We wanted to get our son some kind of handheld game. He does okay with some of those plug in play games that our daughter has and every time we go into the electronic department in stores, he tries to play with those game displays. For Christmas, we decided to get him a Leapster2 even thought the age recommendations are for ages 4-8. He will be 4 next month so we figured the Leapster2 would be just fine for him. It usually retails for about $50-$60.
Recommend this product?
The Leapster2 is a handheld console. They have a green one for boys and a pink one for girls. It's a chunky handheld and is perfect for my son. The sides of the Leapster2 are blue and it kind of feels like rubber to make it easier to hold. The Leapster2 measures approximately 7 inches by 4 inches with an LCD screen measuring 2 by 3 inches. The screen sounds like it would be kind of small, but it pretty decent for playing games. The controls are on the handheld. One side has an A and B button and the other side has the D-controls. Above the D-controls are also other little buttons to take you back "home" to the start up menu, to pause the game, and there is a button with a ?. This button is used if you need help.
The power button is on the top of the handheld and there is also a USB port. The bottom of the handheld has more buttons to adjust the volume and the brightness of the LCD screen. There is also a place for headphones too. This may come in handy if your child likes to mess with the volume all the time like my son likes to do. The speaker is on the front of the handheld and there is also an attached pen that can be used for drawing or in other games when it is needed. It definitely not used as much as my daughter's stylus is with her DS.
Getting started is really easy. You choose the language and create a profile for your child. If you have more than one child using the same handheld, you can create up to three profiles. After you create your child's profile(s) you will see and on screen menu with four icons. One of them is a cartridge icon. This won't be able to be selected unless you have a game cartridge inserted in the top of the handheld. This icon allows you to play the game that is inserted in the Leapster2. Another icon is a computer which takes you to the LeapFrog Connect when you have the handheld connected to you computer via the USB cable that is provided with it. The third icon is a picture of and SD card. If you have an SD card inserted where the batteries are located, then you can store artwork or other games from the LeapFrog Connect website. The last icon will take you to the two games that the Leapster2 is equipped with.
You will have to choose your child's profile or options with the pen. It's not the greatest touch screen so the pen will have to be used. You can use your finger but it doesn't work very well. The handheld will even talk to my son too. Like when he gets to the menu screen, it will say, "Touch a picture to get started." Or "To get started, touch one of the pictures with the pen." I kind of like this because the Leapster2 helps walk my son through things if he doesn't really know what to do. It does this kind of thing with the games too. Even the cartridge games.
The games on the Leapster2 are in Dragon Kingdom. There are two games as I said before. One of them is actually a drawing thing rather than a game.
"Dragon Castle looks a little dull"
"Let's get creative!"
In Creativity Castle, you can color, draw and paint pictures. The coloring pictures are kind of like a coloring book page. You can choose to color or paint with the icons on the bottom of the screen. There is also a color wheel where you can choose the color that you want. Using the pen, you color the page like you are using a crayon. Using the pen is a little weird because you have to press on the tip as you are coloring. It's easy to do but the coloring just isn't as simple as touching the screen. You can also add different "stamps" to the picture. These are pretty cool because there are so many of them and they are animated when you add them to your picture. There are earthworms that move across the screen, shooting stars, lady bugs, a duck that splashes in water, flowers and so much more. You can also add weather to your pictures. You can make it night or day and make is snow or rain. This is pretty cool because it actually rains or snows on the screen over your picture. There are also different backgrounds that you can choose instead of a coloring page. My son likes to use the backgrounds and add all different kinds of animated stamps.
Dragons to the Rescue
This is a game where my son can learn letters or numbers. He has to choose which dragon that he wants to use (there are two) and then chooses either letters or numbers. Then he has to choose his difficulty level. When you start the game, there is a short little story where the little dragons say that they have to save the rainbow. It's a cute little cartoonish cut scene. You have to use the D-controls playing this game. Your dragon flies through the sky and you have to find numbers. There are letters too but you are only supposed to collect the numbers avoiding the storm clouds. This is a great way to get a child to distinguish the difference between letters and numbers. This is the easiest level. The second level has to do with number patterns, the third level is counting where you have to find the one that comes next like 8, 9, 10, __. The numbers keep going to through the 20's 30's and so on. I would think that this should be the 2nd level and not patterns (because I think patterns are harder) but what can you do? The forth level actually has math problems and you have to find the correct answer as your dragon is flying. They aren't hard math problems but my son just isn't there quite yet.
In the letters game there are also different levels that you can play. The first level is "find the letter that makes the sound___." Sometimes the sounds are hard to hear but any time that you are playing a game, you can press the ? button for help. If my son can't understand the sound, he can use the help and it will show him the letter that made the sound. The second level is spelling. The handheld talks to help my son along. For example: it will say, "Spell the word Ten. It starts with the letter T." Then you find the letters to spell out the word. Level three is another spelling game but this time, the handheld just tells you the word without helping you out unless you hit the help button of course. And in the last level is about the same as the third, just a little more difficult.
There is a disc that comes with the Leapster2 to get the LeapFrog Connect application started. It will create a shortcut on your desktop after downloading and installing the application. There are only a few steps to this but after I got it set up on my computer it became somewhat of a nightmare. After it is installed, you are supposed to connect the Leapster2 via the USB cable. This is the longest process because it retrieves the information from the handheld and it took about 45 minutes before it was ready to connect to LeapFrog Connect. I thought that was a ridiculous amount of time. Anyway, with the LeapFrog Connect, you can play games, see awards gained from playing games on the Leapster2 (which I thought was actually pretty neat because it also somehow shows awards from cartridge games), you can print rewards which are mostly coloring pages, and you can even download a starter game for it.
There were 4 or 5 games to choose from but it said to play the demos of each one to find out which one you like best because you only get one for free. To be able to do this, you have to have an SD card installed in the handheld. It is recommended that the SD card is only 256MB because anything bigger most likely won't work in the Leapster2. I don't have an SD card that small and I haven't even seen a card that size in stores in quite some time. Also, if you have an SD card installed, you can save any artwork that you created in Creativity Castle and you can upload it and print the drawings that are saved to it. Since it takes so long to connect the Leapster2, we don't even bother using the LeapFrog Connect anymore.
There is also the Learning Path which you will have to register as a parent. With the Learning Path, you can see your child's progress and what they are learning or have learned by playing any games with the Leapster2. LeapFrog even gives parents learning tips for their child depending on their progress. I never really bothered with this either since my son filled up the other profiles on his handheld. He was just messing around with it and put a bunch of letters in the open profile slots. Every time he plays, he just randomly chooses one so there is really no way of knowing what he is learning etc. with the learning path. All his progress isn't on the same profile. I do think it's a neat idea though and there are some other toys from LeapFrog that also can be connected to the LeapFrog Connect and Learning Path.
I don't think that I mentioned that the Leapster2 requires 4 AA batteries. This is the biggest problem with it. They didn't make it with an internal battery to charge it. I will strongly recommend that you use rechargeable batteries for it. When we put batteries in our son's, they only lasted 5 days. I am not kidding and was pretty disappointed. He plays it almost everyday but only plays and hour or two total each day. I would say that batteries have about a total of 6 or 7 hours of life in this thing. There was no way I was going to be able to replace batteries that often so we used our extra rechargeable AA batteries and usually charge them every three days or so. LeapFrog has a charging station for the Leapster2 but its wireless and is only good for about 300 charges and costs about $30. That's a little much for something that doesn't last forever especially as much as this thing eats batteries.
My son loves to play his games. He really likes the Creativity Castle and makes all kinds of pictures. He really likes the animated stamps and the weather effects. He is constantly showing us the new picture he made. The other game with the letters and numbers are great for learning. He plays the first and second levels on both of them pretty well. I think it will take some time before he gets into the harder levels. I do love the fact that there is a hint or help button. If he does happen to play a harder level, he can always get help and even though he gets help, he can still learn from it. The Leapster2 makes the games easy to play, yet challenging enough that he can keep learning new things. The controls are also easy for him to use. The pen is easy enough for him to use as well even though you have to push down on it a little. I have been pleasantly surprised that the LCD screen hasn't been scratched up by the pen too.
He does have a problem inserting his other game cartridges in the top of the handheld though. He can get them in there but they need to be pushed in all the way which is a little tough. He often has to ask for help when he is changing games. It is very durable for a handheld game which is wonderful for my son's age because it has been dropped a few times. This is great to take along in the car and especially great to take to some long boring appointment that we have for one reason or another. He loves to play with it and the best thing about it is that he really does learn from it. I think it's definitely great for ages it recommends even for an older 3 year old. In my opinion, I don't think kids closer to the age of 7-8 will really learn anything more from it than they have already learned at school. Overall, I think the Leapster2 is a great handheld for younger kids. My son loves it and I am glad that we bought it for him. It also has a backward compatibility to play both Leapster and Leapster2 games.
Amount Paid (US$): 60.00
Type of Toy: Game
Age Range of Child: Other