Judge Lacey Worrell is sorry to see Leap Frog's brand credibility take a leap backward with the release of this mediocre phonics DVD.
Our reviews of LeapFrog: Learning Set, Volume 2 (published December 5th, 2010), LeapFrog: Learn To Read At The Storybook Factory (published December 8th, 2005), Leap Frog: Math Circus (published January 21st, 2005), LeapFrog: Numberland (published February 26th, 2012), LeapFrog: Phonics Farm (published November 20th, 2011), LeapFrog: Sing and Learn with Us! (published September 4th, 2011), and LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory (published June 18th, 2009) are also available.
A wild word-building adventure!
Leap Frog: Talking Words Factory 2—Code Word Caper is marginally better than its math skills counterpart, Leap Frog: Math Circus. Please note that I used the word marginally.
Facts of the Case
Leap, Lily, and little Tad travel through Professor Quigley's Complex Word Complex. Along the way, they pick up a great deal of knowledge about phonics. Mr. Websley, the crotchety old duck who is always spoiling everyone's fun, loses his voice due to Professor Quigley's Silent E machine. Leap, Lily, and Tad must gather clues and information related to phonics in order to help Mr. Websley.
This DVD covers the different sounds of the letters of the alphabet, including information on long and short vowels, the purpose of the silent "e" (for example, turning the word "tap" into "tape"), and a review of consonant blends and vowel blends and the different sounds they make.
As any parent whose child owns a Leap Pad will tell you, the Leap Pad technology is amazing. Using a special pen and a paperback workbook, Leap Pads teach anything from phonics to math by encouraging children to play games based on favorite characters, such as Thomas the Tank Engine or Dora the Explorer, or on Leap Pad's signature character, Leap, who is featured in this DVD. Leap Pads are portable and emphasize the concept of learning through fun. If only this DVD were as full of quality as the Leap Pad itself.
Despite its relatively paltry 30-minute run time, kids' eyes may glaze over after only about 10 minutes. The problem is that this DVD fails to be compelling because of its very weak storyline. Kids are unlikely to care whether Mr. Websley gets his voice back, because he's not a very nice person to begin with. One less shrill character seems like a good idea in a DVD that lacks basic entertainment value. Kids on the older end of the recommended age range, ages five and six, may find this DVD to be too babyish.
There are some good things to be had here. The included game, where Tad encourages viewers to help get Mr. Websley's voice back by spelling words on the onscreen keyboard, is easy to operate and understand, and it is a nice reinforcement of the concepts presented during the story. The concepts that are introduced during the story are continually reinforced through discussion and song; repetition is obviously important to little ones, and here it is done in such a way that does not bog down the pace. If anything, viewers will be left with an appreciation for the fact that English is indeed a difficult language to learn, with all its rules and exceptions.
That said, the overall animation is unspectacular and fails to engage, and the voice acting is subpar. I learned far more as a kid watching The Electric Company and Schoolhouse Rock. Overall, the production appears to be an attempt to throw together a sloppy 30 minutes in order to capitalize on the Leap Frog name, which is usually synonymous with quality products. Despite the fact that a game is included, it would be difficult to convince a parent that it is worth spending money on a DVD that runs only 30 minutes.
Leap Frog: Talking Words Factory 2—Code Word Caper pales in comparison to the unique Leap Pad technology available in your local toy store. The latter is a far wiser investment of your money, and your kids are almost certainly guaranteed to learn more than they will watching this lame effort to teach them something. And who says that DVDs always need to teach, anyway? There is nothing wrong with those that entertain purely for the sake of entertainment. At least if the creators of this DVD had kept a better balance between teaching and entertaining, it might have made Leap Frog: Talking Words Factory 2 Code Word Caper worth watching. As it stands, it is only a mediocre way to pass 30 minutes.
Leap Frog: Talking Words Factory 2—Code Word Caper is a chink in the armor of the strong Leap Frog brand. Kids will probably learn more watching Sesame Street.
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