hungry hungry hipposOne of the great things about being a parent is playing with your kids' toys. Or at least reliving your childhood by again playing the games you played as a child.

Hungry Hungry Hippos, which debuted in the 1970s, and G.I. Joe, which has been around since 1964, are making comebacks this year as the parents who played with them as kids are now enjoying them with their own children. Hasbro has a hit with both toys.

My daughter, four, was enthralled by the Hungry Hungry Hippos commercials around Christmas, chanting "Hungry Hungry Hippos" like some sort of monk on Fruity Pebbles. After asking for it every day of December, she was lucky enough to get one from Santa Claus. The game isn't much in the way of strategy, with the main skill being pounding on a lever again and again and again so your hippo eats the most marbles.

If the commercial isn't in your head yet, go find one somewhere online. The TV ads have the neon-colored cartoon hippos dancing in a conga line to the beat of the title. An older theme offered a mini song:

"It's a race, it's a chase, hurry up and feed their face!
Who will win? No one knows! Feed the hungry hip-ip-pos!
Hungry hungry hippos! (open up and there it goes!)"

The 1970s ad had a different song you may remember:

"If you wanna win the game you've gotta take good aim
And get the most marbles with your hippo
Playin' Hungry Hungry Hippos
Hungry Hungry Hippos."

It's a fun game that somehow gets kids into a tizzy. It's loud with all of the pounding, and can make some parents wish they didn't have to return to their childhood memories. There's even a travel version of the game, although I don't plan on telling my daughter that.

The instructions are simple, although my daughter has deemed it law that we play the advanced game version where all of the 20 marbles (I'm still waiting for some to get lost) are out at the same time, creating a frenzied free-for-all for the marbles. The beginner's game allows one marble to be put into the arena at a time, with players taking turns releasing marbles. In my house, that method is for babies.

G.I. Joe, on the other hand, isn't for 4-year-olds, and is more popular with boys, so I don't expect to have one in my house. I never had one as a kid but I do remember being jealous of kids who had them and wondering what all the excitement was over a doll. Apparently, I was missing out on one of the most popular toys in my lifetime.

G.I. Joe has been out since 1964, except for a few years between the "retirement" of the classic "vintage" G.I. Joe in 1976 and the new "A Real American Hero" in 1982, according to Hasbro's Web site. To keep the toy "new," to different generations of boys, the action figure has had different faces over the years, from military hero to adventurer to Sgt. Savage to G.I. Joe in various sizes, among other incarnations. He had a heck of a beard in the 1970s, when his Kung Fu grip was a hit. In the 1990s he fought environmental polluters, leaving me to think he could be updated to now fight global warming. That would be a doll I'd buy.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.talesofanunemployeddad.blogspot.com


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