VSmile Pocket Learning System is the newest product from VTech, the maker of last year’s VSmile TV Learning System. Both VSmile systems play the same software—the VSmile smartridges. By the end of 2005, there will be 25 smartridges available.
The VSmile Pocket, which works best for kids ages 5-8, comes with its own cable to plug the system into a television, but it can also be played untethered as a handheld.
The features of this new 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 outsized 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, plus one that launches “Learning Zone ABC,” a special play mode. The VSmile Pocket runs on 4 AA batteries, but an AC power adaptor is available separately.
The VSmile Pocket 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.
Since VSmile Pocket is a kid-friendly gaming platform, the true test of its worth is how good is its software? Some of last year’s smartridges, like Alphabet Park Adventure and Winnie the Pooh: The Honey Hunt, were pretty mediocre, and they were marketed to children too young to handle the gaming required. Zayzoo, however, provides a high-quality educational gaming experience for kids ages 5-8. Watch for reviews as new software titles for this system are released.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.