RockIt Twist, Rotatable Learning Game System
© 2019 LeapFrog
$60 plus $8/game pack
4GB Storage Space, Smart Toy
Teaches: Math, reading, logic, creativity, art, music, fine motor
Tagged for: Allsides10.21.19
This is a durable, sandwich sized, rotatable standalone game system. Content includes 12 pre-loaded games which provide playful exposure to early math, reading and logic skills. RockIt is ready to go right out of the box -- you don't even need AA batteries -- a first for this cat...
This is a durable, sandwich sized, rotatable standalone game system. Content includes 12 pre-loaded games which provide playful exposure to early math, reading and logic skills. RockIt is ready to go right out of the box -- you don't even need AA batteries -- a first for this category of devices. We were pleased to see the built-in rechargeable batteries, but be sure to retrieve the packaged USB cable as you will need it to charge the batteries, as well as to install additional content if you choose to purchase the $8 add-on game packs. Battery life is solid -- easily supporting our four hours of testing (or a long car ride) with no low battery warning. If more than one child wants to use the device, there are two available profiles to save game progress and custom art/music, with a third guest profile available for temporary play sessions with friends. The face of the device consists of eight tactile controls. There are clicking buttons, a swaying switch, swiping slider and spinning wheels surrounding the screen, enough to make a fidget cube blush. This isn’t only a fidget toy; the system makes use of every input method with its included set of games, often requiring the rotation of the RockIt for ease of access to controls -- thus the ‘Twist’ namesake. The device comes in two colors (green or purple), and there is a protective bumper that seems durable. The 12 included games succeed in presenting a blend of things to do -- many have three levels and rewards to earn, keeping things interesting over time. One favorite is “Bunny Bust Out” (found in the Playground Station) which tasks the player with a quick succession of micro-games, each no longer than 10 seconds, and uses many of the controls over a single session, an effective way to see what the RockIt can do. One of the main attractions of the RockIt Twist is the Pet Station. Greeting children with three colorful eggs, the mode begins with a quick hatching minigame to meet the new pet then opening to a variety of activities. These pets love attention and can be groomed, tickled and pat using different controls. After spending some time with it, a pet will evolve into an older form, rewarding good care. The Practice Station provides a few simple games and several flash cards with simple study topics, offering little interaction but a decent range of basic learning opportunities. The Maker Station consists of a pixel art editor and a DJ mode, each of which allow for saving a handful of art and audio files. There is a Sneak Peek Station whose sole purpose is to play an advertisement video for the aforementioned game packs, showcasing their added games and features. While in-app and product ads are a touchy subject, we found the RockIt handled this in a tasteful manner which avoids ever being intrusive or manipulative. The system never teases the game packs as 'locked' features that you are missing and need to buy, only showing their game categories once you've purchased and installed them. The Sneak Peek is exactly what it says it is, a preview of other attractions for the device. One thing our testers wish the RockIt would offer is a touch screen. While the screen space is small, some interface interactions we felt tripped up, specifically the directional pad is exclusive for opting 'yes' or 'no' when quitting a game, but allowing use of any applicable button with left/right input (most of them in fact) would be better, and simply tapping the desired option on-screen would be best, making it faster and easier for when the device is twisted in an awkward direction to reach for the directional pad. There are six additional game packs at the time of writing to be purchased separately either for $8 individually or in selected 2-packs for $15. Each game pack includes a small pet charm in a decorated egg container, but the real content of these packs comes from redeemable code cards which require a LeapFrog Parent account and some setup to install onto the RockIt Twist system using LeapFrog Connect. Once installed, these game packs add a new pet egg to hatch and raise, as well as a whole new Station to the main menu. Penelope Penguin: Pet Detective, one of the game packs we received, has an expansive campaign’s worth of investigative adventures. Between new pets and sizable gameplay additions, there are enough features in these packs to add a worthwhile expansion to your child's RockIt Twist experience. Know that a parent will need to commit several minutes to redeem and install a game pack onto the handheld with the appropriate software and account access. Thankfully this is the most challenging part of using the RockIt Twist, and the system itself requires no other setup, internet connection or other hubbub. 4GB of storage space come with the device, which is more than you will need. This space is used to install game pack data and to import your own MP3s from a computer to play from the system’s Music category, which comes preloaded with a few of its own songs but hosts your own just as well. So far as we know, this space cannot be used for anything else. However, for long car trips it can serve as a great MP3 player, sporting a headphone jack (headphones sold separately) and volume controls, so no worries about high volume or constant sound effects becoming grating. One knock against this otherwise handy feature: There is no good way to navigate the song library other than scrolling one song at a time. With the extra storage space you could add hundreds of songs easily, but the lack of a search function renders this impractical. Adding just your child's favorite album or playlist to scroll through is the sweet spot here, enough to scroll through and enjoy, but not too much that you'll never find that one song you want to hear. Sound quality is fairly good, so if your child likes to rock out, the RockIt Twist is happy to accommodate whatever they listen to. While the twisting feature provides great design opportunities, chances are it will confuse and frustrate children over time, as it will often require twisting the orientation of the device for mini-games without prior warning until the new game screen loads in. These changes make spatial sense in context, but there’s a moment of delay between seeing it and correcting the rotation, sometimes many times in a row. These moments would benefit from a ‘Twist’ indication during loading times, showing the right direction to hold the device as a game loads so there are less cases of stumbling onto a disorienting sideways or even upside-down screen. There were also some small instances during our testing of unresponsive controls, in particular once during the Nom-Nom game when changing directions using the directional pad, and on several occasions we had difficulty getting the orange swipe pad to respond for actions that required a degree of timing. On the other hand, even with the system’s bevy of buttons, it does a fantastic job clueing in children when to use what. Each control is equipped with colored lights which help guide them on what controls work for the current game. Alongside such helpful visual guides are female and male announcers who provide explanation for every menu screen and game objective, well-intentioned but occasionally to a point of dissonance. Many of these messages can thankfully be skipped or interrupted, so children have some control if they lose patience with these encouraging chatterboxes. The RockIt Twist is a big step forward for this type of handheld, its strong features certainly outweighed our critiques and we hope to see LeapFrog continue innovating their products further in this direction.