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Mutual Linkage III

Once more unto the internet, dear friends, once more...

What did we ever do without it? In the old days, I would have had to go to a library to look up a speech from Shakespeare to mangle, only then to discover the next line is about stacking up dead bodies and not entirely suitable for parody. The internet saved me no end of time there...

...which it immediately took back as I got side-tracked by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which led me to The Simpsons, then Ghostbusters and finally Debbie Gibson. You're lucky I got round to writing this at all.

So, before I get distracted again, I'd better press on with returning some of the links that has received from other sites. That way you can get lost on a one-way surf to the home page of the saucer-people and I can turn this computer off and go spend some time with the kids.

But first... I want to share a few of the phrases that have led anonymous search-engine users here:

I was most confused by the person who Googled 'keith urban is polish'. It took me a moment to add my own capitalisation. As for the person who was looking for something to 'rhyme with raj' - he or she was probably the person whom I confused the most. Unlike whoever wanted 'Mulholland Drive explained' - they arrived confused.

Some people had questions answered about housedads and maternity leave. Hopefully, whoever asked 'How far is it from Zeebrugge ferry port to Bruges centre?' knows that it's too far to walk. Seriously. Get the bus straight away. And if you want to know 'what to do with a toddler with gastric flu'? The answer is... laundry.

I'm sorry I couldn't help whoever was looking for 'scientific fun stuff with rocks' but I'm kind of glad that the person searching for Mario fan fiction went away disappointed. (That's disturbing and incestuous, people!)

A few other questions need answered:

'Can mice bite through wire wool'? I sincerely hope not.

'Why do teenagers wear two pairs of trousers'? They what now?

'How fast do dragons fly'? African or European?

The phantom Google riddler struck again. Twice. 'Sid walks in the rain for 30 minutes without using an umbrella or wearing a hood but he doesn't get a single hair on his head wet'. I can only assume that Sid is very bald or a tortoise. And if you thought that was a strange thing for someone to type into a search engine and arrive at DadsDinner then how about 'if it takes an elephant a week to run a fortnight how many grapes are in a bag of nuts?'

Er, seven?

I'm also getting Google confessions now ('I sneak around in my underwear') and, after a Super Soaker incident, the Wicked Witch of the West went surfing for medical help ('he shot me i m shrinking').

It's an interesting world out there...


This is a UK site offering 'information to dads, so that they can get the best for their kids'. It covers everything from pregnancy, birth and babies to financial, legal and education info - from a dad's perspective. It's a little overwhelming at first but there's plenty of good stuff there.

After the dress...
If you're thinking of doing some sewing, this is the place to be. I'm a little out of my depth myself but I'm keeping up with the on-going saga of teaching dress-making in a foreign language.

Gwen sent me an Excellent Blog award a while back. Accepting it requires me to nominate ten other blogs, however. This would entail me sending it to every blog I read and several I don't. So I'll have to pass on this occasion, although I very much appreciate the thought.

Heart & Home
DadsDinner is about survival and gadgets. Heart & Home is about family adventures, craftwork and chocolate. Think of it as a complementary source of ideas.

The Road Less Traveled
Follow the lives of a family in rural California. I might have mice in the house but at least I don't have bats. And the neighbours don't shoot at me.

Yeah, I know I've mentioned this one before but JenK bribed me with cookies and then blogged about it. A return link is unavoidable...

More Links

Seeing as I'm here and I lost any form of blogging self-restraint around about last November, here are some extras. (These guys now owe me cookies.):
The place to discuss issues with other housedads online.

Stay at Home
A fun site featuring housedad info (and rants).
A good source of short articles on dealing with many issues affecting housedads, from altered finances to low social status. There's also information on general parenting topics, such as immunisation and household chores, but considered from a housedad perspective. It's an essential read if you're new to the housedad life or thinking of taking it up.

Ask Moxie
An American mom answers questions on child-rearing. She's pretty on the ball and there's a good back-catalogue of advice.

Did I miss anyone?

Want to get in on the act? Then put a link on your own site, click through and I'll do another one of these... when enough people link to make it worthwhile.

As always, welcome to everyone, however you got here. Hope you find the site fun and useful.




Rated: U.

Story: Tribes of domino-shaped animals battle for supremacy by playing a version of Jenga featuring bombs, lasers and, er, precariously balanced cows...

Gameplay: BOOM BLOX is probably best described as a puzzle game. The majority of levels consist of an arrangement of blocks that has to be demolished in a certain way. For instance, it might be a case of removing all the point blocks from a tower without knocking off the penalty blocks or of destroying a castle to make the gem blocks inside hit the ground. The means provided for achieving goals varies from level to level. Balls and bombs can be thrown, chemical blocks explode when combined and a floating hand allows blocks to be grabbed and pulled.

Throwing is done by aiming with the wiimote, locking the cursor by holding a button and then flicking the wiimote to launch. Grabbing is accomplished by locking the cursor and moving the wiimote as if pulling the block about. Some levels also involve light-gun style shooting of flying blocks.

Save System: Automatic save after every level. This is a game that can be played in ten minute bursts.

Comments: Plenty of games tout realistic physics as a selling point. This usually translates to bodies falling down stairs in a slightly unlikely fashion in first-person shooters and cardboard boxes flying off in all directions in racing games (normally behind you, where you can't see them anyway). Few games other than Portal have made the physics integral to the gameplay.

BOOM BLOX is different. It's entirely about bouncing balls, flying bricks and explosions interacting together. Pull a block out from the base of a tower and it teeters and then falls, its components toppling into each other convincingly. At its best, the game is an absorbing test of forward-planning, as you attempt to set up chain reactions of tumbling blocks. Great satisfaction can be had from knocking a large timber onto a see-saw, launching a bomb from the other end and then detonating it in mid-air to blast a whole load of point blocks everywhere.

There's also plenty of variety thanks to a wide selection of tools, objectives and block types.

There's maybe a little too much variety, in fact. The puzzle levels (where structures have to be knocked down with as few balls as possible) are easily the best part of the game. The grab levels are frustrating in comparison. Using the wiimote to move an object into and out of the screen is as clumsy as ever. It feels like playing Jenga with thick gloves on after drinking a couple of beers. The shooting levels, meanwhile, are too hard. Even getting a bronze award to unlock the next level is difficult - distant targets are often very small and travelling very fast but your projectiles take time to reach them. These bits are never as much fun as the shooting section in Wii Play.

By including so many different aspects in the game, the developers haven't utilised the full potential of the puzzling. On top of that, many of the puzzle levels explain what needs to be done on their introduction screen, taking away much of the mental challenge. Getting through the game is more to do with a steady hand for grabbing and quick reflexes for shooting.

This contributes to the general feeling that the whole game hasn't been polished. Everything from the difficulty curve to the progression structure could do with some tweaking. The issue is maybe best exemplified by the text box that pops up telling you to look around timed levels before you start - it's very large, prevents you getting a good view of the level and doesn't go away until you start the timer. D'oh!

A little more focus and BOOM BLOX could have been brilliant. As it stands, though, it's still very good and makes better use of the Wii than any number of the minigame collections which are clogging the shelves. It's easy to pick up, addictive and full of grin-inducing moments. A desire to see what's coming next will keep you persevering through the parts that don't quite work as well as they should.

My eight-year-old has been enjoying playing BOOM BLOX but struggles to hold the wiimote steady enough on occasion, since the controls are very sensitive. (Bear in mind that this is a kid who's collected 119 stars in Super Mario Galaxy). My six-year-old has even more problems with aiming and can't seem to fling the balls hard either, despite being no gaming slouch himself. (He's just started a second saved game of LEGO Indiana Jones, having completed the first one 100%.) This isn't necessarily a fault with the game as such - in my experience, the Wii remote is simply harder for a small child to use than a normal controller, whatever Nintendo might want you to believe. It does make the game frustrating for younger children, however.

There's a wide selection of multiplayer levels. Some of these are competitive with objectives such as obtaining the highest shooting score, knocking over the most point blocks or destroying an opponent's castle. These could easily get vicious... Cooperative levels play very like the single-player game with players taking turns to make each pull or throw.

It's also possible to edit levels and create new ones. These can be shared with friends over the internet but making decent levels is pretty fiddly and time-consuming. You probably can't be bothered to manage it and your kids won't be able to. Still, it's a nice idea and maybe something to distract a teenager with over the summer... The real longevity comes from the multiplayer.

Conclusion: One of the best attempts around to do something interesting with the unique Wii controls.

Graphics: Basic but, then again, the Wii is probably kept pretty busy by calculating the tumbling and colliding of scores of falling blocks.

Length: Short.

Rating: 4/5.

Running Scared (DVD)

Starring: Paul Walker and the kid from Ultraviolet.

Rated: 18.

Story: A small-time gangster is tasked with disposing of a gun by his mafia boss. He keeps it for insurance but it goes missing. He has to race round town following leads in a desperate race to get it back before anyone finds out and he's used as a hockey puck by his colleagues. This puts his family in danger.

Meanwhile, a neighbour's child gets caught up in events and stumbles into almost every bad situation conceivable, thanks to his startling ability to find psychopaths wherever he goes.

Comments: A great ending can't save a poor movie but a poor ending can destroy a great movie. Imagine a Shawshank Redemption where the warden is revealed to be an alien, or a musical finale to Schlindler's List, or if at the conclusion of the Star Wars trilogy Luke joined the Dark Side and Princess Leia turned out to be a man. The consequences are unthinkable...

For most of its length, Running Scared is a passable, violent thriller with some nail-biting moments. The tension is increased by the frequent combination of children and loaded guns in close proximity. Sadly, there's a plot twist ten minutes from the end which is so sharp it dislocates the plot entirely. It essentially re-writes everything which has gone before, causing it to make much less sense. The resulting conclusion feels like it was stolen from a generic action movie (probably involving Wesley Snipes). As the film isn't exceptional to start with, the disappointment isn't on a par with Frodo waking up to discover it was all a dream but I haven't felt so short-changed since Lucky Number Slevin. Grrr.

Perhaps what's really gone wrong is that the movie is trying too hard. It's the kind of film where a meeting gets held in a strip club just because, everyone swears for the sake of it and the final shoot-out takes place somewhere dramatic but daft. Given these elements, the makers probably felt a 'shock' twist was a legal requirement.

Yeah, I know, I was going to avoid films with Paul Walker in after the disasters of The Fast and the Furious and Into the Blue, but I latched onto the phrases 'family man' and 'action thriller' in the synopsis and thought this was worth a shot. In general, it is. Walker actually does a good job and the rest of the cast is excellent. It's simply a shame the plot relies so heavily on coincidence and then makes a nonsense of itself in an effort to wrap things up.

Conclusion: Comes within a quarter of an hour of being rather good.

Explosions: One.
People doing stupid things: Plenty.
Nutters with guns: Loads.
Psychos with arcade machines: Two.
Unlikely, cop-out, happy endings: One.

Rating: 3/5.

Numberjacks magazine

Numberjacks magazine.

Price: £4 for May/June issue. Next issue 23rd July (possibly with monthly releases after that). UPDATE: Issues are now every three weeks, priced at £1.99.

  • 24 page magazine 'specially designed with the help of both top educational experts and the creators of Numberjacks to help develop your child's early maths skills in a fun and exciting way.'
  • Snakes and Ladders game poster.
  • Height chart with a picture of all the Numberjacks on the back.
  • Pack of 30 Numberjacks Snap cards.
  • Sheet of approximately 100 fairly small stickers.
Age: 3-6 years.

Numberjacks magazine.

Comments: I never buy computer game magazines any more. I can read all the latest news and reviews online for free and I can download demos on Xbox LIVE. I don't need to spend five pounds on a print version complete with cover disc, poster and random gift. I do still sometimes wander into the newspaper aisle of the supermarket and fondle the plastic wrapper of Official Xbox Magazine, though. Then I crack open GamesTM and sniff the screenshots, soaking in the rich aroma of shiny, full-colour ink.

But I resist the lure of retail therapy. I put them back on the shelf. I walk away.

Well, I try... I look down to discover that Sproglette is busy fondling the plastic jewellery stuck to Disney's Princess Magazine and sniffing the stickers on the cover of My Little Pony.

I guess it's genetic.

Getting out of the shop again without buying her a magazine is a lot harder than avoiding purchasing one for myself, however. I have to remember to steer clear of them entirely in future. I shouldn't put temptation in her path...

Ho well, at least Numberjacks is better than the pink, sparkly publications she normally pleads for. It didn't come with rash-inducing face glitter either, which, believe me, is always a bonus.

If the Numberjacks TV show has passed you by, you should know that they're superheroes in the shape of numbers. They have a secret base inside a sofa and venture out to foil the dastardly mathematical machinations of meanies such as the Shape Japer and the Puzzler. Yep, it's basic maths dressed up to be entertaining but it's great.

The magazine version isn't quite so great but this seems to be the launch edition, so how representative of future issues it may be is anybody's guess. There are certainly a few teething problems. Most noticeably, at £4, it's a relatively expensive purchase. That's more in line with a book or toy than with the packet of sweets it's liable to be displayed alongside in the newsagents. It's not really the 'special treat' impulse buy you might expect.

Also, at this price, the enclosed gifts need to be worthwhile. Unfortunately, it's hard to get excited about Snakes and Ladders and Snap. I mean, honestly, how long did it take them to think of those? What's next? Ludo and some crayons? It's a little lacking in imagination. We have countless versions of both games already.

Numberjacks snap.

That said, the stickers, posters and cards are all decent quality and the Snap is made more interesting by the numbers being represented by their symbols on some cards and by counting blocks on others. There are also rules variations for different age groups.

The magazine itself has plenty of puzzles and of suggestions for games to play. Some of the puzzles, such as matching the two halves of pictures of different types of food, are fairly trivial even for a three-year-old. A paper folding exercise at the end might stump a six-year-old. In general, a four-year-old should whizz through it (although they'll probably need help cutting stuff out).

Some of the activities require the use of specific stickers which is a good idea. Others involve cutting shapes out. This is a bad idea - the relevant pages have different activities on the reverse. It's daft.

Still, unlike many examples of this sort of magazine, it's not padded out with dire stories and colouring in. Numberjacks fans will love it.

Conclusion: Worth keeping an eye on to see how it develops.

  • True to the series.
  • Full of tips for parents to get the most out of it.
  • Reasonable production values.
  • Lots of stickers.
  • Doesn't contain sparkly ponies...
  • ...or dubious gender stereotypes.
  • Poorly designed cutting out sections.
  • You might be as well saving the money and putting it towards a Numberjacks DVD instead.
  • Do you really need more Snakes and Ladders in your life?
Rating: 3/5.

Indiana Jones
and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt and Jim Broadbent.

Rated: 12A. (My eight-year-old was a little scared in places but the main issue was that the historical setting and exposition left him totally lost. Although he enjoyed the film, he spent most of it asking me what was going on.)

Story: Having made a huge mountain of cash from the Star Wars prequels, George Lucas decides it's time to start recycling other ideas. Leaving Howard the Duck for a different occasion, he opts for a fourth Indiana Jones film. He wakes Harrison Ford from his afternoon nap and they get

The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is set in 1957 and features Soviet enemies, McCarthyism, a young sidekick, an old flame, some hugely unlikely escapes and a cast-off plot from a science fiction B-movie.

Comments: It's a new Indiana Jones film! Hurrah! It actually looks and feels like one as well, with proper stunts, returning characters, back references and plenty of whip-cracking, tomb-raiding action. Harrison Ford even almost manages to not look too old.

Unfortunately, the film is self-conscious of these things with rather too much pointed looking back and a selection of 'we're not as young as we used to be' jokes. Meanwhile, some preposterous action sequences and the ropey plot are played straight as if there is nothing remotely dubious about them. Since after only a quarter of an hour, Indy should really have died twice and the story has already moved into improbability, it's a case of sitting back and just soaking in the atmosphere.

Happily, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn't awful but it does rather trade on nostalgia to get by. Without the history of the franchise behind it, it wouldn't stand up to much scrutiny - it doesn't make sense in places and is totally daft in others. Still, it is a new Indiana Jones movie... If you liked the other ones, you'll be entertained by this. There's no need to rush out to the cinema, though. Feel free to wait for the DVD release.

Conclusion: Better than the Star Wars prequels but not as good as the LEGO.

Explosions: A single very, very large one.
References to the previous films: Dozens.
Number of bullets fired at Indiana Jones by crack Soviet troops: Hundreds.
Number of bullets that actually hit Indiana Jones: None.
Disparity in these numbers: Large.
Improbable uses of a fridge: One.

Rating: 3/5.

LEGO Indiana Jones
The Original Adventures (Xbox 360)

Rated: U

Story: You are Indiana Jones, famous archaeologist, explorer and teacher (part-time). You must travel the world in search of lost artifacts, defeating Nazis and getting told off by your dad along the way.

The game closely follows the events of the first three movies, re-creating everything from motorbikes to elephants in LEGO.

Gameplay: This is an adventure with a heavy emphasis on platform jumping and combat. Two players (or one player and the computer) must work together, guiding LEGO versions of characters from the movies through the levels, clobbering enemies and solving puzzles. Different characters have different special abilities - Indy has his whip to swing across gaps, ladies can jump higher, small characters can get through hatches, that kind of thing. There are also tools like spanners and shovels that any character can pick up.

Although there's plenty of fighting, this is little LEGO figures having a scrap that we're talking about. Hit someone with a shovel or blow them up with a bazooka and they simply fall apart into a forlorn pile of plastic pieces.

Every level has hidden objects to discover that can be used to unlock bonus levels and secret options. Uncovering all of these requires replaying the levels at least once with different characters. There's also treasure littered everywhere that can pay for extra bits and bobs.

Save System: The game only saves in between levels but, on a first attempt, some levels can take three-quarters of an hour to play through. This is hugely inconvenient. It means there's no option of a quick game before school or anything similar. My 360 has had to be left on over a number of meal-times, simply because the food was ready but my boys were stuck near the end of a level.

Comments: This game comes into its own when played with two players. Alone, it was fun but felt a little basic. My computer-controlled buddy tended to stand around while I got pulverised by the bad guys; puzzles required some tedious swapping backwards and forwards between the two on-screen characters. All this disappears with a second player and LEGO Indiana Jones turns into an entertaining lesson in co-operation.

I started my two boys (aged 6 and 8) playing it and they almost instantly began shouting conflicting instructions at each other. I told them off. Then, later, when I teamed up with one of them, I couldn't help doing it myself. 'No, the other way!... Shoot them!... Not me! Them!... Hey! Where are you going? Look out for the... Oops...' It really was a case of learning to work together.

The second player can drop in and out of the game at any time. This is a fantastic feature and allows a busy adult to just join in for the tricky bits or to slip away quietly if the phone rings.

Completing the game 100% involves some skill but the game is designed so that even novice gamers can muddle through. There's no way to die. If a character gets hit too many times, then they fall apart for a few seconds and drop some of their treasure. Often, most of the treasure can be picked up again. The main hold up is figuring out the puzzles. It's possible to not notice missile targets and smashable objects while being swamped by waves of enemy soldiers, leading to occasional frustration over what to do to open the next door or to defeat a boss. The solution is never far away, however, and the secret is almost always to hunt around carefully for something useful.

Children who can't read fluently will need extra supervision early on since hints and clues are given in fairly small text at the bottom of the screen.

The story is presented using scenes from the movie re-done with the LEGO characters from the game and without dialogue. These are excellent and somehow manage to pay homage to the films while poking fun at them. Unfortunately, there's little chance of anyone who hasn't seen the films being able to follow what's going on. This is an issue for children who are too young to watch the movies. (They're a bit scary in places!) It's not a major problem, though, since they'd probably only spend the whole film going, 'Who's that?', 'What's going on?' and 'Where are they now?' anyway.

There are a few minor niggles with the game: The perspective makes some jumps difficult to gauge, certain areas are a little too dark compared to the rest and most of the 60 playable characters are totally forgettable. That said, compared with most other movie tie-ins aimed at children, these are laughably inconsequential points. On the 360, LEGO Indiana Jones stands beside LEGO Star Wars, head and shoulders above the competition. On the Wii, there are more options for kids but the full co-operative play is still close to unique.

If your offspring play computer games or you're thinking of getting them started, this is an essential purchase.

Conclusion: A good game that becomes a great game when played with your children.

Graphics: From a technical point of view, the graphics are crisp and clear but their true strength lies in the way they capture both the spirit of LEGO and the Indiana Jones films.

Length: Medium.

Rating: 4/5.

LEGO Indiana Jones
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Playset

LEGO Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull box.

Price: £70

  • Moulded base (approximately 26x38 cm).
  • 10 LEGO figures.
  • Hundreds and hundreds of little plastic bits.
  • 2 thick construction manuals.
  • Sheet of stickers.
Gameplay: Build a temple and then create your own adventure, guiding Indy through the traps in a hunt for treasure and glory. (Or as my daughter prefers, put him in prison, pelt him with skulls and then drop him down a pit. It's up to you...)

LEGO Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull contents.
This is more bits than it looks.

Construction time: You could probably put it together in three hours but the amount of time required will double with every little helper you have.

Age: Officially 8-14 years and it's a choking hazard for those under three (and any dozing grandparents they try to feed Indiana Jones to). That said, young children can play with the completed model and it's my six-year-old who's really got into the building side of things.

Comments: I was hoping that Sprog1, who's eight, would enjoy this. Unfortunately, when I brought it out, he merely looked up briefly from his Pokémon game and then went straight back to training his Geodude.

I started out making the set myself with three-year-old Sproglette finding me some of the pieces. Sprog2 pretended not to watch but I kept catching him peeking over the top of his DS. Eventually, he came and joined in. First he fought Sproglette to find pieces, then he began putting them together and, finally, he took over. He did most of the second half of the building. I had to help and correct occasionally but he got there. Then he played with it for a couple of hours.

The next day, he took the whole thing apart and started again. He's hooked. (Maybe I can persuade him he wants Mars Mission LEGO for Christmas after all...)

LEGO Indiana Jones standing on some steps.
Duhhh-du-duh-da! Duh-du-duhhh!
It's taking considerably longer to build second time round, though. When I first opened the box, it didn't look like the set contained that many bits but this was merely because they were sorted into bags for each section of the model. This was very handy. (Although I did panic that I'd lost some pieces until I discovered that there were two Bag Threes.) Now that all the bricks are muddled together, finding the right ones is a task in itself. Helpfully, the instructions make it very clear which selection of pieces is needed for each page, so it's easy to make sure no bits have been missed.

Lots of LEGO bricks.
The contents of just one bag. There are seven.

LEGO is comparatively expensive, but for all that it's just plastic bricks, there's a noticeable difference in the quality of materials and production between LEGO and a Power Rangers set we have that's by a different manufacturer. LEGO have been at this a long time and know what they're doing. The instructions are clear, the stickers don't cross joins in the bricks and the design is modular so it can be put back in the box without too much disassembly.

In my day, scenery detail was printed directly onto the bricks so it was disappointing to find that stickers are now being used. They were fiddly to put on neatly but, as stickers go, they're the best I've had to deal with while putting a toy together. Despite sticking firmly once pressed down, they peeled off and repositioned easily during initial application. They also have a clear background, making the finished result look almost as good as printing if care is taken not to trap any loose hair or suchlike underneath.

In terms of being a playset, having not seen the new movie yet, some of the model doesn't make much sense. Why does the temple appear to have fold-down solar panels? And what's with the skeletons on a roundabout? I've no idea but it's entertaining making up explanations. (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Last Eco Swing Park of Doom!) Doubtless all will become clear once I've seen the film. In the meantime, furling the panels quickly is a good way to catapult little LEGO bad guys across the room.

LEGO Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull front view.
Nintendo DS shown for scale.

The true longevity of a LEGO set is in the ability to build other things from it. In this case, I'm thinking there's scope for a LEGO Running Man-style game show where contestants risk their lives across a series of deadly traps. I did some experimentation once the kids had gone to bed. (Purely for research purposes, you understand.) It was fun designing a collapsing floor but surprisingly hard work. There are plenty of different, versatile pieces in the set but not many of each type. There are also no traditional 4x2 blocks whatsoever, giving the model a less chunky appearance but making it difficult for novices to create new designs. Unless you're a LEGO ninja, you'll be needing a tub of 'normal' bricks and the cannibalised remains of a LEGO Technic set to really get going. With those, though, you'll have a stop-motion LEGO version of Indiana Jones 5 up on YouTube before you know it.

I've had a few bad experiences re-visiting toys of my youth but designing and building stuff out of LEGO is as fun as I remember. Happily, my kids are won over too. Even Sprog1 is starting to get distracted from his virtual menagerie.

LEGO Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull rear view.

Conclusion: LEGO Indiana Jones works on a number of levels. It's fun to build, play with and modify, making it enjoyable for
dadschildren of all ages.

  • Indiana Jones and LEGO. It's a combination difficult to get wrong.
  • Plenty of moving parts.
  • Lots to do and build.
  • High quality production, design and presentation.
  • Quite an investment.
  • Vast numbers of tiny, unique pieces. You're bound to find yourself hunting under the sofa at some point.
  • Not based on the original film trilogy. Makes you hanker after a set with a rolling boulder.
  • Every time you look at it, you'll get the Indiana Jones theme tune stuck in your head... for hours.
Rating: 4/5.

Wii Fit

Price: £70

Rated: 3+

Story: You've eaten all the biscuits. You mooch around. A set of bathroom scales makes snide comments about your podge and chides you for not exercising. You must embark on an epic quest to get your favourite trousers to fit again and you must do so without falling over...

Oh no, hang on, that's real life. The game doesn't have a story. It's a selection of exercises and minigames to improve your balance, muscle tone and basic fitness. It does feature a particularly patronising set of bathroom scales, though.

Gameplay: Wii Fit comes complete with a wireless balance board. The thing is about the size of two normal sets of bathroom scales put side by side and allows the game to measure your weight and monitor your balance. By detecting how your weight moves around the board, the game can tell which way you're leaning and how you're standing.

Each day you play, the game records your weight and gives you a fitness test. The test consists of a couple of short exercises which usually involve shifting your balance about at the game's command. Your 'Wii Fit Age' is calculated and compared with your actual age. Then an animated balance board shakes its head and laments how overweight and decrepit you are.

Fortunately, things pick up after this and you get to choose from a selection of yoga exercises, muscle workouts, aerobic exercises and balance games. Spend enough time playing and you unlock more.
  • Yoga exercises: Hold a pose while maintaining your balance.
  • Muscle workouts: Perform a set number of exercises (such as press-ups) in rhythm with the game.
  • Aerobic exercises: Jog on the spot or hula for your life.
  • Balance games: Head footballs, ski a slalom, guide balls through a maze or suchlike.
The balance board requires 4 AA batteries (included). If you're over 150kg, it will die. (Sorry.)

Save System: Frequent auto-saving of achievements and high scores.

Comments: This is an odd one. It's not really a game. It's an attempt to make exercise fun.

To a certain extent it succeeds - it's not great exercise and it's not great fun but it does provide some amusement and require a decent amount of physical activity. OAPs are advised not to have a go but children can take part under supervision and the whole family can compare progress and high scores. (Young children will need plenty of help. It's quite entertaining standing a toddler on the board and tilting them around like a giant joystick, though.)

There are a few niggling issues like body weight being measured in stones and pounds in the UK rather than kilograms unless you tell your Wii you've suddenly become German. Also, certain activities (notably the ski jump) are very short but it takes ages to start another shot.

More seriously, the game always seems to praise weight loss and chastise weight gain. It constantly has a go at Sprog1 for having put on a pound and makes him choose a likely cause for his failure. This is despite the game regularly informing him that a pound is within daily fluctuation levels. More than that, it knows both that he's eight and that he's a bit on the skinny side. We have to keep telling him the game is wrong. This is a major (and scary) flaw. It's worse when it lays into my light-as-a-feather three-year-old daughter. Be aware.

Even when it's not being plain evil, the sanctimonious animated balance board which gives you hints and tips is pretty irritating. It's as if that annoying paperclip from Microsoft Word knew your weight and wanted to make a big deal about it. Not good.

Bear in mind that the game requires plenty of room to step off the board in different directions while waving your arms about. Some of the activities also need space to lie down flat while still being able to see the screen. (That's more space than you may imagine. Go try watching your TV while doing press-ups - if it involves contortions, then you'll have to avoid some of the exercises.)

Despite these issues, Wii Fit is fun exercise. Just as a nicotine patch alone can't stop you smoking, however, Wii Fit won't make you thin on its own. You have to make it part of your life. Cunningly, the game encourages this by rewarding effort over achievement. Putting in time, rather than gaining high scores, unlocks new activities.

With a bit of willpower, Wii Fit a good way to get into the habit of regular exercise and it's certainly more interactive and enjoyable than a workout video. Playing it isn't as good as going to the gym but, since it doesn't involve leaving the house, it's much more likely to actually happen...

Conclusion: Wii Fit is to your body, what Brain Training is to your mind. It's not necessarily as scientific as it pretends but it's quite fun and it's got to be better for you than sitting slumped on the sofa watching trash.

She does this whenever we're in a shop and she sees Wii Fit for sale... Then she falls over.

Graphics: Pretty basic in places but they get the job done. The activities where your movements are mimicked on screen by your Mii (such as step aerobics and the balance game) are shown in a similar style to Wii Sports. The jogging course round a picturesque island is actually very pleasant.

Length: There are over 40 activities but some of them aren't much more than sitting very, very still. You could see everything in a few hours but that's not really the point. The idea is to get into a routine of a few minutes every day... forever.

Rating: 4/5.