Another all-time classic, Hi-Ho Cherry-O was first published in 1960 so its over 50 years old and pretty well-known. Hi-Ho Cherry-O is another one of those games that seems to be sold just about everywhere and is common to receive as a gift from well-meaning friends or grandparents. I picked up my copy at Target when it was on sale for $8; a major selling factor for me at the time was the nice plastic case it came in. I had seen the game before, a long while ago, and I knew it involved counting but I didn’t remember much else about it. I think the version I have is a little cheaper than some of the previous versions, so take that into account when I discuss components; for example my version didn’t come with individual buckets or colored cherries.
My copy of the game is in a plastic bookshelf case with a lid that slides off. Inside is a vacuum formed thin plastic insert, which has a spinner in the middle and four depressions with art to look like baskets to hold cherries, one for each player. It also comes with 4 very cheap and likely warped cardstock trees, each with 10 holes punched in it to hold cherries. And finally the cherries themselves, which are actually fine quality though small enough to easily lose.
Pretty basic, each player starts with 10 cherries on their tree and the objective is to pick them all and put them in your basket. First player to pick 10 cherries wins. It’s a simple theme but not incredibly exciting. The artwork is colorful and certainly a draw for young children, but it turns out the game drags on incredibly long so kids can easily lose interest.
Like Candy Land, this is another game where no player decisions are involved. Every turn each player spins the spinner, with seven possible outcomes. Four outcomes allow you to pick 1, 2, 3, or 4 cherries from your tree and put them in your basket. Two outcomes take 2 cherries from your basket and put them back on your tree. The seventh outcome causes you to put ALL cherries from your basket back on your tree, thus resetting the game for that player. And that’s pretty much it. There are no numbers on the spinner, its all done graphically.
The one positive part of the game is the counting involved. Picking the correct number of cherries off the tree and putting them in the basket is a nice little counting exercise. Ensuring the correct number is picked also requires kids to understand, follow, and enforce the rules. However, the numbers only go up to 4 so this is pretty early-level stuff. Once your kid can easily count to four and demonstrates the ability to spin and pick the correct number, this game basically has nothing else to offer you other than sportsmanship practice. Since negative outcomes are frequent (3/7 of the time) this game does offer lots of opportunities to work on responding positively to negative circumstances. And of course there is the all-important taking turns.
As you can tell, I’m just not a big fan of this game. If you follow the rules in the box the game progresses far too slowly, and with some bad luck can literally take forever. By my own rough calculations the game takes roughly 30-40 turns to finish on average, which is a LONG time for a very young child to stay engaged with spinning the spinner and picking cherries, especially considering the turns may not go quickly if the child is having any kind of difficulty. My other problem is the spinner itself.
I’ve come to hate spinners in kids games; I realize they are very easy and cheap to fabricate, but they are problematic for so many reasons. It takes practice and coordination to give a cheap spinner a good spin, and it can be very difficult for young kids to do it right; if they are young enough to appreciate this game, they are probably young enough to have problems with the spinner. The pointer constantly end up on the large borders between outcomes, meaning you have to decide where to point it. Worst of all, they are easy to manipulate and it becomes very tempting to young kids to try to cheat with them. I realize it probably sounds like I’m taking this way too seriously; it’s just a simple kids game right, who cares? I think the problem I have is that spinners encourage all sorts of bad practices regarding manipulating outcomes, either by the parent or kid, regarding where the spinner ends up. Once a kid realizes how easy the outcome is to manipulate, they will start to look for opportunities to do this elsewhere in other games, especially other games with spinners. Dice don’t really have this problem, which is why I enjoy dice much more and I think dice teach much better gaming practices than spinners.
Ok now that I’m done ranting about spinners, what’s the final word? I have modified the rules of this game so that all three negative outcomes take only 1 cherry back off. This way the game goes by much more quickly. The counting is a nice exercise and was probably helpful to my daughter early on. So its not a complete loss. However, I don’t know how many times my daughter pulled this one off the shelf due to its colorful art only to lose interest quickly in the boring repetitive gameplay or get frustrated with how difficult it is to spin the spinner.
The small plastic cherries in this game are so easy to lose the game comes with a form to order replacements.
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