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Leapster TV Learning System
Type: Educational, Gear, KidTech
From: Leapfrog
Usage: Hardware, TV Plug-n-Play, Videogame
Leapster TV Learning System
Already the established leader in edutainment (educational entertainment) hardware and software, LeapFrog now has its own take on the console wars -- a tyke take -- with Leapster TV.
Posted December 27, 2006
Already the established leader in edutainment (educational entertainment) hardware and software, LeapFrog now has its own take on the console wars -- a tyke take -- with Leapster TV.

Based on the popular Leapster handheld game system for little kids, where interaction involves traditional buttons and thumb pad plus a touch sensitive screen for drawing/spelling/pointing challenges, Leapster TV enlarges the concept with a home based model you can jack directly into a television set. It plays the same cartridges used for the handheld system -- perennial fave Dora the Explorer is included --, now made accessible through an oversized controller with big, bulbous buttons, a fist full of joystick and a touch sensitively, stylus activated input screen.

Oddly, the thing uses batteries as its default power source -- 4 "C" cells to be exact, which will last for maybe 20 hours, max, before you need to replace them... rechargeables recommended. Still, batteries for a home console? You can use an AC adapter to power the Leapster TV Learning System from a household electrical outlet, but that's sold separately for another $10, which smacks of an underhanded sales ploy that makes the system look less expensive than your final sales receipt actually reveals it to be.

Too, the system's control pad with its oversized buttons and gianormous joystick in place of a direction thumb pad are exactly the opposite of the control configuration found the Leapster handheld system it's trying to emulate (the big "A" and "B" buttons are on the left instead of the right), which is going to be confusing if you happen to own both the portable and this here home-based Leapster TV system.

The home TV Leapster's most glaring shortcoming is in its emulation of a touch-sensitive LCD screen, which, by the nature of the non-interactive component of your generic television, it simply can't do effectively. Instead, the drawing pad for the stylus is not much more than a stylus-recognizing mouse pad which will throw a cursor up on the screen but not do anything about it unless you also click a button on the stylus itself. The Leapster handheld system, on the other hand (ha ha), lets you just touch the images and interactive icons directly to activate them. It's not a big deal all said and done, but it does add a year or two to the recommended age range on any Leapster game, because there's extra motor skill required; pointing and clicking while looking at the screen, not the pad.

In fact, the Leapster TV Learning System serves as an inadvertent promo for the Leapster L-Max, which is also identical to the basic Leapster, except it also optionally jacks into a television set, making it the best of both home and handheld gaming worlds.

Still, for $50 USD or $60 Cdn (or US$60 and C$70 with the adapter), Leapster TV is a pretty attractive, attractively-priced, comprehensively "edutaining" tot tool -- the Leapster L-Max is $80 USD or $110 Cdn, while the basic Leapster (no TV option) is US$60 or C$80.

And Leapster games really do excel at entertaining while educating your wee ones. With the aforementioned motor-skill caveat in mind, the many Leapster games available are each appropriately themed for an age group ranging from 4 - 8, with titles such as Nick Jr.'s "Backyardigans," Scholastic's "Animal Genius," Leapfrog's "Cosmic Math" and many more; about 40 to choose from in all, all of it intelligently designed software that is stimulating, edifying and fun, where nobody "dies" or even loses (usually), because LeapFrog game designers generally understand (with a few tears-of-frustration exceptions) that positive reinforcement is a more powerful motivator.

Great stuff, all said and done.
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3.75 (out of 5)