Hoopla, made by the same folks who brought you Cranium, is a co-operative game that can be played by two or more players. Similar to Cranium, each color-coded category makes you do a specific whacky challenge. The object of the game is for the entire group to complete eight + n challenges, where n is the number of players times four cards. Everyone works together, and you have fifteen minutes to finish (timer included!).
Gameplay is simple. You roll a multicolored die, and you have to do a specific challenge depending on the result. You may select any one of your challenge cards, which allows you to (hopefully) select cards that are more appropriate for whatever challenge type was rolled. The timer is started shortly after rolling.
There are four types of challenges. Blue, “Cloodle,” is just like in Cranium — you draw the challenge, without the use of letters, numbers or symbols. Red is “Tweener,” sort of like “bigger than a breadbox.” For example, if the challenge was “sphinx,” you might say, “bigger than a grain of sand, but smaller than Egypt.” Yellow is “Tongue Tied,” wherein you can only use words of the same starting letter. If the challenge card was “Tony Hawk,” you might say, “slim skateboarding superstar spokesperson.” You are not allowed to say anything that is printed on the card. The last type is the green “Soundstage” challenge. This is like charades but with sound effects. If I chose to act out “Indiana Jones,” I may whistle the theme song to Raiders of the Lost Ark while cracking an imaginary bullwhip or doing the swordsman vs. Indy routine.
You put your challenge card face up if your team guesses correctly, and you draw a card (if there are any left) into your hand from the public pile. If you are running low on time, or feel that you just can’t figure out how to complete the challenge, you may discard the challenge card and draw two more cards, one into your hand, and one into the public draw pile. The entire group has the option, three times a game, to change the challenge type in the middle of a turn. If you rolled red, and all of your cards are better off on a Cloodle or Soundstage, you can throw in a chip and switch challenge types.
Hoopla is a lot of fun. The nice thing about Hoopla is that it’s even more group friendly than Cranium, which is about the least competitive party game I know of. You can easily ratchet the intensity up or down in Hoopla by adjusting the rules. For example, if you have a lot of people playing who know each other very well, you can keep the timer running the entire game. Conversely, if your group doesn’t know each other very well, or if folks aren’t as “good” at the game, you can start the timer a few seconds after rolling and stop the timer immediately after the correct answer is given. Even adjusting something as simple as when you start the timer can make the game more easy or more difficult.
There were only three of us when we first played Hoopla, and the idea of adding at least four cards per game seemed like a good way to fail the time limit. Quite the contrary. The more people you add, the greater your chances of someone recognizing your lame Indiana Jones impression (see above), or deciphering what the fuck your coffee-crazed doodle means. It may seem counter intuitive, but I recommend speeding the game up as you add players.
There are two big drawbacks to Hoopla. The first is that it is hard to find. Despite the Cranium company cranking out a thousand different titles, we were unable to find Hoopla at Toys R Us, Target, Wal*Mart, and the local gaming store. We found it at an independent kids’ toy store. I am worried that Hoopla is under reduced production, or will soon be out of print. You can buy the game directly from Cranium, or fine e-tailers like Fun Again Games.
The second, and more troubling drawback once you actually own the game is that it you will rapidly go through the challenge cards. Even if you roll a different challenge type for “Tony Hawk,” the going is much easier once you’ve locked on how to communicate Tony to your group. Such a limited number of cards has even led to metagaming — such as referencing previous gaming sessions’ successes or failures in order to get the group to guess your current card. We skate a fine line between “playing fair,” and “playing to win” here on Gibberish. It would be great if Cranium released a booster for Hoopla, ala Cranium. As it stands, Hoopla is a victim of its own success. We haven’t played too much of it recently because we played the shit out of it in the past. It reminds me a lot of the GameCube’s Mario Kart: Double Dash!! — Lady Jaye and I played it so much that now we’re reluctant to pick it up again.
Regardless, Hoopla is an outstanding game. I’d recommend it to anyone who has more than one imaginary friend.
Hoopla, I silently sketch out:
Four and a half out of five STFU mugs!