LeapFrog LeapTV: Mr. Pencil Presents DoodleCraft

Game review by
Christy Matte, Common Sense Media
LeapFrog LeapTV: Mr. Pencil Presents DoodleCraft Game Poster Image
Creative, unique building play limited by imprecise tools.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn to express themselves creatively through the decoration and placement of buildings and other objects. They will need to listen carefully to instructions from the various townspeople to complete quests. They'll practice sorting and grouping items in a very physical way by using their arms (or feet or head or ... ) to touch correct items on-screen via the camera. While all this is going on, kids are forced to think about different communities, with the types of people and buildings they might find there. They might meet a firefighter who suggests placing one or more firehouses around town. Or they'll help get a museum ready to open. These concepts might need some reinforcement from family to fully sink in. Leapfrog LeapTV: Mr. Pencil Presents DoodleCraft offers a creative way for kids to explore their towns while having fun.

Positive Messages

Kids encouraged to build buildings to draw new citizens, help keep towns clean.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There aren't any major characters, but all the townspeople are friendly, polite.

Ease of Play

Simple game to play, navigate, but lack of control sensitivity makes it difficult to paint objects the way you would like.

Violence & Scariness
Language
Consumerism

Mr. Pencil, friends are part of a larger franchise of LeapFrog games, books.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that LeapFrog LeapTV: Mr. Pencil Presents DoodleCraft is a free-exploration game that asks kids to "design" buildings, trees, and other objects to help populate a town made of sketches. The game uses the standard controller to navigate and draw, although kids can use the light pointer for drawing as well. There are several motion/body control games, so there's a lot of switching between the controller and hands-free play. Kids can explore on their own, or they can do all the activities in multiplayer mode. Though there are some math-based learning activities, this is focused more on creativity. 

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What's it about?

Kids take on the role of building designer and community developer in LEAPFROG LEAPTV: MR. PENCIL PRESENTS DOODLECRAFT. They start by customizing their avatar's hair, skin, and clothes. After getting an introduction to using the drawing tools, kids work their way through five distinct neighborhoods where they will add trees, buildings, billboards, and other items they've decorated themselves. The townspeople also have quests to complete that kids can handle or are asked to help sort a set of items using their body as the controller. They're rewarded with new items, such as new colors to paint with, hats for their avatar, and patterns to use with certain painting tools. Kids can also unlock new painting tools and other neighborhoods after a certain number of quests are completed. For fun with a friend or parent, there's a multiplayer mode. All the activities (including painting and motion gaming) are done in pairs, so players will likely need to communicate with each other to create a cohesive design.

Is it any good?

Imagine getting the chance to design your own town, right down to the appearance of the buildings, but then having the drawing tools not quite sensitive enough to make your dream a reality. LeapFrog LeapTV: Mr. Pencil Presents DoodleCraft has so much promise. Finally, we see a game for younger kids where they can roam freely, take on quests, and create their own environments. Brilliant. But the lack of fine control inherent in the system and the clunky drawing tools keep things from becoming truly masterful. The first challenge comes from using the thumbstick or, far worse, the light pointer to draw on the screen. It's hard to be accurate, even for an adult. But it's also slow going when you're trying to fill in a large shape. There's no paint bucket for quick-filling areas with patterns, and it's a major flaw.

What kids will love are the tools that allow you to shake on glitter or paint splotches, as well as the tool that can rapid-fire all the stickers they've collected. If you don't have a budding Picasso on your hands, chances are they won't really care if their artwork is playfully abstract because it's still pretty cool to watch the virtual cardboard pieces with your designs origami-fold themselves into a building on-screen. And the motion games, though not all that accurate, are still fun. There's a sort of strange grown-up humor among the residents of this town, and much of their witty banter (such as the coffee shop owner who talks way too fast due too caffeine) and personae will be lost on little ones. It does make everything a bit more palatable for adults. The bottom line is that this creative title sneaks in some learning while doing plenty of entertaining. There's quite a bit to do, and kids can play on and on, removing, adding, or editing as they go. So long as they aren't looking to create the perfect piece of art in each drawing, this is bound to be a favorite title with a lot of replay value.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about communities. What types of buildings are in your community? Can you find them in the game?

  • Discuss sorting and grouping. How can you practice sorting with your clothes, toys, and snacks?

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love art

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