It’s hard to put into words just exactly how excited my four-year-old was to receive a brand new Leapster Explorer in the post. So I’ll just show you this picture.
Actually he was even happier than that!
I’d got chatting to one of the lovely Leapfrog ladies at Cybermummy last month and she’d impressed me with her demo of the Leapster Explorer. Seeing as Ezra’s already the proud owner of the previous edition Leapster 2, we were eager to test the new model.
The first thing that strikes you about this handheld gaming device (for ages 4 to 9) is that it’s a lot sleeker, lighter and more reminiscent of a ‘bigger boy’ toy like the Nintendo DS. The touch-screen is bigger than the Leapster 2 with enhanced visuals and works well using both stylus and fingers.
Right out of the box, there was more for Ezra to get stuck into than with the Leapster 2 and within minutes he was busy creating his own virtual pet. What’s cool about this feature is you can also take this pet online into Leapworld and when you’re doing well on a game, earn rewards that can be converted into new accessories and treats.
The Leapster Explorer offers up to 40 gaming experiences as well as options to download and read ebooks, play videos and (coming soon) even transform it into a digital camera. With its focus on learning-based play, all the games can be customised to match and improve kids’ skills in writing, maths, English, geography and other subjects.
Some parents might not like the idea of their kids disappearing into the world of handheld gaming at this tender age. But Ezra’s still at the ‘watch this Mum’ stage where he actually wants me looking over his shoulder at everything he does.
What’s more is that parents can connect to Leapworld’s Learning Path to follow their kids’ progress online and find out areas that they might need to work on. For instance, I was surprised to see Ezra’s poor performance in a letters game (he’s known the alphabet since he was 1!) but then realised that it focused on writing clearly, which is something he’s still learning to do.
One thing I’m not wild about is the hard sell on the Leapworld site where every page you visit is plugging new games to buy. Retailing at £59.99 with each game cartridge costing £19.99, the Explorer’s an expensive toy although on balance it’s cheaper than getting a GameBoy and should provide years of edu-tainment.
Ezra played with his for a solid hour before I dragged him off.
His review: ‘I like the Leapster Explorer because it has lots of games. My favourite is Penguins of Madagascar. I also like the ebooks. Let’s give my Leapster 2 away.’
Ahem, I think we’ll try Ebay first!
Bag your little gamer a Leapster Explorer before they sell out at Christmas.
Visit the Leapfrog web site