Wednesday, February 23, 2011

REVIEW: Funglish

2+ players (the more the better)

I assume that Hasbro spends millions of dollars on R&D each year, and millions more on market research. Thus, it seems odd that they released a decent little party word game with that title that sounds like the word "fungus."

Despite the mushroomy name, it's still a lot of fun. Here's the gist: Funglish is charades with words. Not words you speak, mind you. Absolute silence on the part of the clue-giver is still required. The words are on little tiles, and you must assemble them on a frame in such a way that they describe a certain object, place, person, or phrase.

The game comes with 120 descriptive tiles, each bearing a single word. The tiles are divided into various types by color: black tiles are colors and patterns (green, striped, colorful), puke-green tiles are negative traits (evil, sour, ugly), gray are materials (wood, fabric, glass, etc), yellow are shapes (thin, wavy, round), blue are related to origin (such as African, fiction, British), red are states of being (manmade, living, dead), beige are general adjectives (scented, moving, liquid), orange are sets of antonyms (hot/cold, old/new, smooth/rough), and green are positive attributes (lovable, happy, glamorous).

The other components are fairly simple. There's a frame that allows you to set the tiles in place in one of three rows: "Definitely," "Kind of ," and "Not," as well as a set of cards with words, people, places, phrases, and various object to describe. These can range from "toast" and "silk" to "Led Zeppelin" and "Al Capone."

One person chooses a clue from the card, and then selects words that best describe it. The tiles are all laid out on a table, grouped by color to make it easier to assemble a description. Thus, if you pulled "honey," you might put "sticky" and "yummy" and "sweet" under "Definitely," "yellow" under "Sort of" (since honey is more gold than yellow, but there's no gold among the color choices), and "furry" under "Not." (If your honey is furry, it's probably time you cleaned out your pantry.) People then have to guess what the words describe, without any acting or verbal input from the clue-giver.

There's a timing element and a way to score points and determine a winner, but frankly the gameplay, win/lose aspect is a lot of hooey. This is less of a game and more of a social lubricant to get people thinking, talking, and laughing. As such, it's actually a lot of fun. The cards have some insane clues (How the heck do I describe Led Zeppelin with a random clutch of adjectives?), and always seems to lack just the word you need. I have a feeling that's on purpose, since a wider range of words might make it too easy to create very precise descriptions.

$23 seems a tad on the high side given what's in the box, and the components won't win any prizes. The tiles are thick and sturdy, but the frame likes to fall apart at random intervals. That said, it's a nice little word game that is quite a bit of fun with the right crowd. It gets people thinking in words, and helps them make interesting connections between words and the meaning they convey. I could also see it being an excellent addition to some classrooms.

Recession Buster Version!
In these troubling economic times, shelling out $23 for a party game just may not be in your budget. It is, however, relatively easy to make your own version of Funglish by printing words on card stock, or writing them on index cards. That way, you can also choose your own words and use different colors of paper for different classes of word. You won't get the frame, but since we've already determined that the frame is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine, I don't think you'll miss it much.

PS: The writer of this review wishes to confess that he tried to work the phrase "Fun Guy" into this piece. He is currently hanging his head in shame.


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