Partnering with Tearfund

Cranium Cariboo

Price: £15


  • Main game unit with treasure chest, ball holes and 15 trapdoors.
  • 15 double-sided cards for inserting in the doors. (One side for beginner, one for advanced).
  • 6 bouncy treasure balls.
  • Deck of beginner cards.
  • Deck of advanced cards.
  • Key to unlock trapdoors.

Gameplay: The treasure balls are dropped into the 'secret tunnels' at the top of the main game unit. The unit is jiggled to make sure the balls settle beneath a random selection of trapdoors. Players take it in turns to draw a card and attempt to match the card to a picture on one of the trapdoors. If they find a match, they get to open the door. If there's a treasure ball underneath, then they get to put it into the 'tumbling tidepool' container next to the treasure chest. When all the balls are in the tidepool, the treasure chest opens and the game is over.

Once doors are opened, they are left open.

The basic game has letter cards (A, B & C) which must be matched to the first letter of the word on a trapdoor, number cards (1-4) to be matched to the number of things on the door, colour cards (blue, yellow, green & red) and shape cards (circle, square & triangle). As an example, the door with four green apples on it can be opened with four different cards: green, circle, A and 4.

The advanced game involves letters (A-Z), numbers (1-10) and colours. The letter cards can be matched to letters anywhere in a word.

Beginner cards.

Balls, key and advanced cards.
Object: To find the last treasure and open the chest.

Game length: 5-10 minutes.

Number of players: 2-4

Age: 3-6 (although it's liable to be a bigger hit with kids at the lower end of the age range).

Comments: Why are the Harry Potter books so successful? Sure, they're well written and entertaining, but so are a lot of other books. What makes Harry Potter special? I think maybe it's that J.K. took all the old-fashioned stories I read as a kid - the ones about boarding schools, magic, fantasy worlds and groups of friends investigating mysteries - updated them and threw them all together in one big, well written, entertaining nostalgia fest. It's inspired.

Cariboo tries to do the same with games... and very nearly pulls it off.

Yep, this a game with bouncy balls, a key, moving parts, a shiny prize and pirates. It combines matching games, counting games, treasure hunting, lucky dip and opening and closing doors. Superb. Children see it and are immediately mesmerised. They'll play it over and over.

So why not 5/5? Well, although the concept is fantastic, the practical application is slightly lacking. If the game isn't jiggled just right at the start, it's very likely that balls will end up out of position, causing doors to jam and often forcing a restart. Even more of a problem, is that once several of the doors are open, it's far too easy to see which of the closed doors still have balls underneath. This makes cheating almost inevitable.

These failings are much more of an issue for the supervising adult than the children playing but they do detract from the game's brilliance. They leave it just short of greatness.

Conclusion: Flawed genius. Has near magical qualities for small children but suffers from a number of minor technical problems.


  • Mildly educational.
  • Much less effort to organise than a 'proper' treasure hunt but almost as good.
  • Numbers, hidden treasure AND doors to open. My kids went wild.

  • Can be fiddly getting the balls to settle properly at the start of the game.
  • Too easy to cheat.
  • Swapping between beginner and advanced is a real faff and takes a couple of minutes. This quickly becomes hugely irritating if you have multiple children and need to regularly change back-and-forth to keep them all happy. (Been there).
  • Visiting children want to take home any treasure balls they find.
  • Children left alone with the game will lose the key. ALWAYS. You will find it three days later in your Cornflakes. (It's not tasty).
Rating: 4/5.

No comments: