I Spy: Flip 5 is a matching game with a twist; instead of matching pictures that are alike, one matches objects within the pictures, for example two different images of ballerinas, or two different kinds of flowers. Also, there are different images on each side of the playing pieces, and flipping them is part of the gameplay, so finding pairs ahead of time doesn’t mean that they will still be there when your turn comes around again. Marketed by Scholastic and Briarpatch for 2-4 players, ages 4+, Amazon retails this game for $11.99.
The Good: There are at least three different images for each kind of object, so it isn’t about just finding THE specific match for a pair. (I suppose one could even memorize which objects were on the flip side of each, for more competitive play, but I don’t see that happening often.) The pictures and objects are fairly interesting, and familiar to young children (astronauts, dinosaurs, flowers, boats, etc). Observation skills definitely get a workout. The idea of pairs is introduced, as is counting to five. Adaptations for younger players are included, mostly open play and shortening the game from five rounds to three. No large table space or flat area are required for play, but care should be taken not to lose the pieces, as each are less than 1.5″ across.
There are only 24 tokens, so it is pretty easy to find matches, and the game is VERY short. (Like, shorter than I wanted it to be, which is saying something.) The score cards don’t stay shut out of the package, so are basically unusable, which is fine, since we didn’t need to use them anyway. The pretenses that it might become hard to find pairs at some point, or that this is in any way a competitive game, are misleading; my two and a half year old only needed a couple of rounds to learn all of the images, and now finds pairs very easily. Any child too young to play the regular game is liable to eat the pieces instead of play with them. The structure of the game itself is lacking nuance; whomever starts will at least tie, if not win, since being able to find a pair is a given until one gets down to the final few tiles.
The Ugly: The box this game is sold in is small, but the product is even smaller. Grab a piece of posterboard, and an old issue of Parenting, and you could make your own set in about an hour. (Actually, doing this with the faces of loved ones isn’t a bad idea…) The suggested ages on this game are 4+ years, but I think this is closer to a maximum age for this product than a minimum one; I’d say more like 2-5 years, tops. My almost-five-year-olds will get some more play out of this, but probably not without their younger brother, since his excitement is somewhat contagious. I see my major use of this game being to keep my two and a half year old happily productive while I do more advanced homeschooling with his sisters. They might get sucked in, but practicing observation skills is never a bad thing. This will also be my go-to game whenever my kids demand a game NOW, MOM, and my time, patience and space are all in equally short supply.
PS: I have no idea why both reviewers on Amazon gave this five stars. I’d go with 2.5-3 stars, for the age of the child most likely to really enjoy and get something out of it. I know my little guy will! (Thanks, Auntie Barbie, for the present!)