Tomorrow (October 29th) LeapFrog will release the LeapTV, their new games console for kids aged between 3 and 8. We were invited to join in with their LeapTV party last weekend, which saw a few selected bloggers getting their own console and a selection of games in advance of the general release to test out. LeapFrog have a good track record in producing great educational games for their handheld systems, so I was really keen to see what they could do with a console system. I also wanted to see if a console system designed especially for children would be worth the living-room space in a family that already has more than one gaming console connected to their main TV.
We were sent the LeapFrog LeapTV plus one additional controller (the package comes with one in the box, but you’ll need 2 for any two player games) and three games. Sofia the First, a phonics-based game aimed at 3-5 year olds, Pixar Pals, which describes itself as a science game aimed at 4-7 year olds and Kart Racing, a maths-based game aimed at 5-8 year olds.
The press release claims
Designed from the ground up for children ages three to eight years old, the LeapTV video game system changes the way children learn by combining activity and movement with best-in-class educational curriculum. With a simple and intuitive user interface, a motion-sensing camera that puts a child directly in the game, a transforming controller that is made for classic gameplay and pointer control gameplay, plus audio prompts throughout the experience to help children navigate games and provide curricular tutorials, LeapTV is the best first video game experience for children.
We recorded a video as we unboxed the LeapTV, to show what the basic system is supplied with:
The system was extremely easy to set up once we’d freed up an HDMI port to plug it in to on the TV. When we first switched it on we connected it to our home WiFi network, and it then asked me to access the LeapFrog site from a desktop or tablet to activate the system. This involved entering a few details, setting up one or more child accounts, and then being given a passcode which had to be entered into the LeapTV. Once that was all done the system was ready to use.
Once you’ve activated your LeapTV online you get access to one free game, Pet Play World. My first impression of this game was that it looked like a Tamagotchi-style pet-caring game. However I discovered it actually contains a number of mini-games which are quite fun, and also serve as a good introduction to the different ways you can interact with the LeapTV console. These are:
Body Motion: The motion-sensing camera captures a child’s moves and instantly puts them into the game as they explore activities like dance and martial arts. Children can run, hop and tip-toe or wave their arms to defend goals, karate-chop fast-moving blocks, scuba dive and more. My kids loved seeing themselves on the screen and interacting with the games with their bodies.
Pointer Play: Pointer play takes pretend play to new levels of engagement. The controller transforms into a pointer with a simple twist and lets kids snap jungle vines, slice through coconuts, swing from building to building and more.
Classic Control: Classic control puts fun at a child’s fingertips. They can press the A and B buttons for fast-paced gaming, or tilt and shake the controller to navigate through an enchanted garden or race in a classic kart-racing game.
We didn’t play with Pet Play World for very long, as the kids wanted to try out the other games we’d been sent. We started off with Pixar Pals, which the geekson was very keen to play as it featured his favourite characters, Woody and Buzz. Unfortunately we found this game quite difficult, as it was our first experience of the pointer play mode, and the geekson struggled to control the pointer. I think, having played with the system more since then, he was probably just standing too far from the TV, but he was frustrated and wanted to play something else quite quickly.
We moved on to Kart Racing. This is a two player game, so both kids could play together. This is an extremely playable kart racing game, with the added twist that the children get to earn power ups for their karts before the race by completing maths problems. These problems are specifically tuned to the children’s ages, so the geekson was simply asked to recognise a specific number, whereas the geekdaughter, being older, was expected to complete simple addition or subtractions. Despite the recommended age for this game being 5-8, the four-year-old geekson proved himself a master, and particularly enjoyed beating Daddy, which he did twice!
Finally we tried the Sophia the First game. I wasn’t sure how engaged the geekson would be with this, to be honest, but he very quickly found a mini game that involved body motion controls, and had a lovely time dashing around the lounge in order to clear leaves from the screen. I managed to grab a short video of him in action:
I have to say, based on our initial experiences I am extremely impressed with the LeapTV. It is an extremely well designed and well implemented console. We found it very easy to set up and use, and the kids got on well with all the different controls, although pointer controls gave us some initial trouble until we all got the hang of it. I particularly liked the games that used the body motion controls, they were clearly designed to get kids moving around, which makes them refreshingly different from the more traditional “sit on the sofa with the controller” kind of games that many kids end up playing. LeapFrog’s experience of producing education titles for this age group shines through, and I particularly like the clarity of labelling on all the games – you can tell by just looking at the box what age group the game is best suited to, what curriculum elements it covers and what controls it uses.
The games we were sent quote the American class names (Pre-K, K, 2nd Grade etc), although they also state the ages that applies to, so it’s still easy to work out which games will suit your child. I’m not sure if the final release versions will be the same or not. When I activated my console online and set the kids up I was asked to select what class they are each in, and the selection was in UK terminology (Reception, Year 2 etc) which was obviously easier to understand.
The LeapFrog LeapTV is available from all the usual toy suppliers with a retail price of £119.99. It is available through Amazon (affiliate link) for £119.97, saving a whole 2p! The cartridge games retail at £24.99, although if you shop around you can find them cheaper. On launch there will also be downloadable titles available through the LeapFrog store as well, although I have no information yet as to how much they will cost. LeapFrog state that there will be 100+ titles available on launch across the physical cartridges and downloadable content.
If your young kids are constantly begging to be allowed to play on your XBox or Playstation, the LeapFrog LeapTV is a great alternative with much more age-appropriate content. Or if you don’t yet have any consoles in your home, this is a great starter one if you have kids aged between 3 and 8.
Disclosure: We were sent a LeapFrog LeapTV with three games and an additional controller for review purposes. The Amazon link in this post contains my affiliate code – if you make a purchase after clicking I will, at no additional cost to you, receive a small commission payment.