The V Smile Learning System is the answer to most parents' worries when it comes to video games. With as much learning potential as PC software or the LeapFrog LeapPad, it is nevertheless cool enough to pass the Kid test as it looks and feels (to a 3-year-old at least!) like a PlayStation.



The basic concept is the same as with licensed educational software: the games and activities included foster a number of pre-school skills, including basic maths skills, first language and phonics skills, motor skills and hand-to-eye co-ordination, discovery and exploration; as well as a number of early school skills: letter names and sounds, first science facts, word building and spelling. The pack includes the brightly coloured console; one joystick, which is innovatively designed to appeal to left- and right-handed users; and a Winnie the Pooh game. A mains lead is not included, but may prove a wise investment otherwise the popularity of the system may mean a significant investment in batteries.

The four-year-old who tested this product was instantly hooked: a veteran of pre-school PC software, she found the gameplay familiar and the graphics pleasing. She adapted to the joystick with ease and thought it was great that she was using a system that felt just like Daddy's PlayStation (though she was confused as to why a Spiderman game wasn't yet available!)

The manufacturers recommend the system for three to seven-year-olds, and while this tester has no doubt it will entertain, encourage and even educate the 3-5-year olds, I doubt many seven-year-olds would find this more appealing than a PlayStation or GameBoy, and they would certainly find much of the material too easy.

Verdict

The system will probably require more investment in new games to keep little ones interested in the long term, but as the appeal of the V Smile will last 2-3 years it is a sound investment at a reasonable price. Highly recommended.


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