When is the appropriate age to introduce a child to a TV games console? I have grown up with Sega and Nintendo but if I am being honest, games those days were much simpler and less violent. Nowadays, not only are the console games becoming more complicated, some of them even offer online multi-playing modes... something akin to a Pandora's Box for children.
So leave it to the people at Leapfrog, a brand that all parents should be familiar with and also one that carries the reputation of making highly educational toys... much like the LeapBand Activity Tracker that Ale got last year.
This time around, Leapfrog has identified another gap in the market for a device that many older children and adults use on a daily basis but is often too complicated for very young children - a games console.
The LeapFrog LeapTV games console is a new games console which has been designed for children who are too young for a traditional games console. Mind you, a PS4 or Xbox One clone this is not as the LeapTV is targeted at kids between three and eight years old. So yes, no FIFA, Call of Duty or Streetfighter here.
For Ale who has long been sidelined by her 2 older brothers when it comes to playing the Wii or XBox at home (just because she is too young to play, as proclaimed by the 2 boys), this games console is a dream come true.
The LeapTV is something like a cross between a Nintendo Wii and XBox Kinect, because the set works very much like a conventional games console, and includes a motion controller and a camera which allows children to play without the need for a controller.
One KPI of any games console targeting at kids is the amount of time (and effort) it takes to set it up. Because faced with a constant barrage of can-I-play-with-it-already while attempting to connect everything together can be quite irritating. So I am happy to report that the LeapTV passed this with flying colours.
Hooking everything up with the TV was a breeze. Once turned on, a very simple menu then walked me through the process, including pairing the bundled controller, connecting to the internet via WiFi, and setting up a profile for Ale which includes inputting her date of birth so that the games can be set at the right level of difficulty.
The system is made up of three main parts. The circular, disc-shaped console can stand on a base or lay flat. However, unlike modern games consoles, the LeapTV takes cartridges rather than discs. Besides physical cartridges, parents can also download games and videos from LeapTV's app centre (for a price, of course).
The most interesting of the entire package to me, is the controller. I love it how Leapfrog has designed it to fit the smaller hands of kids. It is mostly plastic with some rubber on both ends, just perfect to grip for kids. The premise of LeapTV is offering kids THREE different modes to play: the first being full-body motion gaming via the camera, and the second is classic gaming at its best - a controller with buttons and an analogue stick that a child can hold with two hands.
The third is somewhat ingenious. Hold down the rectangle-shaped green button and one of the controller arms will flip out for Pointer Play mode. Much like a Wii-mote from the Nintendo Wii console!
Kids will be able to use the controller and point at the TV for Pointer Play games and just in case the controller flies straight at the TV during play, there is a wrist strap to prevent that from happening. Oh, there is also an accelerometer inside the controller for steering and navigating games.
Okay, so enough of talking. Ale was desperate to try out the games, especially since one of them happened to be that involving Princess Sofia!
One particular mini game that has Ale hooked had her attempting to fly through clouds featuring the correct alphabet. As the levels progress, the missions became tougher, such as only flying through clouds that featured a capital letter.
Needless to say, it kept her occupied for a pretty long time... since she was bent on collecting all of the medallions on offer!
The full-body motion gaming was a hit with the Diva too. She has all along been frustrated with the XBox Kinect as the camera is not usually able to detect her. With the LeapTV's camera, there was no such problem.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that the camera was pretty responsive and there were few signs of lag registering movements.
Something that is extremely important, especially when one is trying to break her record of popping the most number of bubbles in a given time. Heh.
My impressions of the LeapTV from a parent's perspective? The main selling point for me is LeapFrog's closed system, which means there is no online multi-playing element here but only those within the living room. Hence, I can be assured that all of its content is suitable for Ale.
In fact, every game on the LeapTV console has been developed with educational experts specifically for the target age range, and includes elements to help the young ones learn about subjects including Maths, English and Science while playing. On top of that, the educational aspects of games also develop with your child, so whether they are three or eight years-old, they will get an age-specific challenge.
But it is not just solely a work-out for the young minds. Thanks to the full-body motion gaming aspect, kids can get a total full body work-out while prancing around in the living room. And trust me, I was left feeling all exhausted just by watching Ale play.
For Ale, she has been absolutely enamoured by the LeapTV console... all because the games are right up her alley. The games that her brothers are playing on the normal gaming consoles are deemed to be too trying for her as she is not able to grasp some of the game-playing styles and instructions yet. With the LeapTV games, they are easy to pick up with voice-giving instructions which makes it easy to understand for kids who cannot read yet.
But perhaps the best part of it all - the LeapTV is a great worry-free way for parents to allow their young kids to play on the TV, while smugly knowing they are actually learning at the same time.
After all, there is no better way to learn than to have fun while doing so.
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The LeapTV console is retailing for S$249 at at Robinson, Takashimaya, Metro and Toys 'R' Us Vivocity and Toys 'R' Us Paragon. Each software cartridge costs $42.
Keep updated with Leapfrog Singapore's promotions and offers by following its Facebook page.