Pros: Looks "cool" similar to a PSP or DS handheld but "more" educational, sturdy
Cons: How educational is it really? Battery hog, LeapFrog connect can be "tricky" & uncooperative.
My now 8 1/2 year old son literally grew up on LeapFrog. At age 4 he became hooked on the Leapster Handheld which he more than loved. He took it everywhere and he wore that game system out - we replaced it with the newer version, the Leapster L-Max around the age of 6 or so years old. At this point, my very smart (and autistic) son had mastered most if not all the games (we had probably close to 20 games) that were available for it. He still played it, but he was far more interested in my Nintendo DS Lite. He began to lobby for his own DS, but I was happy to share mine with him for the time being. Last christmas, we intended to purchase him his own Nintendo DS but instead he received the LeapFrog Didj as a gift from his grandparents. Since his birthday is a week before Christmas he also received a mint in Toys R Us giftcards between the 2 holidays which he decided to combine and buy his own Nintendo DS with. So now, the lucky kid has both the Nintendo DS and the LeapFrog Didj. He is in gaming heaven.
About the Didj
The Didj is the next step up from the very popular and most awesome Leapster. I am probably the Leapster's biggest fan, as are many moms of kids with Autism. This is a great learning toy as well as reinforcer, distractor, and occupier for kids like mine. My son loves video games like most kids his age - but he also can get far too obsessed with them. So, I prefer them to be educational. For this reason, the Didj appealed to me as it is definitely more educationally bent than a DS, gameboy or PSP. The Didj is targeted to kids ages 6-10 years old with an MSRP of $89.99. Since its release the price has plummeted and you can find it usually in the $69 range and often lower. It comes in a few different colors - silver, purple, blue, or black. We have a silver and white one that came bundled with the Sonic the Hedgehog game.
The Didj looks like a sleeker and cooler version of the LeapFrog with a smaller profile. It is larger than a DS and also heavier and weighty - perhaps from the 4 AA batteries that are needed to power it. The screen is open and not a touchscreen like the DS and Leapster have. There is no connected or separate stylus to use, instead it uses naviation buttons. There is an option to use headphones via a standard jack for contained play.
To get started you will need to first install the LeapFrog connect software onto your computer. This, happens to be the same software that the LeapFrog Tag Reading System uses, so when we connected the Didj in, my system recognized it and I didn't need to reinstall. I did, however, need to do a firmware upgrade on our Didj that took up some time before initial use.
Once the software is all installed and downloaded it also will download an extra Jet Pack Heroes game onto your Didj. As it turns out, the Jet Pack Heroes is often preferred to the other games that we do own - Sonic the HedgeHog and Star Wars Clone Wars games. When the Didj first came out there were less than a handful of games but they are now up to about a dozen titles for it. The games were initially priced close to $30 a piece (more in line with other gaming systems cartridges) but have dropped down to around $20 at most "big box" stores. There is a wide selection of games with characters geared to the age group of tweens and I guess what you'd call pre-tweens.
When connecting your Didj to your computer you can then update the games via customizable content (spelling lists, vocab, math skills) that is age appropriate to your child's learning via the LeapFrog site. You can also view your child's progress and see what areas they are struggling with and which skills or quizzes have been mastered. Your child can collect points (Bitz) to further customize their Didj and games (get new micromods, spaceships, etc). Your child can also make their own "didj" avatar which is kind of like making a mii, on the Wii. My son likes to create these and has a couple of them which makes tracking his progress a bit more difficult because it depends on which player he selects! Tricky tricky....
Our Experience and Thoughts on the Didj
My son plays pretty equally between his two game systems (DS and Didj), but tends to go in phases and the Didj tends to lose out. He has less games on the Didj and so he bores and tires out easily with it and then ends up with the DS anyways. While I really like the Didj (and he does too) I probably would not purchase both if I was buying just one system. In my house the DS is the clear winner.
As a parent I like the Didj because it is educational, or more educational - than the DS... but it just doesn't seem as educational as I would have hoped. Whereas the Leapster actually taught skills, it is my observation that Didj is more a quizzing system. It is definitely more gaming (80%) to less education (20%) where it could definitely be more balanced. To give you an idea - your child plays happily away and then when they reach the end of that game level in order to advance it will present a math or spelling quiz that is multiple choice. In order to advance they need to correctly answer a few multiple choice questions and then they get their Bitz points and advance to the next level. This seems cool on paper but its really not all that exciting once your child is familiar with other game systems - like the Wii or Nintendo DS! Perhaps, the Didj would serve better if they get this right after a Leapster and haven't had their eyes opened fully to all that is out there in video games.
Also, if you are trying to 'censor' which types of video games your child has access too.. you aren't avoiding shoot 'em up type games with the Didj. I'm not big on video game violence, and so I am a big fan of a lot of the Wii and DS games that are interactive and non-violent. Even the basic Jet Pack Heroes game has shoot-em up activity. I'm not thrilled, but of course my 8 year old son enjoys it. Boys!
Graphics on the Didj are absolutely a step up from the leapster but of course not as nice as those on the Nintendo DS. This does have the added bonus of a slightly larger screen than the DS and no stylus to go missing. Be sure to let your child know to not use a stylus on the screen because it is not a touch screen and it will scratch. I also suggest getting the case or to do as we did and get the gel skin to keep it somewhat protected for when not in use. You will need to take the gel skin off, and get used to doing that, when you change the batteries. A charger can be purchased for over $30 that includes a wall plug, but that seemed ridiculous to me. Still, we go through a lot of batteries which they have not made it easy to change. You need to use a coin or a screwdriver to turn 2 slots in the back and for the life of me - this is something that I always break a nail and curse doing. I'm honestly surprised that I haven't broken the back of it off in the process of changing the batteries - either. I'm not being a baby - the battery compartments are seriously not mom friendly.
Overall - I sound like I have quite a bit of complaints about the Didj. I guess I can say that this is a LeapFrog product that I like, but I don't love it. I think it fits a niche, for a child who has outgrown their Leapster and for the parent who wants to constantly fiddle with software to track and customize the system. I'm in between. I like the educational aspects and how it tracks what my son is doing, how long he is playing, etc. In turn, he enjoys playing on the Didj and using this system - almost as much as he did his Leapster... Almost.
Whereas my son would give this a 4/5 I'm leaning towards 3 out of 5 stars.. Consider the game selection and what you want from the gaming system and you may find that the DS, gameboy, or PSP may be the better choice in the long run.
Connectivity: PC or MAC via USB (cable and software included)
some minimal hardware requirements - check with the LeapFrog.com website before purchasing. One known limitation is that for PC connectivity you must have an Intel processor and not AMD.
Didj Games available (at this time) Games range in price from $20-30 per game and are marked for the age group 6-9 yrs, 7-10 yrs, or 8-11 yrs.
Neopets (Language Arts)
Nicktoons Android Invasion (Customizable Math game)
Nancy Drew Mystery (customizable)
Indiana Jones (Math)
Tiki Tropics Racing (Spelling)
High school musical (Fractions & Music)
Hannah Montana (Multiplication, vocab & time management)
Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends (Customizable language arts)
Super Chicks (customizable math facts)
SpongeBob Squarepants (customizable math facts)
Sonic the Hedgehog (customizable spelling)
Star Wars Clone Wars (customizable multiple disciplines)
-Pink or Blue customization kit ($14.99) includes 3 colorful skins and a gel "case". We have the blue one.
-Didj Carrying Case ($17.99) hard clamshell case with padded interior for system and 4 games - we don't have this because we have the gel "case" on ours.
-Recharger ($34.99) - recharger system including AC adapter - we don't have this.. instead we go through quite a bit of batteries but $34.99 seemed too steep considering we can get batteries in bulk at Costco!
More LeapFrog Reviews:
LeapFrog Tag Reading System
LeapFrog My First LeapPad Learning System
LeapFrog ClickStart My First Computer
LittleTouch LeapPad Learning System
Leapster L-Max Handheld
LeapFrog Leapster Handheld
Leapster TV Learning System
Leapster Carrying Case
Leapster Recharging System
for more info: