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My five year old son received lots of lovely presents from his school friends at his birthday party earlier this year, much to his delight! Amongst the gifts was this Disney branded Snakes and Ladders board game - a fun take on a traditional favourite.
Despite the Disney branding, this is actually made by a Polish company called Trefl - a brand that I've never heard of before. The game doesn't feel like an economy product, however, as it comes packaged in a simple but sturdy box to house everything safely between uses and the board and counters (in the shape of chunky plastic Mickey Mouse heads) are all fairly good quality. The one drawback is that the game board folds into itself into a quarter of its original size for easy storage. From experience, I've found that this type of board tends to weaken around the folded point and, with regular use, one quarter of the board will eventually snap off altogether. We've owned this game since July and, thus far, everything remains intact and undamaged although, in all honesty, it hasn't been played with as frequently as I'd anticipated.
The premise of the game is faithful to the traditional version of Snakes and Ladders with a numbered grid to move the counters along, according to each throw of the dice. Whenever a player lands on a snake, they must move back down to the end of the snake. Likewise, anybody landing on the bottom of a ladder can climb right to the top, getting ever closer to being the first player to reach the last square and become the ultimate winner of the game. Instructions are included although these aren't something that are likely to need referring to.
Here, the Disney theme means that most of the snakes and ladders have been replaced by parts of well known Disney characters. We have the genie's body to climb up, Tarzan's rope and Piglet's piece of wood, amongst many others. The range of Disney characters included is pretty impressive, with a good mix of classic characters - such as Cinderella and Mickey Mouse- alongside more contemporary figures such as Buzz Lightyear and Woody. This makes for a very bright and attractive playing area and a game that would appeal to little girls as much as (if not more than) boys.
The drawback to the substitution of the snakes and ladders for other items is that it takes away some of the simplicity that makes the original such a great first game for children. Whilst everyone can quickly grasp the notion of going up a ladder and down a snake, with these items it's not always obvious whether you are meant to climb up or slide down. My son will often get confused and attempt to go up several squares when he has landed on the bottom of a 'sliding down' item, for example, and gets frustrated when I point out his mistake. The makers have tried to clear up confusion by including arrows along some of the images but even these aren't always easy to spot, particularly on longer images which stretch across a large amount of the board.
Game play is estimated to be around 15-20 minutes although this tends to depend on luck as it is possible to get close to the final square and then find yourself being sent back down towards the bottom. Generally speaking, one round of the game is enough for my five year old and it isn't a game that is played with repeatedly or on a regular basis.
The game is suitable for up to four players and comes with a recommended age range of four plus. I think the actual concept of the game can be managed by children younger than four although the added confusion with the different 'up' and 'down' characters does make this more complicated to play than the original format. In principle, the game is a good way of encouraging turn taking and reinforcing basic counting skills for very young players but this is certainly not amongst the best games on the market.
Whilst the overall effect might be very attractive, it's not a really practical variation on the original game and isn't quite as simple and enjoyable. I'd recommend this only to somebody specifically wanting a Disney themed game for any reason and not as an alternative to a standard set of Snakes and Ladders. I don't know where our set was purchased from but it is currently available on Amazon for £7.18, including postage. I've also seen this in store at Toys R Us for a more realistic £5.99.