gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

V-Tech V.Smile V.Motion Unboxing And Brief Review

Just in case you haven’t noticed, I like to very randomly run off on Gadgetoid tangents, taking my coverage in directions I had not previously considered to test the waters and simply follow my whims and review what I, personally, want to look at.

As our daughter grows up and starts hijacking my laptop, with sometimes quite disastrous results, I have decided to re-try something I attempted to get into a couple of years ago: toy reviews.

To keep it topical, however, it really had to be technically orientated or “gadgetoid” toys. This was a pretty simple requirement to satisfy given the growing number of such toys in the market. The most obvious place to start, however, was with the recently launched V-Tech V.Smile V.Motion. That’s a lot of Vs!

The V.Smile V.Motion is a logical progression from the original V-Tech V.Smile, the “Motion” moniker comes from its adoption of technology which has been making waves in the casual games market since the introduction of the Nintendo Wii. Yup, motion detection!

Obviously the V.Motion isn’t quite as sophisticated as a Nintendo Wii, but that’s not the point. The object of the console is to make simple educational games easily accessible without necessitating a much more expensive, fragile and less child-friendly console or desktop PC.

Today the V.Motion arrived much to the delight of my daughter. Along with the V.Motion we received two separate games: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Thomas and Friends: Engines Working Together, and the game that comes boxed with the console itself: “ACTION MANIA”.

What follows is a brief un-boxing (apologies for the dodgy iPhone 3G photos) and a little commentary on my first impressions which are generally positive, but include some valid if not terribly important complaints.

The V.Smile V.Motion comes fairly economically boxed complete with 4 AA batteries (actually used to run the console) and 3 AAA batteries (for the controller), the controller, and a basic learning game entitled ACTION MANIA which isn’t actually as bad as it sounds.

The controller itself is wonderfully child friendly with, surprisingly, one of the best feeling analogue sticks I’ve ever touched and a lovely big single “Go” button for the simple games. Buttons get smaller toward the middle but don’t seem to be a problem for little fingers to press- quite the opposite really!

The controller also has a genius feature that lets you rotate the buttons in the middle to adjust the controller for left or right handed use. I’m a leftie, but have been using right handed controllers and a computer mouse in my right hand all my life so this isn’t so important. However, nurturing your child’s left-handedness is probably a good thing- we’re all geniuses, don’tchaknow!

You will notice a gap in the box in the photo above right, this looks like it would be just the right size and shape for a mains adaptor, but it seems V-Tech have neglected to include one no doubt to reduce the entry price for the console to the pretty good £49.99 which it can be snagged for.

All’s well, however, because it takes 4 AA batteries, an actually quite nifty feature which makes the V.Smile V.Motion that little bit more portable. The lack of a power adaptor will probably be lamented by anyone intending to make the V.Motion a permanent fixture of their living room or child’s bedroom but it could also be considered a safety feature otherwise (and a relief for me, because I’ve run completely out of available plug sockets).

The console itself is fairly robust, with a battery door on the bottom, various ports for accessories, the slot for cartridges and a very handy compartment in the top for storing the games. This compartment is essential due to the poor game packaging which I’ll cover in a moment.

Accessory ports consist of a USB port for the V-Link, a microphone input and a wired controller port.

The V.Motion uses a composite output, which is pretty much the worst possible picture connection next to RF you could ever expect. Fortunately the resulting image is pretty clear, although the graphics themselves are appropriately basic but quite endearing.

The door on top of the console, and the cartridges themselves are hard to open and remove respectively, this might seem like a design oversight at first but all parents should be intimately familiar with what happens to anything small that isn’t near nailed down. These things are resistive enough to keep younger hands from spiriting game cartridges away to exotic locations such as the bin, toilet or interior of the family dog.

Game packaging

What really irks me about the V.Smile V.Motion is the way the games are packaged. They come in laceration causing, hard plastic blister packaging the likes of which is typically used to prevent theft. Inside this impenetrable fortress of plastic doom comes another, vacuum moulded plastic clamshell into which the game itself fits, inside the clamshell are the instructions and other paper nonsense. The problem with this packaging is that it simply can’t be re-used, this is mitigated somewhat by the fact the V.Motion comes with a recess in the top which can hold up to 9 games but more environmentally and consumer friendly packaging would certainly be welcome.

Overall I’m very impressed with the V-Tech V.Smile V.Motion, I will be producing a full review soon including individual albeit short reviews of the games themselves which are fairly simple but certainly quite captivating. My daughter immediately recognized her favourite characters and would point to the game she wanted to “play.” Of course, at the moment her playing basically involves swinging the controller around frantically like your parents trying to play a Wii for the first time, but it’s still fun!

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009, Computer Gaming.