When the Nintendo Wii hit the market in 2006 the idea of a family oriented gaming system that got everyone up and moving was hailed as revolutionary, visionary, and (yes) game-changing. Couch potatoes were suddenly jumping around in front of their tv playing video games while working up a sweat. Stories began to appear about weight loss and video gaming! Microsoft advanced the idea of a video game machine that could use a camera instead of a button festooned controller with the Kinect. Like 3D television, the novelty soon wore off, and active-motion game development dried up (with the exception of VR consoles like the Meta Quest).
So, while the idea behind "whole-body" video gaming encapsulated in the new Nex Playground video game console is not exactly new, it is refreshing to see it back in, ahem, "action". The colorful little box is considerably smaller than any of the major gaming platforms, a mere fraction of the size of the Wii. Along with the console you get a single cylindrical controller, power supply, and HDMI cable. The console comes with four family-friendly games. Ultimately there will be quarterly or annual plans that grant access to a library of content.
Setting up the console is easy. You plug in the power to the wall, HDMI to your TV, and then link it to your Wifi. After a short while the games download and you're ready to play. The instructions are minimal, and sometimes the screen prompts were insufficient. In several cases where it didn't give any instructions that it was waiting for our input the console just sat - leaving us to wonder if it was hung. It was really just waiting for us to click the controller. A simple press "next" instructions would have made things more clear.
The controller is not used in the included games; rather the built in camera identifies your hands, and takes its direction from there. However, it is worth nothing that the metal controller has a mini-joystick as well as two buttons, so it is easy to see that it might be used as an input device in other games. It is worth noting, therefore, that unlike the Wii which shipped with soft rubberized armor to protect against accidental smashes, the Nex Playground's controller, though cylindrical, still has a moderately sharp, if rounded edge at the top and bottom, and no rubber protection. In short, you wouldn't want to be hit on the head with it or have it fly off into the TV. To minimize the risk of the controller flying off at the tv or another player it does have a wrist strap.
The use of the controller is also inconsistent. Sometimes it is needed to move from game to game, but once you're in a game (at least those we tested) most things, but not all, can be done using hand gestures.
Nex addressed the privacy concerns of having a camera in the living room by attaching a lens cap to the power cord. Keep in mind that the system is always connected to the internet and does not seem to have an on-off switch. To turn it all the off you need to unplug it from the wall.
What really sets this console apart from all the others is its emphasis on "family friendly" titles. No shoot-em-ups, no scary titles. Whack-A-Mole is about as violent as it gets. There are single and two player games (like the Mario Party-esque "Party Fowl" that could fill many a cold winter nights with fun.) There is also, included, a dance program called Starri that everyone will enjoy.
The console's camera works reasonably well at discerning what a player is doing so long as there is enough light in the room and the player's clothing is sufficiently different from whatever is behind them. However, the camera sometimes seemed a bit sluggish in deciphering movement into in-game action.
There is probably a good window for this platform at the point your kids start pestering you for a console, but your not ready for them to go down that road. It might buy you some time, and simultaneously add to your child's physical exercise. However, once they start going over to a friend/s house and playing what the "cool kids" have, it might be too late to introduce this as an acceptable alternative. There is no Mario, no Pokemon, and no Zelda, and you're going to hear about it. You've been warned.
My mom never let us have a video game console in the house. She said it was something we could do at our friends, and in so doing, she limited the amount of time we could lose to the digital void. I have a similar arrangement with my grandkids - they come to my house to get a fix on video games, but it isn't part of their daily routine, at least for now.
My daughter will have fewer concerns about them playing on the Nex Playground when they come over. The content is kid-friendly, active, and magical enough to get them off the couch! That is a win-win!
(One short note: The Nex Playground is currently not available on Amazon, only the company website. Don't confuse it with similar sounding (but much older and unrelated gaming consoles like the "OUYA New Generation Nex Nintendo Nes Console" or others you'll find there or on Ebay.)