A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that game is an educational handheld that can also be played using the TV screen. It's a competitor to the excellent Leapster and Leapster L-Max. Parents will want to evaluate the software available for both the Leapsters and the VSmile Pocket systems to determine which system is best for their kids. If you already own the VSmile TV Learning System and some of last year's smartridges, those same smartridges will play on this new handheld system.
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What's it about?
VTech's VSMILE POCKET LEARNING SYSTEM, which plays software called VSmile smartridges, works best for kids ages 5 to 8. It comes bundled with the Zayzoo My Alien Classmate smartridge. Kids join Zayzoo, a cute alien, in an adventure that consists of four solid educational activities with three levels of difficulty. The smartridge also offers three more arcade-type games separate from the adventure (use the \"Learning Zone\" button), but they aren't as good.
Is it any good?
The features of this handheld are impressive: The high-resolution screen (320 x 240 pixels) is easy to see, and the sound is good. The unit fits comfortably within a child's hand (it measures 7.5 by 5 inches), and the outsize controls can be adjusted to accommodate right- and left-handed kids. There are also four colored buttons for expanded educational opportunities, a "help" button, an exit button, and one that launches "Learning Zone ABC," a special play mode. The VSmile Pocket runs on four AA batteries, but an AC power adaptor is available separately.
Earlier smartridges were pretty mediocre. Zayzoo, however, provides a high-quality educational gaming experience for kids ages 5 to 8. Watch for reviews as new software titles for this system are released.
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