Updated: Mar 7, 2019
Here we are again - nearing the end of the school holiday... Do you know that the kids get almost three weeks off at Christmas nowadays? 3 WEEKS?! Yep.
Apparently nowadays kids break up from school before Christmas and don't go back until the middle of January. I'm pretty sure that when we were kids back in the 80s (showing our age there.. eek!), we went immediately back to school after New Year's Day. Luckily, we now live thirty years in the future and we can work from home so at least the enormously long school break fits in around work.
So, here we are on the 8th January 2018 and the kids are beginning to crave their ordinary school-day routine. To be honest I am enjoying their company; whilst they usually behave like a pair of plonkers during the holidays, their occasional cuddle-breaks do provide a fantastic motivator when I'm experiencing a word-block.
Today is especially boring because we are waiting for a visit from a surveyor from our house-buyers' bank (did I mention we've sold our house... exciting!) who will arrive at any time between 10am and 4pm. As a result, not only are we stranded in the house for potentially six whole hours, but the house needs to be ridiculously clean and tidy until they arrive. Sigh.
The kids and I have been sat together on the sofa, tapping our fingers against our thighs and looking impatiently out of the window for the last half an hour and we're bored (did I mention that this is boring?). Urgh.
To pass the time I've put YouTube onto the telly and searched for old Grotbags videos which are keeping the boys and I suitably entertained.
In case you didn't know, Grotbags is (was 😢) an excellent brash chubby green witchy television presenter from the 1980s. As the star of a chaotic children's programme, Grotbags shouts silly threats and cackles at the children in her studio audience in a shouty, gravelly voice.
Meanwhile, Rod Hull - a camp, overly-expressive puppeteer in a creepy peach suit and his vicious glove puppet 'Emu' occasionally pop over to Grotbags' house/TV studio to physically harass celebrity guests and audience members. In essence it's an assault to everybody in the Grotbags studio, but a joy to watch from the safety of your settee at home.
When an unsuspecting/unexpected guest knocks at Grotbags' front door, the studio audience chants "There's somebody at the door, oh there's somebody at the door, oh there's somebody at the door...".
It's delightfully irritating but very catchy.
Just as we we're getting thoroughly into Grotbags, there's a knock at our own front door.
The boys and I instinctively begin to look side-to-side at one another like camp am-dram actors, and chant "There's somebody at the door, oh there's somebody at the door.. etc" just as though we're in Grotbag's mullet-haired audience.
I get up and move toward the front door, my shoulders and eyebrows bobbing up and down to the beat of the boys' chant. As I open the front door, the confused looking visitor hands over a parcel and asks me to sign the LCD screen on her PDA. In my best gravelly Grotbags voice I growl "Much obliged" with a witchy cackle and close the front door.
God knows what she must think is going on in our house.
We open the parcel - it's a game from The Board Game Club - excellent timing!
This week's game is CORTEX Challenge² - a brain party game. We LOVE a party game and naturally we're extraordinarily brainy (I wish!) so we're very excited to see how this works.
What's in the box
Cortex is a big, colourful card-based game. Inside the box there are 70 'test' cards, 10 tactile 'touch' cards with textures on and 24 brain jigsaw pieces (which make up six brains). There's also an instructions booklet.
The first challenge is to locate the English instructions which come third in the instructions booklet after French and Spanish.
Looking down at the booklet, "I don't understand these instructions.." I say with a deliberate frown, to which Lyall replies confidently, "Give 'em here, I'll read them out.".
Handing the instructions booklet to Lyall, he makes a fantastic effort at reading out the french instructions in his best français accent, much to our entertainment.
"This is in French, Daddy?!" he says with a silly confused expression, scratching his head.
"I know babe! The English instructions are further on."
There are eight types of 'test' cards featuring a brain teaser, each type of test card challenges a different part of the brain.
Types of test cards include 'observation', 'analysis', 'tracking' and our favourite - 'touch'. Before the game begins, everybody studies and touches the 10 tactile raised-texture 'touch' cards, carefully storing each card's contents in their memory, see the picture below of Lyall and Ritchie doing just that. During the game, if a 'touch' card is played, the player feels the card with their eyes closed to try to identify the image or texture on it.
The 'observation' cards are also a hoot - they feature a grid of hundreds of tiny little robots - hidden among them is one random broken robot which players race to find.
I won't describe the contents of all the cards at the risk of spoiling any kind of surprise - needless-to-say, they're all fantastically complicated but very clever and well designed.
Anyway, the aim of the game is to win cards by being the first to solve them.
One by one, each card is played and the players race to solve it. When a player thinks that they've solved a card, they cover it with their hand. If they're correct, they win the card.
When a player wins two of the same type of card, they exchange them for a piece of brain jigsaw.
How do you win?
The winner is the first player to complete their four-part brain jigsaw. In our first round, Lyall was the proud winner, and officially now the brainiest member of our family (we already knew that, by the way!) as seen below.
Retail price: £12.99
Recommended age 8+
Okay - marks out of 10…
Dad – 10/10 Daddy – 6/10 Lyall – 8/10 Richard – 8/10
Very nice packaging and a compact, convenient box. CORTEX Challenge² loses a few marks from me (Daddy) because the little brain jigsaw pieces were difficult to 'pull apart' without damaging their corners.
Dad – 6/10 Daddy – 5/10 Lyall – 7/10 Richard – 8/10
Individually the cards are great fun and really challenging, also they are designed so that you can play each one at least two or three times before it starts to get easy. However the way that the game connects together, with swapping cards for brain pieces feels a little clumsy.
Value for money
Dad – 7/10 Daddy – 7/10 Lyall – 10/10 Richard – 10/10
Lyall and Rich always seem to think everything is great value for money so their scoring is no surprise 🤣
We gave this one a seven - it's well designed and conveniently packaged but it falls on the pricey side for a fairly quick game of cards.
CORTEX Challenge² was provided free of charge by the Blogger Board Game Club in return for our impartial, candid review.