Educational Leapster Explorer Is a Gaming Handheld for the iPhone Generation
With a 320x240 resistive touchscreen, the Explorer hardly represents the latest and greatest, but the resistive technology is essential to some of the platform's features, including writing exercises that require the use of a stylus. Inside is a Linux-based OS with 3-D graphics and support for Flash Lite. (See, Apple, it's not so hard.) All of that should provide plenty of flexibility for game development. Playing games on the Leapster, including the pre-loaded virtual pet app, earns points that your child can then use to outfit a home, unlock games, and buy decorations and objects in the virtual 'LeapWorld.'
In addition to game cartridges, the Explorer can be loaded with "Leaplets," downloaded from the Leap Frog Connect store. Leaplets can be minigames, e-book versions of Tag content (which is particularly impressive) or educational videos from the Leap Frog DVD collection. All this content can be loaded on the Explorer for offline play, but, with the paltry 300 megabytes of internal storage, you'll have to swap out old content for the new quite frequently.
We got some hands-on time with the Leapster Explorer, and were generally pleased with the sturdy hardware, which felt like it would stand up to plenty of abuse from kids. The screen wasn't the most responsive we've used, but swiping from right to left to turn pages in the e-books worked just fine. We had a great time playing with the NFL-licensed math learning cartridge, as well.
The Leapster Explorer system's most interesting feature is the ability to track a child's progress across all games, and to adjust the difficulty and curriculum accordingly. That being the case, your child won't have his or her math progress reset when a program is mastered, as the information is stored in the system, not in the cartridge itself.
The Explorer will hit store shelves July 15th for $69.99 with 12 cartridge games and 18 Leaplets.