Do your preschoolers want to play with your video game system, but you’re not yet comfortable letting them do so? One option is to get them the V.Smile Motion™ Active Learning System. I recently received a free system and three games to review. This system is designed for kids aged 3 – 7, and all the games are educational in multiple ways. Most of the games were easy for my five year old, but it should be quite educational for three and four year olds, while still being a lot of fun for kids up to seven or eight. My eight year old daughter enjoys some of the games.
The game system comes with one Smartridge, but many others are available with characters familiar to most kids. Titles include, but are not limited to: Scooby-Doo, Thomas the Tank Engine, Winnie the Pooh, Spider-Man, Disney Fairies, Pixar’s Up!, Handy Manny, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Ni Hao Kai Lan. The game system also comes with a flash drive called the V.Link. In some of the games, you can use it to track your kids’ scores and to earn bonus games online. Also, this learning system is completely compatible with the entire set of V.Smile Smartridge games.
The one included wireless controller can be set up for right-handed or left-handed children. If you acquire a second controller, games can be played as two player. The game unit has a built-in compartment which can store up to nine games. However, if you choose to store the V.Link in there as well, it would hold fewer games. The system itself is cute and colorful, and it was incredibly easy to set up. I just inserted the included batteries into the unit and the controller, plugged the cables into the front of my television, and it was ready to go.
Game control is pretty easy, too, with the controller having a large button for things like jumping and accepting a choice. There are several other buttons including some that are color coded. The most important button to remember, especially when you’re just learning how to work the games, is the button that has a picture of an open door on it. It means cancel or go back.
The learning system comes with one cartridge, Action Mania. This game has three different activities: Rapid Race, Backyard Party and Raise a Racket. Each one contains tasks that challenge little ones in their numbers, letters, spelling, healthy food choices, colors, classification and motor skills/reaction time. The whole game has a Japanese anime feel to it, in a very pixelated way.
I also received three extra Smartridges, to get more of a feel for what this game system can do. The first one I tried was Wonder Pets: Save the Animals. The graphics on this one were as bad as for Action Mania (though the Wonder Pets characters were all easily recognizable), but all of the voices were correct and the sound was very good. There are four sections to the game. In Learning Adventure you can choose between story mode and quick play, with story mode taking you through the adventures in order. With quick play, you can play the adventures in any order. Learning Zone has a baby animal match game and a costume box, where you match costumes to certain professions. The Singalong option has two songs to sing along with. It puts lyrics on the screen as they come up in the song. I would have thought that they could have included more songs here, however. Finally, in Adventure Album, you learn about animal names and some sounds. This game is decent, but it felt like they could have included more game play. There is plenty of celery gathering, however. In all, Save the Animals teaches counting, shapes, drawing, following directions, alphabetical order, animals and social skills.
The second game I tried was Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Fix-It Adventure. Graphics are the same, but again, the voices are right on. The first play option with this one was Learning Adventure. In this activity, you walk and jump around, solving puzzles along the way. Swiper even makes an appearance. There are four different game paths to explore. In Learning Zone, you learn about numbers, baby animals and letter puzzles. In all, it teaches colors, shapes, numbers, letters, animals, logic, spatial skills and problem solving. I thought Dora’s Fix-It Adventure was better and more complex than the Wonder Pets game. My 5 year old son enjoys this one quite a bit. This game is V.Link compatible.
The third game, and my daughter’s favorite, is Kung Fu Panda: Path of the Panda. It, too, had the same bad-but-recognizable graphics and the same good voices. Like with Wonder Pets, the first option, Po’s Rescue Mission, has the choice between story mode and quick play. There are eight ancient missions and one legendary mission to complete here. Under Kung Fu Training, you can play You May Eat, which teaches you about what is and isn’t food, and tests your reaction time. There is also the Dojo Star Throw, which teaches about shapes and aim. Finally, there is the Kung Fu Competition. In all, Path of the Panda covers foods, logic, math, geometry, spelling and spatial sense. This game is also V.Link compatible.
Each of the games I tried has the option of using the joystick or tilting the controller for movement control, the latter being similar to the Wiimotes with the Nintendo Wii. My kids both prefer to use the joystick, but I found that tilting the controller gives a faster response. Each mini game has the option of an easy or difficult level, and you can also choose between one or two player. For each game, though, I really wished there was some kind of indicator telling how far I was in the game. They often lasted longer than I would have thought. Also, as soon as I was done trying out all the games, the base unit stopped turning on. I think I might have received a bad battery, though, since a fresh new set of four AAs in the base unit fixed it. The controller takes three AAAs.
Wired: Easy for small children to control, super easy to set up, educational learning activities, fun and familiar characters.
Tired: Graphics leave a lot to be desired, seems to eat through batteries quickly.