By Ann Hunter on October 20, 2009
Last week, we were sent the latest innovative toy to hit shelves this year, Swinxs.
Swinxs is marketed as a “screen free game console” which is a bit hard to explain. Basically, it’s a green, tri-corner box that has a bunch of gizmos inside of it that guide kids to interact with it and each other. Up to 10 kids can play by wearing a wristband that contains an RFID chip.
When we first opened the box and fired up Swinxs for a quick round of play, we were admittedly unimpressed. We just didn’t get it. Yes, it was well constructed and simple, but we thought it was too simple.
How would kids know to tag back in when playing Hide and Seek if they are not told to do so? Do we hit the red button once or twice if wanting to play a new game? If our arrogant tech-savvy minds couldn’t figure it out, how could a kid, right?
When we unleashed seven kids ranging in age six to eleven on Swinxs, they didn’t miss a beat. Swinxs is made for kids and the game’s designers did something most adults do not – they trust in the intelligence of kids. Swinxs features a user interface that relies on several factors and it’s wildly intuitive.
The game console comes with several pre-loaded games ranging from musical chairs to fly swatting. Each game is unique and engages in different ranges of activity – from mildly sedentary charades to run into walls and flip over the coffee table dashes.
Swinxs can be as light-hearted or as hard-core as the children who are playing it want – and it doesn’t end there.
The Dutch inventors of Swinxs made the product a dream toy for geeks-with-kids across the world by allowing parents to port into the box and create their own games.
Make no mistake; there are no cartridges or games to buy with this game. Swinxs connects to PC’s via a USB cable (which also serves as the charger for the rechargeable batteries – that’s right no batteries to buy!), and upon connection will open up the Swinxs web site. From there, parents can pick and choose new games to add to the console or remove ones that are taking up space on Swinxs’ 1 gb solid-state drive.
The site also pulls scores off of the console that are related to the color-coded wristbands.
If parents want to take the Swinxs experience further for their kids, they can join the Swinxs developer community that uses “SwinxsTalk” to program new games.
The possibilities for game development are vast as coding parents can take advantage of the following gadgets that we found in Swinxs:
- RFID wristbands that act as proximity sensors. For instance, kids playing Dash would run out and then run back to Swinxs (when the console says so) and tag in by running their wrists a few inches over the green box.
- A piezoelectric accelerometer (a motion sensor) for games like Fly Swatter in which a child would slap a table that Swinxs is sitting on when the buzzing stops.
- Sound detection and sound recording.
Of the five senses, Swinxs is only missing out on smell and taste and it would probably be best if these Dutch innovators leave those two alone before getting carried away.
Swinxs works with PC’s just fine, and Mac connection software is in beta but available for download.
The box is large but light and can be easily carried around by young children – which is part of the game play.
The features we felt stood out were first, the three-button interface which includes a red button, a green button and a power/volume button. Also, the voice acting of Swinxs was engaging and amusing on top of being multilingual. Parents will also love that it runs for two hours on rechargeable batteries and can be played while charging. Hands down the top feature is its free expandability. New games can be downloaded to the console and if a parent wants more, they can create a game from scratch.
Swinxs hit U.S. shores just recently but has already won the Game of the Year Award from Creative Child Magazine. After taking a look at the product, and more importantly, watching children play with Swinxs, we agree 100% with Creative Child’s assessment.
The new console is available on Amazon for $150. While parents may cringe at the price tag, compare the ten-player, infinite-gamed Swinxs to the one-player Nintendo DSi at $170 sans games.
For parents who want more active children in a society dominated with screen-and-button distractions, Swinxs is a refreshing new creation and a fun “Must Have” item.