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There seems to be many variations of this toy as they have upgraded over the years like all consoles do ours is the vsmile that has the joystick with the stylus included with it. We paid around £20 for this at Argos but that was a sale price and these can retail to anything up to £50 so do shop around.
The console and setting it up
The console itself is pretty basic it is made of plastic and is rather chunky and reminds me a little of the old Nintendo consoles. It operates with cartridges you receive one with the console when you purchase it and others are available to purchase separately. You can purchase this in different colours we have the blue one as my son was the one who received it but it also comes in orange and pink so a colour for anyone.On top of the console there is a storage section for games that simply lifts up and down I think this is great as with all the toys and games my son has it means we can keep them in one place we have 4 games for this console and they fit in there easily and there is even room for a couple more.
To set it up it is simple there is a scart lead option and a video audio cable option which is the one we use so it is just plugging the three coloured wires in to the TV and it is ready to go then you just put the cartridge in the console and push the on button and it magically appears on the TV.There is also the option for two controllers though only one is provided you can purchase one separately and some of the games have a two player option so your children can play together.
Well the games all vary but all has the same concept they use your child’s favourite characters and settings and you can choose one of two options learning mode or just normal action mode.Learning mode as it suggests has games to play like help Thomas sort through puzzles and challenges like sorting items for a delivery choosing the correct shape for Thomas to move forward on the track. All the different puzzles help teach children shapes, colours numbers and lots of other skills while still making it fun and like a video game. Action mode still brings in some of these features although it is a lot more of a video game and there is not as many challenges for little one to get through and is more simple fun of controlling Thomas in games.
The joystick has 4 different coloured buttons which are used in the game the child is asked to pick the correct corresponding colour for the correct puzzle piece or object for Thomas to move forward. The joystick controls which way the characters move in the game and on the whole it works very well sometimes it can send the character the wrong way or stick for a second but mostly the console responds very well to the way the controller is being moved. There is also a small area for little one to draw or write letters when asked to as part of the game and again this responds fairly well and encourages little ones to begin writing letters and numbers.There is a wide range of activities for the child to use and it is all done in a simple yet engaging way giving them choice of how they would like to play so keeping the whole experience interesting for them no matter how many times they have played.All the characters from your child’s favourite show is used and the whole set out is fairly easy to use on most games although some are a little confusing sometimes for little one as they say practise makes perfect and they will soon be able to use all the features.
There are a range of game you can purchase for this console and they all retail at around £9.99 although again do shop around as they are often on special offer and a lot cheaper. There are a wide range of characters available from Thomas to Scooby doo to Dora so you will be able to find a game to suit your little one and the console itself can be purchased with a choice of a free game to suit the child that will be using it.You can also buy games depending on the age range so some of the games are aimed at the lower age range of 3-5 years and others are aimed at a higher age range of 5 -7 so the console can grow with your child and they have more challenging games on it. The instructions do have text on the screen but they are all spoken too so that little one can follow the game easily while seeing the words being spoken to them again helping with letter recognition.
The console takes C batteries and you need 3 C batteries which do run out rather quickly and as they are not provided with the system you will need to have them ready before you can use the console. After searching the internet we found vetch do sell a charger for this console it is a 9 volt charger that can power a lot of the v tech consoles and costs around £9 and I would recommend purchasing this as it will stop the cost creeping up from using batteries. We were a little disappointed that this was not included as there is no mention of it when you purchase the console it is just another way to squeeze a little bit extra out of parents after paying for the console itself.
The graphics are really basic on this console the characters do look true to the TV programs and books they are based on but the whole set up of the game is a little grainy and basic. The voices are clear and although the voices are often out of synch with the mouths on the games my children do not seem to mind. It still provides a fun video game feel for them and all the backgrounds and characters used are easily recognisable to children and it makes them happy so that is all that matters.All the games and scenes are bright in colour and really attract little one to the game and keep them engaged and focused on the task in hand they use the characters well for example Thomas has to make deliveries to different places and Dora has to sort animals in to different sizes so they stay true to the sort of activities they would be doing in their TV programs and books.
Ease of use
The cartridges are a little hard to get in and out of the console and this really is a job for mummy or daddy and as we need to set it up to the TV for my son anyway this really is not a problem.At first my son found it a little difficult to use not because of the joy pad or controls but because of the way the menus are set out on the screen it can be a little daunting for little one but after a few times of using this console he is now a pro and can use it better than mummy.Instructions are all spoken to little one or have clear illustrations so they can understand what they need to do which I thought was great as this is recommended from 3 years plus and children are not reading at this stage I have found other consoles aimed at children tend to use a lot of text which can be frustrating for a child as they wish to use it independently rather than having mummy have to tell them what they need to do.
The joystick is very easy to use although there are 3 different ways it can be used, the coloured buttons the stylus and the joystick it is all set out clearly and simply so your child knows exactly what each part is for. There is also a large enter button, a pause button and a exit button so your child can be in control at all times.It is a good size to hold in little ones hands meaning they can move between all the features easily and it is still comfortable to hold and use while playing the game.
My son loves this console and although of late he has become a little bored with it and moved on to his Storio he has had this for around 2 years so it got a fair amount of use out of it. My daughter now uses it and it still works perfectly she loves it just as much as my son does and I can see some improvement with her writing and letter recognition already.
From a parents point of view although it is not great for children to sit on a console for great amount of times when limited this can be a really handy tool in encouraging them to learn a wide range of things. It encourages little one to recognise and use letters, numbers, shapes, colours while using their brains to solve problems yet still provides a fun experience for them along the way.
It has already lasted nearly two years and although sometimes the game can stick and we have to reset the console this only happens very rarely and overall it still performs very well. Different games can be used to suit different children and in the games are different settings so they can be less challenging for beginners and more challenging for older children.
I would recommend this console to anyone the age recommendation from 3 plus is perfect as this is when I found my children were able to operate it correctly and take part in the puzzles and challenges created on the games.