How the Leapfrog LeapsterGS Works

Jonathan Strickland

Disney elements © 2012 Disney

I really got into video games when I was just a little kid. Back then, the most sophisticated handheld gaming systems used little dots to represent athletes in what was almost, but not quite, completely unlike an actual football game. The only lesson I learned from those gadgets was that a nine-volt battery could provide more than enough juice for me to lose interest before grasping the significance of an onside kick.

Today, the gaming landscape is very different. Leapfrog, a company that produces educational tech products for kids, caters to young gamers with the Leapster GS handheld gaming console. Designed for children aged four to nine years old, the Leapster GS is a platform for games that teach skills like reading and math as well as encourage kids to indulge in creativity and artistic expression.

The form factor is a familiar one. In the center is a 3.5-inch screen with a resistive-touch display. To the left of the screen is a D-pad controller. On the right is a pair of gaming buttons. Shoulder buttons mounted on the back of the device give players a few more control options. The Leapster GS also comes with a stylus, providing even more options for interactivity.

The screen's resolution is 320 x 240 -- not exactly high definition. But the Leapster GS also has an accelerometer, microphone and two-megapixel camera to round out its features. Four AA batteries provide power, though you can purchase an optional rechargeable battery pack if you prefer.

Running the whole show is a proprietary 550 MHz processor designed by Leapfrog. While it's not a particularly powerful processor it's more than enough to run games and apps smoothly. The Leapster GS also has two gigabytes of storage space. You can download content on a computer and transfer it to the system via a USB cable or you can purchase cartridges for the system. There are more than 300 games and apps already available and the Leapster GS is backwards compatible -- games made for previous Leapster devices will work on the GS.

Parents can track their kids' progress using the Leapfrog Learning Path. If a child is breezing through a game it might be time to up the ante and choose a more challenging title for the next round. The apps start at $5 and game cartridges are $24.99. The game system itself retails for around $70.

I'm pretty sure I would have gone bonkers over a gadget like this back when I was a kid. I have always had a huge love of both games and learning. And while the Leapster GS isn't nearly as sophisticated as some other game systems on the market, the fact that Leapfrog has designed the system as a platform for educational games makes it attractive for parents with young kids. Personally, I'm encouraged by products that connect the concepts of learning and fun.

Now, could someone please explain to me what an onside kick actually is?