LeapTV, a tiny game console for little kids, coming this fall for $149 with a bold controller (hands-on)

LeapFrog aims for the little-kid console market with LeapTV, adding motion controls and active gaming to its educationally-targeted entertainment philosophy. We got to try it out for a few minutes.

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Scott Stein/CNET
LeapFrog has tablets, kid's educational apps, and even a forthcoming fitness band. Now it has a TV-connected game console, too.

LeapTV is coming this holiday season, and it's a game console targeted at kids ages 3 to 7. It uses motion control. And it feels like a hybrid between a Wii and recent microconsoles like Amazon's Fire TV and PlayStation TV. I tried it out at a New York unveiling, pulling off a few dance moves.

The most innovative part of LeapTV is its transforming controller. One part Wii remote pointer and one part game controller, it folds up or spreads out to one of two different shapes. LeapTV also has a TV-connected camera, which tracks motion control of both the controllers and your actual body. Kids can play side-by-side simultaneously in a bunch of very Wii-, Kinect-, and PlayStation Move-reminiscent motion games.

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Scott Stein/CNET

LeapTV is its own platform, with its own games that come in cartridge or download form: $29.99 for a cartridge, between $5 and $15 for downloads. The $149.99 console comes with the system, a camera, and one controller: an extra controller costs $29.99. (UK and AU prices weren't available yet.) Nine titles will be available at launch, loosely targeted for "holiday 2014," with as many as 100 by the end of the year. Spider-Man, Barbie, and other familiar faces to LeapFrog tablet owners appear on the game boxes revealed so far. The console has an HDMI connection, 16GB of internal storage, and Wi-Fi.

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Motion-controlled gaming on LeapTV: kids can see their own faces. Scott Stein/CNET

Expect some educational games, some games that feel like simple tablet-style experiences, and some that are dance- and sports-based motion games. I danced and broke blocks in two different games, while the TV mirrored my body so I could know where to move next. The early builds of the games showed better graphics than the current Leap tablets, but nothing very fancy: it's really more similar to a tablet game experience on a TV than anything graphically earth-shattering.

The microconsole market could be exploding this fall: Amazon, Google, Sony, and probably Apple will have game-enabled low-cost TV-connected options out there. LeapFrog will try to be another. It could be brilliant timing...or it could find the holidays unexpectedly logjammed, too. At the very least, credit to LeapFrog for the clever controller, which might even be an improvement on the Wiimote as far as little kids go.

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About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

 

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