Thursday, December 17, 2009
When I attended the Time to Play Holiday Showcase last October, my friends from Time to Play all had one thing to say about the Expo floor: You've got twin boys, right? Well, you've got to go to the Smith and Tinker table! So I did, and they were right: 3Po and Jammy would indeed love to play with all that wonderful green slime enclosed in a barrel made to look like toxic waste.
Oh, no. The product rep told me. That's not our product, that's just a promotional item. Here's our product.
And then my eyes popped out of my head. I spent the next 15 minutes trying to pick them up, but I couldn't because Smith & Tinker's toy, the Nanovor Nanoscope, had me mesmerized. And if a grown woman with no personal interest in battles, monsters or videogames could think a videogame about battling monsters is cool, imagine what a young boy would think!
Nanovor is an online battle game site: according to the back story, Nanovor are microscopic silicon creatures that live inside your computer, and love to destroy one another. A teenager names Lucas has figured out a way to control them and pit them in battle with other players. You can register at Nanovor.com, download the software onto your computer, create a Nanovor monster and pit your monster in battle against other registered players, all for free. You can also buy Nanocash in order to buy more Nanovor monsters and "upgrade" them (i.e. give them more powers).
The Nanovor Nanoscope is a handheld device that allows players to download their Nanovor monsters and take their battles offline. Players connect their Nanoscopes together in order to do battle. Here's a short (and, with my apologies, blurry) video of how it all works:
My boys adore the Nanoscope! And I love how they can do battle both online and offline. I'm not really comfortable with the idea of 3Po and Jammy finding complete strangers to battle with online, so the Nanoscope is a great way to take their Nanovor battles offline and keep their Nanovor battles between each other.
The Nanoscope is like a telephone; it's not really much good on its own (although you can play solo games; there are a couple of games included and you can buy solo game cartridges), and the real fun comes when you have a friend or two or three or four who also has a Nanoscope of his own. Seeing the Nanovor monsters jump from one Nanoscope to the next is the coolest thing ever! You can connect up to 4 Nanoscopes at a time; I have no idea how the Nanovors would jump between the 4 Nanoscopes but I'll bet it's the stuff that boy's slime-encrusted dreams are made of.
The screen is small, but of excellent quality. It only has 6 buttons (up, down, left, right, select, go back) so it's really easy to use. And it comes with a hard protective case, so hopefully your son will remember to put his Nanoscope back inside after he plays with it and extend the life of his toy.
It takes FOR.E.VER. to download the Nanovor software, install it onto your computer, hook up the Nanoscope and get some Nanovor monsters onto the Nanoscope -- in our case, almost an hour! 3Po and Jammy were dancing around in excitement, but with each minute that passed I could see their enthusiasm drooping and the wait dampening their spirits (Is it ready yet? Why is it taking so long!) The instructions say it can take up to 15 or 20 minutes -- yeah, right!
Speaking of the instructions, I didn't find them too helpful; I would have appreciated more screenshots so I'd know what to expect when I connected the Nanoscope to the computer. If you're buying this as a present for your own child, I'd definitely recommend opening it and pre-installing the software before giving it to him (just tape the packaging back up!), so that once he opens his present, it's all ready to go.
The Bottom Line
Despite the difficulty I had with the initial setup, this toy has provided so much entertainment to my boys that I would recommend it to anyone looking for a gift idea. Just make sure someone else they know also has a Nanoscope!
I received a sample in order to review this product, but no monetary compensation. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.