Puff. Could relate to drugs, pastry, breath or a tragic magic dragon… So when I recently got a voicemail from Toyologist Pete Jenkinson asking if I’d tried “The puff thing” he’d sent me, I had reason to pause.
Turns out that Pete was referring to a Drumond Park product with the name Puff Ball, and the energetic strapline, “Blow, Race, Win”. Occupying the nebulous territory ’twixt toys and games, this is a simple bit of nonsense that, once found, I greatly enjoyed. So what is it?
Available in four sets, Puff Ball invites you to put a ping-pong ball in a pot about the size of an eggcup… Stay with me, it’s good! As the ping-pong ball nestles in this pot, you now have to blow on it in such a way that it lifts out of the pot and falls into another. Keep reading! There’s a little bit more…
While repeatedly moving the ball between numerous pots in this surprisingly-satisfying way, you also have to blow it over, through and along objects. These include bridges, hoops and rails. Okay… I might not be selling this like a sizzle reel, but I personally love the idea. I also like the execution… I like that you can build your own course, and I like that Drumond offers modular sets so that you can build increasingly-complex layouts. But what don’t I like?
The gripes I have are almost entirely with Puff Ball’s instructions. They create a couple of really unhelpful expectations… For example, immediately under the title ‘How to Play Puff Ball‘, there’s a line that says: “The new and unique way to get a ball from one cup to another.”
That single sentence pushes all the energy right off the page. Suddenly it feels like the game might actually be quite dull… What happened to Blow, Race, Win.? Matters aren’t helped by the two-tone blue and white printing of the paper itself. It appears cold, grey and drab.
It’s also a mistake, I think, for the text to suggest that moving the ball is no more effort than a “quick” or “simple puff”. In reality, it’s possible to huff and puff like a big bad wolf for 15 highly-experimental minutes and still see almost nothing happen. Moving the ball is actually quite “knacky”…
Unfortunately, this double whammy – the instructions feeling drab, while creating an expectation of easiness – may invite low-star reviews on amazon. Perhaps a little more energy and expectation management could make its way into future versions of the rules to help people persevere and learn the necessary skill. All that said, I’ll buy this for some of my friends’ kids this Christmas and bloody well make them enjoy it.