Unless you’re a staunch advocate for your kids having zero screen time, at some point you’re going to distract them with a mobile device. But instead of putting your expensive, fragile smartphone in their hands, LeapFrog’s new RockIt Twist is like a baby’s first Game Boy that makes gaming more accessible with a bunch of kid-friendly controls like wheels, dials, switches, buttons, and sliders.
Even though the included roster of games is definitely geared towards kids as young as four-years-old, there’s something about the RockIt Twist!’s gratuitous use of physical controls that appeals to me and my disdain for touchscreen controls. I want buttons — lots of them — and I want my kids to grow up with an appreciation for buttons and physical controllers as well. If it serves to improve their hand-eye coordination in the process, then all the better.
Coming from a company that’s focused on edutainment, LeapFrog has geared the RockIt Twist!’s games towards learning, with titles that help teach maths, problem-solving, reading, and science. But instead of using high scores or new levels to encourage kids to keep playing, the handheld also includes a collection of virtual pets that grow as kids work through the challenges. You’ll probably still feel guilty about letting your kid stare at a screen while you take a breather for 20 minutes, but slightly less so because they might learn something in the process.
Like the Game Boy, the RockIt Twist!’s games roster can be expanded, but instead of cartridges, the expansion packs come with a code to download new titles directly onto the handheld. It makes sharing games with friends impossible, but kids also don’t need a carrying case to haul their entire collection around, which is a part of my childhood I’m happy to leave behind. Pricing for the RockIt Twist! hasn’t been revealed just yet, but when it’s available sometime this Spring, it will undoubtedly be much cheaper than your smartphone, tablet, or original Game Boy that would cost a small fortune to replace now.