We - and more importantly our more youthful test subjects - like the Leapfrog apps and games. They’re colourful. They’re fun. They actively promote learning and creativity. Yet it has to be said that they don't have a lot of long-term depth. Younger children won't mind the lack of tasks or levels or the way they're repeated throughout a game, but older ones might hit the limits fairly soon. Meanwhile, eBooks just aren't as well-presented or interactive as many of the equivalents we're seeing on smartphones and tablets, and the preponderance of loud American voices is a constant irritant, if only to the parents.
Up to a point, none of these are major issues. These are cheaper and less capable devices than an iPad, Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7, and it’s a bit much to expect games with the depth of a Legend of Zelda or Pokemon. However, these eBooks, apps and games don't come cheap. While there are eBooks and apps available from £3.50, most of the eBooks and creativity apps sell for £5, and games come to between £5 and £20. When these titles compare to the kinds of smartphone and tablet apps that usually sell for well under a fiver, the pricing seems unnecessarily expensive. £3.50 for eight PoCoYo episodes also feels a little steep, and that’s one of the better value collections of video content we’ve found.
Our other big concern about the Leapster GS Explorer is its ongoing appeal. LeapFrog puts the age range at 4 to 9, but the apps and games – not to mention the educational content – seem skewed towards the younger end. We’d hesitate before buying the system for anyone aged eight or nine.
The key thing really is value. At the time of writing you can buy a Leapster GS Explorer at less than half the £65 RRP, at which price it’s a good buy for parents of young primary-age children looking for a means to keep them busy. It won’t cost you much for the system and a few apps or games, they’ll have fun, and they’ll be involved in activities that support their learning too. At nearer the RRP, however, the Leapster GS Explorer starts to look less inviting, and the price of games and apps is more likely to stick in your craw.
At the right price, the Leapster GS Explorer can be a good buy. It might not have a great screen, high specs or a half-decent camera, but it gives your kids a lot of fun things to do, and access to a library of entertaining, education-heavy apps. However, the appeal to older kids in the proposed 4 to 9 age range may be limited, and the games and apps are expensive and limited in long-term depth. You might want to think carefully before paying the £65 RRP.