I thought it would be fun to look back on some of the classic board games that have survived the test of time, games that are either beloved or universally despised. This game is often placed in both categories, even by the same people.
Anyone growing up in the 70s or 80s is sure to have occasional nightmares or possibly PTSD-like symptoms because of the game Perfection. 2023 is the 50th anniversary of the game. If you have been lucky enough to make it through life without experiencing this game, let me describe it for you.
In Perfection, players take turns trying to beat the clock. The board consists of a 60-second timer and a 5×5 grid of holes, each in a unique shape. Players take turns trying to fit little plastic plugs into the appropriate hole—each shape fits only one hole and each hole only takes one shape. It’s like the shape-and-hole game parents play with their babies, only you have one minute and if you fail, your friends are sure to laugh at you. Once you get all the pieces into the holes, you can push the button that stops the timer and record your time. Whoever has the most time left is the winner. Of course, there is a catch. If you don’t get all 25 pieces into their holes in time, the entire board pops up, blasting the pieces all over. When you’re concentrating on trying to arrange the S-shaped piece to fit the hole and realize you are actually holding the inverted-S, that sudden pop is tantamount to a minor heart attack.
Many variations of the game have been released. I remember wasting away hot California afternoons playing Head-to-Head Perfection against my older sister when I was 6. I am fairly certain I never won. In this version, there isn’t just a timer. In addition, each player has a pop-up bar. The first to finish their board presses their bar and pops up their opponent’s pieces. There was also a travel version in a 4×4 grid, but it didn’t last long in my family since some of the pieces almost immediately went missing. That is, unfortunately, the second-biggest problem with the game—you cannot play if you lose a piece (the biggest, of course, being the risk of long-term, stress-induced brain damage).
Considering its rather tumultuous past, it’s a small miracle Perfection has lasted 50 years. The game was originally published by a Pennsylvania company called Harmony Reed Company (later the Reed Toy Company). It was quickly transferred to Lakeside Industries (later renamed Leisure Dynamics), which was then bought out by Coleco Industries. Coleco made one of the 1st generation gaming consoles, but in 1983, due to low sales from a crash in the industry, they turned to making home computers. This venture also failed. They depended on their toys after that, and in 1986, bought both Leisure Dynamics and Selchow & Righter (who made Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit), but Selchow & Righter had a high cost, and 2 years later, Coleco went bankrupt. The rights to Perfection were then bought by Hasbro. At the time, Hasbro had owned renowned board game manufacturer Milton Bradley for 4 years and started publishing the game under that name. When Hasbro bought out Parker Brothers in the 90s–former rivals–they merged the two giants into Hasbro Gaming, which produces Perfection to this day.
Is there a future for Perfection? Quite possibly.
After rereleasing Travel Perfection in 2007, Hasbro released an even-more-compact version in 2012, shrinking the grid from 5×5 to only 3×3. But it didn’t stay this way–nowadays it is back to a 5×5 grid. In 2020, Hasbro released a mashup called Operation Perfection, where players have to use tweezers to put body parts into the correct places on Cavity Sam (yes, the guy from Operation has a name) before the timer runs out, otherwise the board pops them all back out. In 2023, a new edition was released with a new “duel” mode. In this 2-player version, each player gets a full set of pieces in either red or yellow. They play on a single board against each other and against the clock. If they manage to beat the timer, whichever player put the most pieces into place is the victor.
Sales for this kids game are still going strong. With new ideas and the potential for other mashups, we may well be celebrating Perfection’s anniversary in another 50 years.