The LeapTV console will cost £120 when it launches in the UK on October 15th, and will include a single controller and an Xbox Kinect-style camera. It will be available for pre-order from 4th September.
LeapFrog LeapTV: how it works
The motion-sensing camera means that a child can control a game with his or her whole body, meaning they're active while they're playing unlike when they use a tablet. The controller has been developed especially for smaller hands – it's for 3-8 year olds – and has a clever rotating design that means it can convert into a wand or pointer depending on the game.
In the LeapTV box is a camera mount, HDMI cable and a wrist strap for the controller. The console has built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to the internet and 16GB of storage.
We tested out a few of the games which are currently in beta but will be available at launch, including LeapFrog Dance Party. This is one of the titles which uses the camera. First, the camera needs to be angled so the child can get into the frame shown on screen and once recognised, the game starts. The child can see themselves on screen, and can copy the dance moves of the animated characters at the bottom of the screen. In this game, up to four kids can dance at once.
Another game we tested - Disney Sofia the First - involved using the controller in pointer mode. A built-in accelerometer allows it to work like a Nintendo Wii controller for selecting options on screen: moving the controller moves the pointer on screen accordingly.
In the game, you hold the controller like a steering wheel and turn it to move the character left or right, and when Minimus the flying horse gets tired, you have to shake the controller up and down to revive him. The educational thread runs through most games, so in Sofia for example, you fly along collecting letters but avoiding numbers (voice instructions explain what to do before you start).
All games have simple interfaces and use voice instructions, so even if kids can't read, they should be able to navigate menus and play the games without adult help.
Graphics quality is pretty basic, but performance seemed to be good and we can imagine kids won't complain.
The main complaint is likely to come from parents, who may balk at the relatively high cost of the console, considering it comes with just one game: Pet Play World.
Eight cartridge-based games will be available at launch, costing £24.99 each:
• LeapFrog Kart Racing: Supercharged!
• Nickelodeon Bubble Guppies
• Disney Pixar Pixar Pals
• LeapFrog Sports! Learning Game
• Ultimate Spider-Man: Sinister Six Showdown!
• Disney Sofia the First: Sofia's Picnic Games
• LeapFrog Dance Party!
• Disney Jake and the Never Land Pirates Learning Game
In total there will be over 100 games and apps available at launch, including online downloads from £3.50. The content will be new and not taken from the existing pool of LeapPad games, but if you've bought video on other LeapFrog devices, this will be available to watch on LeapTV too. There will be both single- and multiplayer games available.
We spoke to LeapFrog CEO, John Barbour, about the new console. "The essence of LeapTV is creating fun experiences. There's nothing out there really that involves education; if you look on Amazon.com, there are only 17 suitable games [under the Early Childhood rating scheme], and none have learning in them," he told PC Advisor.
"For LeapTV, we started with a blank sheet of paper rather than taking something that already existed. We were looking for new ways to entertain and educate kids. Younger children wanted games that were appropriate and easy to play. With the LeapTV they can play straight out of the box. It's super safe and learning is built in."
We'll bring you full reviews of the LeapTV, LeapBand and new LeapPad tablets shortly.