We found the initial set-up to be relatively easy: install the four required AA batteries, and navigate through the self-explanatory screens to create user profiles for up to 3 children (which come in handy for accessing online features). After this quick set-up, a menu screen will appear, where you can choose to play the pre-loaded games, go online, or insert a game cartridge.
Fun and Learning
Leapster 2 games are designed to grow with your child ages 4 through 8. The console is pre-loaded with two games: The "Dragons to the Rescue! Learning Game," is a "video game" type activity with four different levels, the first helping kids identify letters and numbers, the most advanced giving them spelling and multiplication practice, all while navigating a dragon past monstrous storm clouds and scrambling to collect magic crystals. The "Creativity Castle Art Studio" is a rather low-tech art program. Players can select a background scene to "color" using the stylus and "decorate" with fun animated stamps. While it does foster creativity, this program is somewhat clumsy -- your Paint program on your PC does a much better job. But "Dragons" was fun enough to keep even an adult tester enjoyably diverted.
Unfortunately, an SD card is required for taking advantage of much of what the Leapster 2 has to offer -- which is a drawback, because it must be purchased separately. Without the SD card, which offers more memory, you cannot save artwork, download new games, or take advantage of the online "Learning Path," which will be available August 2008. (This online program allows you to register and upload your children's Leapster 2 profiles to show you their learning activities and their progress.)
In the meantime, without the SD card, you can still purchase game cartridges. And you still can plug your console -- with the included USB cable -- into your PC for your children to view and print "rewards" for completing different game levels (for Dragons to the Rescue, they're certificates of achievement) or to print pictures to color with actual crayons (to encourage some "old-fashioned" creativity!) You must first install the Leapster 2 software on your computer, which comes on the included CD-ROM.
What's in the Box
Leapster 2 Game System, USB cable, CD-ROM