Picks and Pans Review: Chutes and Ladders

updated 10/06/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/1986 01:00AM

A variation of the familiar children's pastime combined with a half-hour videotape, this new entry in the VCR board-game market offers a nice diversion. Listed for 4- to 7-year-olds, it might be a trifle fast for the youngest, a trifle slow for the eldest, but it should be playable for all of them. The tape includes four brief stories, told by a narrator and illustrated with still drawings. Built in are cues for children to draw cards that move the players up or down the victory ladder. (Rearranging the cards between stories is a challenge in itself.) Children might learn a little, about identifying numbers, for instance. But this game is most valuable as a relaxed, low-key bit of fun. (Milton Bradley, $25)

DOORWAYS TO ADVENTURE

DOORWAYS TO HORROR

That grinding noise is the sound of a good idea being trashed. These tapes combine clips from old movies with board games. So far so good. Instead of providing trivia contest fodder, however, the clips are used only as decoration—and not very well at that. The Adventure tape includes shots of such semistalwarts as Roy Rogers, Buster Crabbe, Ronald Reagan (in Santa Fe Trail) and Charles Boyer. There are also films featuring such nonadventurous types as Laurel and Hardy, Audrey Hepburn and the Three Stooges. None of the clips or the people in them is ever identified, and it's all irrelevant anyway. The board game involves amassing treasure, which is done by rolling dice and bidding among the players. A film clip runs for 20 or 30 seconds, then a voice-over and a visual display tell what treasure item is to be bid for. Worse, the voice-over usually includes some corny joke, written by one Leszek Burzynski. In one scene, for instance, Liberace is shown playing the piano amid some special-effects mist (don't ask what sort of adventure this might represent). The narrator suggests that he is playing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, but the sound track doesn't include Liberace's piano. Then, after a shot of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in Fire Over England, the narrator says, "Pause the tape while you endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," which wouldn't have been funny even if the clip had been from Hamlet. The Horror tape at least doesn't have any jokes by the narrator. The board game in this case has a convoluted set of rules. Players are given various cards and chips. They bid to accumulate "gold certificates," which they can acquire if they have a card to match the creatures shown in any given clip. (The game's designations are monster, vampire, werewolf, witch and zombie. Jack Nicholson, for instance, appears as a French officer in The Terror, with a witch whose face melts.) Abbott and Costello and Bela Lugosi are featured in a number of clips, although many of them seem to be taken from foreign horror films. None of the movie snippets is long enough to enjoy on its own, and playing this game—like Adventure—is more trouble than it's worth. (Pressman, $29.95 each)

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