Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Third Rate Game Play: V-Smile Collection

Alphabet Park Adventure
Little Einsteins
The Backyardigans: Viking Voyage

Console: V.Smile V-Motion
Developer: VTech
Publisher: VTech
Player: Vinny Ucci
Experience: Blind


Let’s be honest here. To describe the history of VTech and its education systems might be pointless to the majority of this site’s readers. Not only that, the actual history of VTech-based products is pretty hard to come by, too. So, bear with me on this.

VTech is a Hong Kong-based company formed in 1976. Otherwise known as Video Technologies, this company developed a number of communications devices, including telephones, single-function computers, and most importantly to us, education entertainment hardware and software.

The V.Smile product line is not the first time VTech developed educational software. In 1988, the company released the VTech Socrates, which relied on infrared communication to controllers. Games used with this console included Facts 'N Fractions, State to State, and Amazing Mazes. Needless to say, many gamers are probably unaware of this console’s contents. Outside of this failed console, VTech continued developing computer devices until it would reemerge into traditional educational entertainment devices. That brings us to today.

Game Overview(s)

The V.Smile TV Learning System is a console focused specifically on children aged 3-7 with a focus on educational gaming, using franchises from a myriad of sources such as Nick Jr. and Disney. Since its debut in the mid-2000’s, V.Smile has been redesigned at least twice, adding microphone compatibility and changing the main controller to that of a tablet device. In 2008, a special edition was released which was translucent and came with a special edition version of Alphabet Park Adventure, which, oddly enough, happens to be the first game we played.

Alphabet Park Adventure stars a pair of siblings who go to visit their grandfather who happens to run the great Alphabet Park. Unfortunately, they find that the magical gears that run the park have gone missing in the attractions, and so the brother and sister go off to collect the gears and have some fun, at the same time! Players get to venture to a variety of attractions, collecting gears where they can while avoiding bugs and mechanical beings. The attractions all pull for learning the alphabet, whether it is to match a letter with a picture or select the next letter of the alphabet from a set. The game also features a singing mini-game which requires a microphone accessory. A special limited edition of the game was bundled with a version of the VSmile in which the main characters have been changed visually, but otherwise the game seems mostly the same.

Disney’s Little Einsteins is an edutainment series starring a group of children who go through a number of adventures while learning more about music. In this game, June spots a glass slipper through a telescope, and in an attempt to collect it, Leo and the gang join up in Rocket to fly and swim through the land and collect the slipper. Throughout the adventure, a classical song is featured in particular parts of the game for children to hear and appreciate along with the mini-games. Whether you are selecting the right tune from memory or collecting the right color and type of note in the sky, the experience is certainly a musical one.

Finally, Nickelodeon’s The Backyardigans: Viking Voyage is a game based on the children’s show’s episode of the same name. In Viking Voyage, Pablo, Uniqua, and Tyrone are Vikings off to collect treasure from a desert island, but as they progress, they face multiple challenges, including a very powerful mermaid, portrayed by Tasha the Hippo, and a number of traps throughout the jungle, sea, and pyramid. While it lacks the educational clout of the above games, it does have some lessons, including small pipe-based puzzles and mini-games focused on rhymes.


To date, VTech still produces new products for children, including the VReader, a tablet dedicated to touch-screen-based games and e-books for teaching literacy to children using franchise characters as well as original stories. As for the games’ franchises themselves, Alphabet Park Adventure has not received and sequel and most likely will remain a one-off game for V.Smile. While both shows still air on television, production of the programs have since ended. Little Einsteins ended its second and currently final season in 2009, while The Backyardigans’s series finale aired on October 2010. Merchandise is still sold for the shows, despite the end of their series’ runs.

Will we do another V.Smile-focused episode? Hard to say, as the children whose VSmile we played have since graduated more toward Wii Virtual Console and random XBLA titles in recent months. We still have more games from their V.Smile setup, though, so that can be anticipated. Also, Vinny is open for more episodes, but to date, this is his only appearance on 3RGP.

3RM Says: I'm not sure the controller is all too great, but it makes a good chair!

No comments:

Post a Comment