The ‘game bashine’ that belongs to the Other Half has long been coveted by the Wee Man.
And if he’s lucky, sometimes he gets to play on it. But he isn’t quite old enough yet to grasp all the functions of the controller, or the finer points of many of the games. In fact, a lot of the games aren’t suitable for him at all, being shooty, crashy, shouty or generally involving bloodshed.
What he really needs is a game machine of his own…
A machine, as it turns out, like the Leap TV console.
Aimed at 3-8 year olds and retailing at £120, it doesn’t have the often childish appearance of many electrical things aimed at the younger market – it actually looks fairly similar to an adult console. First big tick in the Wee Man’s box of ‘things a game machine must be and do’.
The second big tick goes to the controller. It is adjustable and can be used either as a classic controller (like our PS4), or unflipped and used as a wand (much like the Wii). There is also the option in some games to use motion control via the included camera (think Kinect). So that’s all the bases covered really – something for every preference. The controller is nice and chunky, and fairly bounce-proof, yet also manages to retain some style. Plus the end glows when it is a wand. Bubby D is pleased about that!
It’s designed to get kids using their brains as well as their bodies – keeping everything active while still having fun. There are a variety of games available, all aimed at different areas of education – phonics, maths, social skills… the areas covered are all clearly listed at the bottom of the case. It’s also possible to download games from the app store and save them on the internal memory (which has 16GB of space), once you’re all set up and connected via wi-fi or ethernet…
…which was actually pretty easy to do. The instructions are nice and clear, and within a matter of minutes the Wee Man was standing with his arms out like an aeroplane, showing the camera one of his biggest, happiest grins.
All set and ready to go!
So, on to the games:
Spiderman (£24.99, ages 4-7) aims to cover phonics, alphabet, sight words and spelling. The Wee Man and his friends that were playing are all aged between 3-8, and it was clear from watching them that this is definitely a game for the older end of the scale – understanding what to do and where to go did need a basic grasp of reading and spelling (although the younger kids did enjoy having a go too).
It took the Wee Man a little while to figure out how to use the controller – often it ended up pointed at the ceiling, or the window; basically anywhere but where it was meant to be! After a while he did generally master it though, and only needed the odd reminder to combat the cries of ‘it’s not working…’
Spiderman has a good variety of levels, and even having played it for a couple of weeks now there is still a lot of gameplay left for him to explore. One of the ways the LeapTV is unique is that it allows him to create a personal profile, which then tailors gameplay to his age and stage, adapting to how he is doing as he moves along through it. Of the games we tried this was definitely the favourite for the boys, although all of them found the controls a little tricky at points and there was a bit of fighting featured – so not one to go for if you don’t like your kids playing beat em’ ups.
Sports (£24.99, ages 4-7) works on addition, subtraction, patterns and shapes. It’s also a multiplayer game, suitable for up to four players at a time. The kids loved competing with each other, and because it was done by taking turns rather than using the split-screen method for two or more players at once we didn’t need a second (or third, or fourth) controller. I was also impressed with how it encouraged sharing.
There are nine different sports available – bowling (the Wee Man’s favourite), baseball, football, karate, rope climbing, skateboarding, snowboarding, swimming, and weight lifting. And apparently watching parents prancing around the room pretending to rope climb (this one is a camera motion-detector controller game) is hilarious!
The kids all enjoyed the fact that it was possible to switch between single game events quickly, trying out different sports and motion requirements, as well as some bits that used the controller in wand and classic mode. Once his friends had gone home exhausted, the Wee Man was pleased to get stuck in to the event challenge mode, which is all about progressing through the stages rather than competing with friends on individual sports.
Bubble Guppies (£24.99, ages 3-5) features learning about people & places, recycling, dinosaurs and fossils, and listening comprehension. This is Bubby D’s game of choice and is made up of a series of mini games, some which use motion detection and others that require use of the controller as a wand – something that she and the other three year olds struggled with a bit but did manage to pick up following some guidance.There were a few instances during this one where the camera didn’t seem to be picking up the increasingly wild gestures of the kids, something that was a bit frustrating as they could clearly see themselves on the screen hitting the required spots. I tried turning a few more lights on and that seemed to help a bit – definitely worth bearing in mind with the likelihood of dingy weather and dark nights meaning less light and more indoor playing time with the Leap TV.
and finally, lets not forget Pet Play World, which is downloadable for free once you register your console. The kids enjoyed putting their perfect pet together, although we did find that the resolution was wrong for our TV and there didn’t seem to be any way of fixing it in the settings. Not a huge problem, but it did mean a bit of the detail from the edges got lost which is a shame.
Overall we were very impressed with the Leap TV system and the games. The kids all picked up what they were meant to do fairly quickly and really enjoyed playing, without all the usual frustration that has come from them using more adult consoles in the past which require trickier moves and controls. They liked the fact that the games featured some of their favourite characters too.
If you’re looking for a system which is easy to use, has a reasonable range of games, and can be enjoyed by the whole family then I think the Leap TV could be just what you are after.
Leap TV launches on 29th October and has an RRP of £119.99. Games are all around £25, with many more downloadable games being available from the app store online.