
Review: Angry Birds Knock on Wood Game, Contributors to ToysRUs.com
Jonathan Liu, who writes for the GeekDad blog on Wired.com, reviews Angry Birds Knock on Wood after trying it out with his kids. Both adults and kids find the game as addicting as the original app game, and they kids particularly enjoy meticulously setting up each mission to look exactly as it does on the card. Liu says the catapult can be difficult to hold, though that adds to the challenge of the game. He also likes how the pieces can be used as regular toys when the kids grow tired of playing the game.
Review: Angry Birds: Knock on Wood Is Ridiculously Fun, Jonathan Liu, Nov. 15, 2011
4. The Charlotte Observer
A freelance writer for The Charlotte Observer, Kiran Dodeja Smith reviews Angry Birds Knock on Wood as a possible holiday gift idea. She finds the game to be fun and obsessive like the smartphone version, but she warns of how easily the pieces tend to scatter. Dodeja particularly likes how the game can inspire creativity with freestyle building and destruction.
Review: Gift No. 1: Angry Birds Knock on Wood, Kiran Dodeja Smith, Nov. 9, 2011
Bop It! XT is the newest member of the Bop It! game line. Reviewers say Bop It! XT is a fun, frantic and frustrating way for players ages 8 and up to test their reflexes. Bop It! XT features a series of colorful knobs, handles, and buttons that each perform a specific action. A computerized voice shouts out a random series of active commands, like "pull it," "twist it," and "shake it," and players must act quickly to perform each activity before time runs out. Bop It! XT offers a variety of play modes, so you can play solo, with a partner, or with a whole group of people. It also offers four different difficulty levels that are unlocked the further you progress. One of the more ingenious features of Bop It! XT is a headphone jack, so solo players can play without disturbing others, making it a useful distraction for kids on long road trips.
Bop It! has been a popular game with both kids and adults for years, and reviews indicate that Bop It! XT is no exception. Many parents who bought the game for their children say they themselves have trouble putting it down. As one user posting to Amazon.com says, "When I took it out of the box, the adults were practically fighting for their turn to play."
The addition of the headphone jack also scores points with parents. "No more being annoyed by the sounds of commands heard over, and over, and over again," says another Amazon.com reviewer.
Its various play modes make it ideal for any number of people to play together, and fans of the original Bop It! game say they like the new challenges that Bop It! XT offers. A few dislike the sarcastic comments the game makes when you lose ("You can give a game a personality without it being like salt on an open wound," says one user), but others find them funny and feel that they add to the game's entertainment value ("It's all in a happy upbeat cute, non-annoying or non-tiresome tone, I love it!" writes another owner). Some reviewers find that the game isn't always responsive to the "shake it" command, but they go on to say that there's an option to remove that command from the rotation.
Bop It! XT may be marketed toward kids, but it's clear from reading reviews that adults get just as much (if not more) enjoyment out of it. It's a great game for families to play together, especially as it requires no set-up and there are no small pieces to go missing. A few quibbles aside, most owner feedback suggests that Bop It! XT will keep players coming back time after time.
More than 30 customers review Bop It! XT on Amazon.com and none give it lower than a 3-star rating. Almost all reviewers say that both children and adults enjoy playing with it, and they like the multiple play modes. Some say they could do without the sarcastic comments from the computer voice, while others find them funny and all part of the entertainment. A few complain that the toy has a tendency to be unresponsive to the "shake it" command, but most add that it's easy to deactivate that command from the rotation.
Review: Bop It XT, Contributors to Amazon.com
A small number of customers review Bop It! XT on Kmart.com, and all give it high marks. They comment that it's an addictive game for people of all ages, and one reviewer who is a fan of the original Bop It! likes the new challenges offered with Bop It! XT.
Review: Hasbro Bop It! XT, Contributors to Kmart.com
So far, only one customer has reviewed Bop It! XT on ToysRUs.com, and they give it a high rating. It was purchased for a 6-year-old, but the entire family enjoys playing with it, and they like that there's the option to remove certain action commands from the game.
Review: Bop It XT Game, Contributors to ToysRUs.com
Argos.co.uk is an British online retailer where a few customers review the Bop It! XT. They all give it positive reviews and say how addicting the game is for children and adults. Some are fans of the original Bop It! and are excited by all the new features of Bop It! XT.
Review: Bop It! XT Game, Contributors to Argos.co.uk
The Clever Clasp is designed for people who have difficulty connecting the tiny clasps of necklaces and bracelets. Simply attach the hooked tails of the Clever Clasp to those of a necklace or bracelet; when you put on your necklace or bracelet, the magnetic heads of the Clever Clasp connect, eliminating the need to fumble with the tiny clasp. As an additional security feature, a twist lock allows the magnets to be screwed together. The set includes four clasps (two gold and two silver).
The Clever Clasp has been given a test run by four local news stations, and the results are mostly positive. The women who are asked to test out this product say it's easy to use, and the magnets are impressively strong. However, these reviewers -- as well as some users on Amazon.com -- agree about a major drawback: The Clever Clasp adds 1 or 2 inches to the length of jewelry, which may not a big deal for necklaces, but can make bracelets or anklets too big to wear comfortably.
We also found a handful of complaints about delayed shipping or shoddy construction, but not enough to indicate that Clever Clasp is an unreliable product, as far as infomercial merchandise goes. In one review, a jeweler says Clever Clasp's nickel coating might not be good for people with metal allergies.
1. KFVS (Cape Girardeau, Mo.)
Reporter Lauren Keith asks three women to try the Clever Clasp. The test subjects all have some trouble getting it to work, but they are mostly satisfied with the results. Keith says the Clever Clasp adds length to bracelets, making them more prone to slip off, and she gives the Clever Clasp an overall grade of C.
Review: Does it Work Wednesday: The Clever Clasp, Lauren Keith
2. KDKA (Pittsburgh)
Reporter Yvonne Zanos asks customers at a local jewelry store to try the Clever Clasp. They find that it works well with all types of necklaces, even heavier ones with stone accents. Zanos says the product adds an inch of length to bracelets, making them more prone to slip off. Testers also report that it doesn't work on certain bracelets because of their design.
Review: Clever Clasp: Does It Really Do That?, Yvonne Zanos, April 30, 2007
3. WLWT (Cincinnati)
A reporter asks a local jewelry store owner to evaluate the Clever Clasp. He likes the way it works, but points out that the nickel coating might not be good for people who have allergic reactions to metal.
Review: Will It Work Wednesday, Editors of WLWT
4. KOVR (Sacramento, Calif.)
A TV news reporter asks three area women to try the Clever Clasp. They like the strength of its magnets and the way it works on necklaces, but one points out that it adds too much length to bracelets.
Review: Buy It and Try It: The Clever Clasp, Editors of KOVR, April 7, 2007
Most of the three dozen or so users here are very satisfied with Clever Clasp, as evident by a perfect rating of 5 stars. Customers say its magnets hold bracelets and necklaces together securely. However, there are scattered complaints of bulkiness or shoddy construction, and one user says her order never arrived.
Review: Clever Clasp, Contributors to Amazon.com
Recommended for players 5 and older, Connect 4 Launchers is a new twist on an old favorite. A pair of plastic grid trays are assembled on a set of pillars (one on top, one on bottom) and the goal is -- as always -- to get four of your checkers in a row to win. But in order to do so, you have to launch them. Each player is equipped with a plastic catapult-style launcher that will flip their checkers into the air, aiming to make them land in the spaces on either the top or bottom grid tray. Connect 4 Launchers comes with instructions for three different games of varying degrees of difficulty, so you can tailor the game based on the skills of the players. There's even an option for team play if more than two want in on the fun.
Parents who loved playing the original Connect 4 game say they are extremely happy with the new challenges that Connect 4 Launchers offers. The game receives high ratings on retailers' websites, with many reviewers saying the game is easy to assemble and to learn. "Kids ages 4 and up shouldn't have any problems playing the game, and it's the same kind of frantic fun that can be found in games like Hungry Hungry Hippos," writes a parent posting feedback at Amazon.com.
While a few users complain that the game pieces are flimsy, most -- including reviewers at Wired -- have no issue with the durability of the game. The various game options are often noted, as parents like that they can choose a game based on their child's abilities, though most say that the games work better with two players rather than with teams.
While the manufacturer says Connect 4 Launchers is for children 5 and up, many parents say that kids as young as 3 or 4 also enjoy playing Connect 4 Launchers. It's also a fun bit of nostalgia for adults who used to play the classic Connect 4. Though it's not as intellectually stimulating as the original game, some users note, Connect 4 Launchers is a fun, fast-paced game for the entire family to play.
More than 30 customers review Connect 4 Launchers on Amazon.com, and the majority gives the game a 4- or 5-star rating. Most reviewers are parents who are fans of the original Connect 4, and they say that this new game is a great update of the classic. They like the different game options and how some require more skill and strategy than others, so the game can be tailored to the age and capabilities of the players. A few reviewers say that while Connect 4 Launchers is marketed for kids 5 and up, younger kids of 3 and 4 also enjoy playing. Some say the plastic game board and launchers are flimsy, while the majority says the game construction is very sturdy, so that opinion probably depends on how rough it's played with.
Review: Connect 4 Launchers, Contributors to Amazon.com
A handful of customers review Connect 4 Launchers on Walmart.com, with all of them giving it the highest possible rating. They say that it's easy to assemble and take apart, and that kids in ages from 6 to 12 enjoy playing it (as well as their parents). One parent comments that she likes how Connect 4 Launchers has an element of chance to it, so younger children have a better chance at winning than with the original Connect 4 game, which involves a lot of skill.
Review: Connect 4 Launchers, Contributors to Walmart.com
So far only one customer reviews Connect 4 Launchers on ToysRUs.com, giving it the highest rating. It was purchased for a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, and both children find it easy and enjoyable to play. They say the game set up is easy and that pieces all seem durable.
Review: Connect 4 Launchers, Contributors to ToysRUs.com
Matt Morgan, who writes for the GeekDad blog, tries out Connect 4 Launchers and finds it to be a fun, challenging game that would be a welcome addition to any family game night. He finds the game assembly easy and the pieces to be sturdy, and likes that there are a variety of different games that can be played, though he finds that two players works better than team-play mode. He comments that it's not as challenging as the original Connect 4, as it doesn't require mathematical skill, but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of playing.
Review: Connect 4 Launchers is Flinging Fun, Matt Morgan, July 22, 2011
5. Parents' Choice
Reilly Reagan is a teacher, librarian, and parent who reviews media for Parents-Choice.org. She says Connect 4 Launchers is a great game and that her two children can spend hours playing it. She says the game moves quickly, so no one has to wait very long to have a turn. Reagan likes the fact that there are different game options, though she finds that it works best with just two players rather than teams.
Review: Connect 4 Launchers, Reilly Reagan, Fall 2011
Get A Grip is a portable plastic handle with large spring-loaded suction cups. It's designed to be attached without tools to a smooth, even and clean surface. The infomercial claims that it's strong enough to be used as a safety handle, but that promise hold up in the reviews we read.
Many reviewers take issue with the claims made in the infomercial, which depicts people using it as a safety handle in the shower. As some reviewers point out, the product's instructions say it cannot hold body weight or even maintain balance to prevent falls. "We'd feel much better knowing our grandmothers were hoisting themselves on an elegant, strong built-in rather than a pair of plastic suction cups with no mechanical connection," says Harry Sawyers of Popular Mechanics. The ad even shows a man climbing on a series of Get A Grip handles used as a ladder, yet the instructions say it's not for outdoor use.
Reviewers complain that it takes strength to lock the Get A Grip handle
onto a surface and that it doesn't always stay attached. At TV station KFVS
(Cape Girardeau, Mo.), testers find that cleaning the suction cups help,
and ConsumerReports.org notes that some versions come with larger suction
cups that hold more weight. Quite a few reviewers say that even when the
Get A Grip handle is applied to an ideal surface, testers can yank it off.
The best use for the Get A Grip handle seems to be as an accessory for pushing or pulling something. For example, a user reviewing the handle at Sears.com recommends mounting it on a glass sliding door to make it easier for someone with limited hand strength to open and close the door. At an assisted-living facility, a reviewer finds it convenient as a push/pull handle for rolling objects, but not as a permanent safety handle. Some users say they do use it as a shower handle, but test it carefully before putting any weight on it. Reviewers report that the handle may stay secure for days or weeks, then suddenly fall off.
We found the most thorough tests of the Get A Grip handle at ConsumerReports.org and at PopularMechanics.com. A review at KDKA (Pittsburgh) is also noteworthy because it reports on tests by two people over a three-week period, while a reviewer at KPLC (Lake Charles, La.) tries the handle for a variety of purposes. Reviews at KFVS (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) and at StarReviews.com test the Get A Grip for shorter periods of time. We also found useful owner-written reviews at Amazon.com and Sears.com.
Two versions of the Get A Grip handle are tested. One unit was ordered from the Get A Grip website, while another was purchased from an online retailer.
Review: Some Gripes with a Grip, May 2009
Tests indicates that even when mounted properly on a dry, smooth, nonporous surface, it's possible to yank the Get A Grip handle off. Thus it doesn't provide the security promised in the infomercial. The reviewer also notes that although the ad shows the handle mounted on a boat, the directions say it's not for outdoor use.
Review: Does the Get-A-Grip Work? As Seen On TV Lab Test, Harry Sawyers
3. KDKA (Pittsburgh)
Consumer editor Yvonne Zanos and John Seitz of the non-profit group Home Safe Home test a Get A Grip unit that came without any instructions. They test it over a three-week period, applying it to several surfaces, including a fiberglass tub. The final grade is a thumbs-down; the handle may stick initially, they say, but then starts to fall off, making it unreliable.
Review: Get A Grip: Does It Work?, Yvonne Yanos, July 3, 2008
4. KPLC (Lake Charles, La.)
The Get A Grip handle is tested at an assisted-living facility, where it's judged helpful as an accessory handle or for temporary use, but not as a permanent safety handle.
Review: Get A Grip, Jeff Jumper
5. KFVS (Cape Girardeau, Mo.)
After attaching a Get A Grip handle to a tile shower wall, tester Sharon Houston finds that it does stay on well and resists hard pulls -- providing the suction cups and the tile are really clean. She gives the product an A-minus, and recommends checking to make sure it's secure before each use, since it might loosen over time.
Review: Does It Work: Get A Grip Bath Handle, Lauren Keith, Sept. 18, 2008
This video review gives the Get A Grip handle a perfect 6-star rating, finding no problems with it after testing it on a tile shower wall. The reviewer notes that it takes some force to apply the handle.
Review: Get A Grip Handle Video Review, "StarArthur", March 28, 2009
The handful of owners reviewing the Get A Grip handle here give it mixed reviews. Critics say it doesn't hold body weight or provide real security. One owner says it does loosen over time, but reattaches securely -- so that checking before each shower is important.
Review: Get a Grip, Contributors to Amazon.com
The sole user-written review here at the time of our report is quite enthusiastic, noting that the handle can also be applied to a sliding glass door to make it easier for someone with limited hand strength to open and close.
Review: As Seen On TV Handle, Suction Mount, Contributors to Sears.com
Taking the classic game of 20 questions to a sillier level, Hedbanz is a guessing game for players 7 and older. Two to six players can play at a time, and each is equipped with three plastic chips and an adjustable headband. Each player selects a picture card from the deck and attaches it to their headband so that they can't see it, but the other players can. The players then each take a turn asking questions about what's on their card in an effort to guess its identity. If you guess correctly before the timer runs out, you discard one of your chips; if you don't, you collect a new chip and take a new card for your next turn. The first player to discard all of their chips is the winner.
Hedbandz gets great reviews from owners who say it's a quick-paced, easy-to-learn game that kids can play with each other, though it's also fun for the entire family. We bought a copy at retail and played it over lunch here at ConsumerSearch. Our informal consensus? It's very fun, and often hilarious. We're not alone in that sentiment, as one mom posts to Amazon.com: "The pictures are so cute and crazy that it's hard not to laugh when you see that your spouse is a hot dog or that your daughter is a goat." Another owner sums up the inherent mass appeal, saying, "The kids had an amazing time with this. Kids include dad."
Other parents applaud the educational benefits they discovered while playing. As one owner notes on Amazon.com, "One of the keys to becoming a good writer in school is learning how to describe things and use adjectives. This game is great for developing this skill, because children have to ask questions about what they are -- and that takes thinking and creativity!" Another parent says, "The objects on the cards seem very simple and seem like they'd be very easy to guess, but it takes more thinking than you'd expect to figure out what the card on your head is!"
Some owners say that the timer runs out too quickly and can be a distraction, but some add that the game can easily be modified to remove the timer. Doing so also can be helpful for children who are too young to grasp the official rules, but still want in on the game time fun.
The only real complaint that reviewer have is that the game only comes with 74 cards, so if the game is played often enough, it doesn't take long to go through them all. Since the limited number of cards available is the main issue reviewers have with Hedbanz, parents may want to also check out the Disney edition of the game. There's even a Hedbanz for Adults edition available for those who want to play without the kids. More than one reviewer at Amazon.com suggests making your own cards with clip art or drawings to supplement the game deck.
No matter the age of the player is, there's a way to get them in on some version of the ridiculous fun of Hedbanz. Perhaps the most fitting summary of Hedbandz is this one posted by a happy customer at Amazon.com: "Simple but great."
More than 100 customers review Hedbanz on Amazon.com, and the vast majority gives it a 4- or 5-star rating, saying it's a sillier version of the classic game 20 questions. Almost all reviewers say it's an easy game to learn that's fun for players of all ages. A few complain that the timer is distracting or doesn't allow enough time for guessing, but the game can easily be adapted to house rules that eliminate the use of the timer.
Review: Hedbanz Game, Contributors to Amazon.com
About 15 customers review Hedbanz on Walmart.com and most give it the highest-possible rating, with all saying they would recommend the game. Reviewers say that it's an easy to learn game that kids can play with each other, but that it's also fun for the whole family. Parents also like that the game is flexible enough to be modified for the players' attention spans, so you can guess as many cards as you want.
Review: Hedbanz for Kids Board Game, Contributors to Walmart.com
More than 15 customers review Hedbanz on ToysRUs.com, with all saying they would recommend it to a friend. Several reviewers say that the game is great to be played with families as players of any age will be able to learn and have fun with it. The only negative comment that a couple of reviewers make is that the game will get tiresome for adults long before it will for children.
Review: Hedbanz Game, Contributors to ToysRUs.com
A few customers review Hedbanz on Target.com, and they all give it a high rating. All of the reviewers say the game is a lot of fun for people of any age, and that it can easily be adapted for kids who are too young to grasp the official rules.
Review: Hedbanz Board Game, Contributors to Target.com
Crystal Rapinchuk is a blogger and mother who covers various topics relating to teaching and parenting. She tries out the game Hedbanz at home with her two young children and has her husband play it in the second-grade classroom he teaches in, and the game is a big hit in both places. Both the kids and the adults enjoy playing it, and Crystal finds it to be a great way to build reasoning skills in children.
Review: Hedbanz Game Review, Crystal Rapinchuk, April 2, 2011
If you don't want to invest in a Bluetooth device, then the Jupiter Jack sounds like a great idea. According to the website and TV commercials, all you have to do is plug the Jupiter Jack into the headphone port of your cell phone, turn your car radio on to 99.3 FM or 101.3 FM and enjoy a clear conversation, with no distractions to your driving. In the infomercial the call is heard as clear as a bell, with no static or muffled sound, thanks to the fact that the Jupiter Jack utilizes the FM signal to pick up the call.
However, according to a whopping 70 percent of the 30-plus web pages of user reviews on Does-the-Product-Work.com, the Jupiter Jack is a waste of money, even at 10 bucks a pop. Posters say that it either doesn't work at all or that it fades in and out, isn't loud enough or merely produces static.
The problem, many of them say, is in the technology; the Jupiter Jack doesn't have its own microphone, but relies on your mobile phone mike and picks up the calls through your car's FM signal. Since FM radio signals can vary from mile to mile, the Jupiter Jack's reception will go in and out, which can be annoying and even distracting for many drivers.
We found a handful of well-done hands-on tests. On Honest-Infomercial-Reviews.com, editor Theresa Kruger posts a TV news report made by Greensboro, N.C., consumer reporter Melissa Painter, who takes a local construction contractor out for a road test of the Jupiter Jack. Throughout the ride he makes several phone calls that result in -- as he puts it -- static with a little bit of voice mixed in. Turning up the volume and even moving the cell phone to different areas of the dashboard doesn't help reception at all.
StarReviews.com gives the Jupiter Jack a good review after demonstrating an in-car test where you can hear the call recipient clearly. However, the test is conducted in a parked car and the vehicle never moves, so the product is never actually tested on the road. On the other hand, all other hands-on tests we encountered as well as the overwhelming majority of Amazon.com users give the Jupiter Jack bad reviews, saying that phone reception is poor or nonexistent.
In a two-for-one deal on the product website, you can get two Jupiter Jacks for $10, but you have to pay a shipping and handling charge of $6.99 for each Jupiter Jack. Several adapters are included to accommodate different types of phones -- although a few reviewers say that none of the adapters fit their phones properly. It's worth noting that, when this product first hit the market a few years ago, Bluetooth wireless cell-phone systems cost considerably more than they do now, so many Jupiter Jacks were probably sold on the strength of its cheap price tag. You might want to check out our report on Bluetooth headsets, which start at about $30.
This site features a road test of the Jupiter Jack, conducted by WGHP reporter Melissa Painter and a local construction contractor. Their verdict is that the Jupiter Jack mainly produces static, with just a little bit of voice mixed in.
Review: Jupiter Jack Put Through a Real Life Test, Theresa Kruger, April 12, 2010
According to more than 30 web pages of reviews on this site, the Jupiter Jack doesn't work. When it does it fades in and out, doesn't have enough volume to be heard or merely produces static. Save your money, these user reviews say.
Review: Does Jupiter Jack Really Work?, Contributors to Does-the-Product-Work.com
Out of about 50 product reviews, the overwhelming majority say that Jupiter Jack either doesn't work well enough or else doesn't work at all. Several also mention that the adapters don't fit all types of cell phones. Even at the Jupiter Jack's cheap price, posters say, don't waste your money.
Review: Jupiter Jack, Contributors to Amazon.com
4. KFVS (Cape Girardeau, Mo.)
The reporter and her tester, Bonnie Potts, work together to test the Jupiter Jack. At first it doesn't work on the radio dial because 99.3 FM is a popular local radio station. The second station option, 101.3 FM, does work… for a while. Mostly the product produces static, delay and feedback.
Review: Jupiter Jack: Does it Work?, Lauren Keith, Oct. 7, 2009
Skeptical about testing the Jupiter Jack since it retails for only $10, the tester doesn't have much success with the product: he gets static and struggles to get a radio signal. However, he does say that results may vary depending on where you live; if you are in a location without a lot of radio stations, you may have better luck.
Review: Review: Jupiter Jack Hands Free Device, Joel Evans, Dec. 17, 2009
This video review tests the Jupiter Jack and gives the product a rating of 6 stars out of 6. The tester makes and receives a phone call using the Jupiter Jack, and is pleased with the sound quality. However, the test is flawed since the call is made in a parked car -- hardly simulating real-world use.
Review: Jupiter Jack Video Review, Editors of StarReviews.com, Aug. 22, 2009
Fans of the original blinking and beeping Simon game can now face new challenges with Simon Flash. Recommended for players age 8 and up, Simon Flash consists of four electronic game cubes, one for each of the classic Simon colors: red, blue, green and yellow. There are four different game options (each game is linked to a specific colored cube) involving various memory and speed skills: Simon Shuffle, Lights Off, Simon Secret Color and the classic Simon game of repeating patterns. Between the four cubes, Simon Flash requires eight AAA batteries, so if your family is voracious about playing, make sure to stock up. A couple of Amazon.com reviewers recommend investing in rechargeable batteries if the game is going to get regular heavy play.
Reviewers generally say that it's a fun modern update of the old favorite, with most ratings coming in the 3- to 4-star range. Those ratings seem a little more forgiving than the actual user comments are, however. Several owners lament the number of batteries the game requires, while other users complain that the game isn't all that challenging
One user posting at Amazon.com sums it up thusly: "As an electronic game, Simon Flash does not entertain for very long… [because kids] quickly comprehend the device, play with it for five minutes, and then move on." Another parent complains that the instructions are unclear and adds, "Once they got the rules down, they played each game one time. Then they were done. That's it."
Among more favorable reviews, it's the memory-training aspect that appeals to parents. "I really like this game," says one owner, "because, even with the sheer simplicity, it encourages the child to focus, think and plan his next move. The feedback is immediate and it works very well in a solo or multi player mode. I was amazed at how quickly the kids were able to remember very long sequences."
Parents like how portable Simon Flash is, but a few note that the piece can be easy to misplace and that the game won't function without all four cubes attached. Still others complain that unlike the original Simon game, which had a distinct tone for each color, the Simon Flash cubes all make the same sound. Finally, multiple reviewers question the game's value at its suggested retail price of $30.
Though it's recommended for ages 8 and older, parents find that younger children enjoy playing with Simon Flash. In fact, it may be best suited to them, since older kids appear to lose interest once they figure out how to play. For children too young for any of the games, they can still use the cubes for color and pattern recognition.
Overall, however, the reviews for Simon Flash are middling at best, and the number of owners reporting that kids lose interest quickly suggests that you may be better off spending equal money on a game that is more engaging over the long term.
More than 25 customers review Simon Flash on Amazon.com and none give it less than a 3-star rating. Reviewers say it's a fun game for both kids and adults, and they like how it's small enough to be packed for road trips. Many also comment on the different game options and say that children younger than the recommended age of 8 can play the easier games. A select few are concerned about the amount of batteries Simon Flash uses; if the game is played a lot, having to consistently replace eight AAA batteries can be costly and frustrating.
Review: Simon Flash, Contributors to Amazon.com
More than 15 customers review Simon Flash on Walmart.com and most give it a positive review. Both parents and their kids enjoy playing the different games, though some say that they lost interest once mastering all four game options.
Review: Simon Flash, Contributors to Walmart.com
Bridgette Duplantis is a writer and mother who maintains The Not-So-Blog, where she reviews various products related to parenting. A fan of the original Simon game, Bridgette says she likes the new Simon Flash and is impressed with the technology that allows the game cubes to communicate with each other. As part of the review, Duplantis plays the game with her two children. Her 6-year-old catches on quickly and enjoys playing all four games, and while her 3-year-old is too young to grasp the gaming concept, Bridgette likes to use the cubes to work on color and pattern recognition.
Review: Hasbro's Simon Flash (Review and Giveaway), Bridgette Duplantis, Dec. 9, 2011
Robyn Wright is a blogger who covers various topics of personal interest, including products for family life. In her review of Simon Flash she says that all of the game options are fun to play, though some are more challenging than others. She also notes that there is a way to mute the sound; a feature that other reviewers have missed. She thinks the game is more appealing to children than to adults, and says that kids under the recommended age of 8 will still get enjoyment from playing it.
Review: Simon Flash Game Review and Giveaway, Robyn Wright, Dec. 6, 2011
"Your Baby Can Read" is an interactive educational program designed to help parents teach infants and toddlers to read. The complete set includes flash cards and a series of five DVDs, each to be used twice a day for 30-minute sessions over a period of one or two months. Books that go with the program are also available.
Robert Titzer, the author and founder of the company, began selling a videotape version in 1998, based partly on his own experience of teaching his two daughters to read at very young ages. He says the ideal time to learn to read is between birth and 4 years of age, and that learning to read early has a direct influence on later success.
It's easy to find academic researchers and educators who dispute Titzer's claims. Some experts also criticize the program for relying almost solely on teaching visual word recognition, instead of teaching the child to sound out words phonetically. Titzer says as children figure out how to pronounce words and recognize patterns, they accumulate a sizable vocabulary.
"Your Baby Can Read" also comes in for criticism on the grounds that it uses a TV. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a recommendation that parents avoid letting infants and toddlers under the age of 2 watch any TV or video at all. Studies of the effects of TV on language development and later educational success offer mixed conclusions.
Despite these criticisms of "Your Baby Can Read," many parents say the expensive program works -- not necessarily for all infants and toddlers, but certainly for some. There's no evidence that learning to read at an early age actually leads to greater success in school or in life, but many parents think it might. We found more positive reviews from parents than complaints.
Even fairly enthusiastic parents do note some drawbacks, however. Given the high price, the DVDs strike many parents as amateurish and poorly produced. Both the DVDs and the accompanying cards and books are often judged too fragile to hold up under a toddler's use. The most frequent complaint, however, is that the program is boring and fails to hold a child's attention.
Some parents say the "Baby Einstein" videos are much more entertaining, holding kids' attention for a full 30 minutes. However, this misses a crucial distinction between the two programs. The "Baby Einstein" videos are sometimes used by parents as a babysitting device. Most parents who've used the "Your Baby Can Read" program say the DVDs are far too boring to be used this way.
The crucial distinction is that "Your Baby Can Read" is designed to be used with the parent's full participation, and in a flexible, fun way -- with the 30-minute session only a target, not a fixed rule for all kids. In other words, this program is a teaching tool for the parent, and requires quite an investment of the parent's time. This would also seem to counter the criticism that infants or toddlers shouldn't watch TV because it's passive and doesn't involve interaction with live people. "Your Baby Can Read" is designed to be active and multisensory. Titzer recommends reading to your child and notes that parents can make videos and flash cards on their own.
Given the lack of long-term studies and hard evidence about such a program, the decision would seem to come down to whether or not you want to spend at least an hour a day teaching reading -- and believe there's a good chance that doing so will benefit your child. Without that much parental involvement, reviews say there's not much chance of the program working.
We found a good mix of reviews by professionals and parents. The NeuroLogica Blog on neurology includes detailed comments citing pros and cons. Articles at BrillBaby.com focus on a variety of approaches to teaching a child to read, including a detailed review of "Your Baby Can Read." A FAQ page at PBS.org provides specific answers about the effects of watching TV and DVDs on children. More than 100 parents review and rate "Your Baby Can Read" in two different lists at Amazon.com, and additional reviews can be found at Epinions.com. A Baltimore TV station weighs in on the program, too, based on one family's positive experience with the program. An article at Wikipedia on the program's author, Robert Titzer, provides additional information, as does TeachYourBaby.com, Titzer's blog.
1. NeuroLogica Blog
This critical review by a clinical neurologist notes alternative explanations for some of the claims made in the ads for "Your Baby Can Read." For example, if early readers are more successful later in school, it may be because they are smarter. Nor is there evidence that the best time to learn to read is before age 4, he says. One reader writes a long rebuttal of Novella's critique, noting that there's no evidence that "Your Baby Can Read" does not work, and that it bears further exploration.
Review: Your Baby Can Read -- Not!, Steven Novella, July 2, 2009
This site provides extensive information (including a free e-book and other free tools) to help parents teach their babies reading, music and other skills. The review of Robert Titzer's program is enthusiastic and uncritical; unfortunately it lacks links to the research studies discussed.
Review: Robert Titzer Method, Editors of BrillBaby.com
This article summarizes facts and studies about the effects of TV on children under 3, noting that most babies and toddlers do watch TV or videos -- despite the 1999 advice by the American Academy of Pediatrics that no infant or child under the age of 2 should watch any TV at all. This article argues that studies show that it's not that simple.
Review: Children and Media: TV and Kids under Age 3, Editors of PBS.org
Of the 100-plus users who review the program here (on two different pages), about two-thirds are pleased with it, reporting that it works for their kids -- especially if you interact with them. Some parents criticize the fact that the program teaches whole-word recognition rather than phonics, but the most frequent complaint is that many kids find all or parts of the program boring.
Review: Your Baby Can Read: Early Language Development System, Contributors to Amazon.com
More than a dozen owners review the complete program here, giving it quite mixed reviews. Some parents report that it works, but complaints cover a wide gamut: the program is boring and poorly produced, the books and flash cards are easily destroyed by babies, and the company's customer service is poor. Some parents also note that it goes against expert recommendations against young children watching TV.
Review: Your Baby Can Read -- Complete Program, Contributors to Epinions.com
6. WBAL (Baltimore)
Jennifer Franciotti reports on one family's success using "Your Baby Can Read" with their 21-month-old daughter, who can read store signs and handwriting. There's no way to tell, however, whether this little girl is naturally gifted, or if these results are typical of the program.
Review: Maryland Baby Reading at 21 Months, Jennifer Franciotti, Oct. 31, 2005
This entry on Robert Titzer, the author of "Your Baby Can Read," notes that none of his published scientific studies have anything to do with infants learning to read. Useful links here lead to further information on Titzer and his method.
Review: Robert Titzer, Editors of Wikipedia
In Robert Titzer's blog, he responds to criticism that his program fails to teach kids to sound out words phonetically. He says a pure phonics approach makes for slow readers, and that kids learn phonetic patterns naturally as they accumulate a fund of learned words.
Review: Learning to Read Phonetically, Robert C. Titzer, Sept. 25, 2009