Pros: A fun, educational laptop toy for young'uns.
Cons: The games are very simplistic. The LCD screen is tiny.
My husband and I are both computer programmers, and my eldest (who is now 4) has been banging on one of our laptop computers since he was just a few months old. My son has become quite the computer-savvy little preschooler in the years since his early "drooling on the laptop" days - so much so that we have to kick him off our machines and restrict his computer time (we wouldn't want to turn him into a super-geek at such an early age). When we were strolling the aisles at Toys R Us, he spotted the Batman Power Wing Laptop, and that's all he talked about for weeks afterward. I dismissed it - since we do have "real" laptops with educational games for our kids, I didn't want to waste money on this "fake" laptop with a tiny screen. My husband saw things differently, thinking it would be the perfect toy to occupy my son on our trip to see my in-laws for Thanksgiving (a 4 hour car trip). For once (just this once) I'll admit that he was right!
First off, let me state that this is NOT really a computer and it does NOT connect to the internet. There, now that that's out of the way, the Batman Power Wing Laptop is a "play" computer for kids that comes pre-programmed with 25 games and activities. It does resemble a computer, with a "screen" portion that flips up to reveal a full keyboard and cursor pad (and a smaller-than-you-might-think LCD screen). Additionally, Batman-esque "wings" slide out of each side of the computer as it is opened (the wings don't serve any purpose - just adding to the "cool factor".
If you are like me, the laptop's screen itself might be a bit off-putting. On a "real" laptop the screen takes up the entire face of the flip-up panel of the laptop, but on this toy the screen only takes up a small fraction of that space. The LCD display is tiny, measuring only 3 inches wide by just under 2 inches tall. It is an LCD display, so it isn't in color either - just black and white.
The "laptop" contains 26 activities/games, each accessed by entering a different code using the keypad. All of the games and their codes are listed on the ample space around the LCD display, so you don't need to remember them. Some games have difficulty levels - if you score well enough you will automatically advance to the next level, and if you don't score well it will send you to an easier level. The games are broken down into various categories:
~ "Word" games (activities 1-6) focus on reading/word recognition/spelling, and include old favorites like hangman, word find, and a typing game
~ "Mathematics" games (activities 7-13) help your child practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
~ "Memory" games (activities 14-17) range from the simple (remember the order in which 3 shapes moved across the screen) to more complex (remember a very long sequence of musical tones/numbers)
~ "Logic" games (activities 18-21) challenge your brain to find a missing number or code in a sequence and identify which one of 3 pictures doesn't match the others
~ "Games" (activities 22-23) are a (very) simplistic version of Frogger and "Trap", where you block off the "villain" by drawing lines to close him into a smaller and smaller space
~ "Music" (activities 24-25) allows you to play pre-recorded melodies or compose a tune using the letter keys
~ "General" contains a single game, the "Ultimate Challenge", wherein you have to answer questions from each of the sub-sections to test the player's ability across all of the various subject matters.
The keyboard/controls are Mommy's favorite thing about the laptop (it has encouraged my son to learn where the letters are on a standard, QWERTY keyboard). The "cursor pad" is below the keyboard and consists of a large oval button that can be moved up/down/left/right and controls the cursor or game functions. Two mouse-like buttons above the directional pad can be used to make selections. In addition to your normal computer keys, there are some additional buttons that you probably won't find on a conventional laptop. These are:
~ 4 "shape" keys used in the "Shape Caper" game
~ the "Answer" key - to give the answers in certain games
~ a "Main menu" key
~ a "Help" button that provides clues in certain games
~ a "Batman Symbol" button that does different things in different games
~ a "Repeat" button that repeats instructions or replays your compositions (in the music games)
~ a button that controls the LCD backlights as well as the built-in flashlight that illuminates the keyboard
~ the "Demo" button shows a quick little product demonstration (that my son loves to show people)
There are 6 different "lighting" states on the Batman laptop. The flashlight (at the top of the view-screen, it shines down and illuminates the keyboard) can be on or off. The LCD backlight can be off, dim, or bright.
A good instruction manual is included with the laptop. I have also seen Barbie and SpiderMan versions of the laptop available in stores. It retails for around $50 (but my husband used 2 different coupons to get the price down to somewhere in the $30's, which seems more reasonable for what you get with this toy).
The manufacturer recommends the Batman Power Wing Laptop for kids ages 5 and up. 3 "AA" batteries are required (included).
Our Thoughts and Experiences:
My son was so excited when he got into the car, all ready for the 4 hour drive to his grandparents house, and saw his new Batman Power Wing Laptop in the seat all ready to go. He exclaimed, "Now I can do all of that computer stuff I've been wanting to do!" -- which totally cracked my husband and me up. I was worried that all of the games would be too hard for him and we would be stuck with a frustrated 4 year old in the car, but happily for us he learned the "password" system quickly ("BAT" followed by the numbers 01 - 26) and he got so excited when he could type in the code and open the various games all by himself. My son thinks the wings that come out when the laptop is opened are "awesome", and he proudly showed everyone he came into contact with over the holiday weekend (and after we came home too).
Unfortunately, many of the games were quite over his head (he's only 4, and the laptop is recommended for children ages 5 and up). Still, he managed to find some that could keep him occupied for the long trip (and much of the vacation itself). He started with the Frogger-esque game, then dabbled a bit with the music-making games. Once at our destination he discovered the "Trap" game, which kept him occupied for a few days and remains one of his favorites. Most of the mathematics and word games are above his current skill level (which hopefully means he'll get even more out of this laptop in the coming years).
I'll definitely give this toy laptop props for being sturdy. My son must have dropped it 20 times over the long Thanksgiving weekend (we were in and out of the car/hotel with it a lot). He dropped it multiple times on concrete too. It made the hubby and I cringe every time, knowing that this was an expensive toy to be drop-kicking, but the laptop survived all of my son's innocent attempts to destroy it. Even baby brother (who is only 9 months old) gave the laptop some none-too-gentle loving (pushing the screen back too far, pounding on the keys) and the Batman Laptop survived completely unscathed.
I do like the fact that it has a real QWERY keyboard attached. My son is quite the little computer geek already, and anything that helps him learn where the keys are will only help him in the years to come. I also really loved the lighting options. My son quickly learned how to turn on the "flashlight" that illuminates the keyboard as well as the screen's amber backlight. He could play as we traveled in the car even after the sun went down, as well as in our hotel room as I tried to get the baby to go to sleep.
I will say that, although the Bat-Wing was my son's constant companion during our travels over the Thanksgiving holiday, since returning home he's lost interest in it. The tiny little LCD screen cannot compete with the full color fun of his Leapster or the kiddie software we have on our computers. The fun of the Bat Wing isn't the content of the games, it is the fun laptop-packaging and the portability. My son loves showing it off to people who come to the house, then he'll go off and play with something else.
Yes, the toy does boast 26 games, but in this day and age I'm not terribly thrilled with them and their simplicity. My son loves the Batman tie in (with brief-yet-cool graphics of the character in each game) as well as some of the bat-themed play, however most of the games are short, simple, and within a game things repeat too often. For example, in one game you get 3 pictures on the screen and have to figure out which one of the 3 images is different than the other 2. I'm guessing there are really only 20-or-so different groupings of 3 images, so if you play it for any length of time you'll have all of the pictures memorized and the game is no longer a challenge. Some games have more longevity than others -- although my son is a bit too young for them I played some of the "Word" and "Mathematics" games just to see what they had to offer, and I do see where they could help an older child reinforce their spelling/reading/math skills. Still, it will be hard for the Batman Power Wing to compete with the Playstations, XBoxes, and the like preferred by kids these days.
+) Different lighting options - can also illuminate the keyboard!
+) Fun Batman Theme
+) 26 games/activities in various themes and educational levels
+) Quite sturdy - survived many falls
+) Volume control
+) Variety to the games - some are educational, others are just for fun
+) A full QWERTY keyboard
+) Attached "cursor pad" for easy navigation
+) Contrast control
+) Auto-off feature will turn the laptop off if it isn't used in a short while (a few minutes)
-) LCD screen is tiny
-) The games are quite simplistic
Ultimately, the Bat Wing has a mixed reaction from me. My son was completely enamored with it for about a week, and even now he loves carrying it around and showing it off, but he prefers playing with his other educational game systems. I'll give it credit for being educational and fun in a very portable package, but dock it some points for so many of the games being so simplistic, and for not having a larger screen with better graphics.