Talking Santa, a children’s entertainment app developed by international media company Outfit7 Limited, has over 10 million downloads on the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes with a rating of 4.1 aggregated from over 345,000 reviews. It is one of over 15 apps Outfit7 Limited has released, and though it is not related directly to the incredibly popular “Talking Tom” series, several of the talking cats do make appearances within. With a huge amount of downloads and rave reviews, it’s obvious that Talking Santa is a hit with its audience. Is the app deserving of its praise? In this review I give an overview of how the game works and discuss the positive and negative aspects of the game and its appropriateness for children.
As suggested by the title, In Talking Santa the player interacts with an animated Santa. There are multiple interactions available, the most interesting of which involve speaking into your device’s microphone and having Santa repeat your words. Outfit7 Limited has designed a relatively smart system that is pretty accurate in both recognizing that you’ve begun speaking and in repeating it back to you. Even as an adult I was entertained by making Talking Santa repeat my phrases.
Upon loading into the game you’re prompted to choose whether you would like to turn Child Mode on and to decide whether or not you’d like push notifications when there are updates to the app. You are then presented with the screen that you will interact from for the rest of the game, with Santa standing on a snowy background.
There are numerous interactions the player can trigger with Talking Santa. By simply talking into your phone, Santa will repeat your words. When you tap on Santa, he’ll react differently based upon where on his body you tap.
The middle two buttons at the bottom of the screen trigger multiple different scenes that end in a snapshot with a text box that the player can edit. You can then send your Christmas greetings to friends via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Messages. The player is also given the option to save the picture to their gallery. Parents worried about their children’s privacy can rest easy knowing that Talking Santa requires age confirmation before allowing players to use external messaging services from within the app.
The button at the bottom left of the screen allows the player to feed Santa milk and cookies. The Snow Ball button causes a large snowball to run Santa over. By clicking on Santa’s sack, players can receive a random gift.
The button at the top left of Talking Santa allows you to record your interactions with Santa. Tapping the button starts a recording which continues until you tap it again. Upon ending the recording, you’re given the same options available upon making a postcard in addition to being able to set the audio recording as your phone’s ringtone.
The button next to the recording button opens up a list of Webisodes based on Tom the Talking Cat and his friends. The online videos make up a kid-friendly series that accompanies the many apps published by Outfit7 Limited.
By pressing the info button, players can activate or deactivate Child mode, review a list of interactions, upgrade to the paid version of the app in order to eliminate banner ads, and visit the online shop where players can purchase Talking Tom merchandise.
The last button at the top right of the screen simply opens a selection of advertisements.
Child Safety Features
Talking Santa and the other apps by Outfit7 Limited are dedicated to protecting the privacy of youth and providing safe entertainment. Talking Santa is certified by PRIVO, an organization that evaluates media consumed by children. The seal from PRIVO recognizes that the game is COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection) compliant. In order to share any recordings made in Talking Santa, the player must enter their birthdate. This ensures that the young audience the game is intended for doesn’t give up any of their privacy.
Our In-Depth Review
Talking Santa, as mentioned above, is part of a larger family of similar apps – most of which revolve around Tom the Talking Cat. Tom the Talking Cat and his friends also star in online episodes that are entertaining and safe for children. Though designed with children in mind, the game can be amusing even for adults as Talking Santa repeats what you say.
Ultimately, the game sets out to provide fun and safe entertainment for children and I definitely think that it accomplishes that goal. The simple voice feature behind Talking Santa will entertain kids for a long while, not to mention the accompanying videos that provide hours of animated content.
Parents can also feel good about letting their children play Talking Santa as the game is COPPA compliant and has safeguards in place to protect their young audience.
One caveat I will mention is that one of the postcard features, when triggered, cause Santa to pull down his trousers and reveal polka-dotted boxers. It’s silly and in no way obscene, but I understand that some parents may find it objectionable so it’s worth noting.
Outfit7 Limited publishes many apps that are largely similar, and though Talking Santa is a decent game I don’t think it’s anywhere close to the best. In addition to this, Santa isn’t largely celebrated or mentioned outside of December so it’s possible the game could get old pretty quick.
I think Talking Santa is a pretty good choice to download for parents looking for free and easy entertainment for their kids, but there are better options easily accessible.
Artwork: Talking Santa has great graphics and animations. Unfortunately, the experience is lessened slightly by the obtrusive advertisements plastered across the top of the screen. These can be removed, however, by a one-time payment. Rating: 7/10
Music / Sound Effects: When you aren’t interacting at all the game is quiet. The sound effects are high quality, but Santa’s deep timbre can come across as menacing rather than endearing. Rating: 6/10
Story / Originality: There is no story in the app per se, but it’s easy to discover one and learn more about the characters by accessing the webisodes built into the game. There have been games before that respond intelligently to your input, but I haven’t seen one in a while that specifically caters to young children. Rating: 7/10
General Gameplay: As an adult, the gameplay got old relatively quickly. However, Talking Santa is intended for children and I know for sure that I would have enjoyed this as a kid. Rating: 7/10
Addictiveness: The game itself is not very addicting, but with its novel artificial intelligence and integration with the online series and music videos, I can see Talking Santa being a hit with its target audience. Rating: 5/10
Overall Rating: Talking Santa is a pretty unique game that has proven itself safe for young children by holding up to rigorous standards. The integrated videos give a backstory to the characters in the related series and increase the shelf-life of the game. However, there are other apps by Outfit7 Limited with a similar premise that are more entertaining. For parents looking for a safe game to keep their kids occupied, Talking Santa is a decent choice, but I’d definitely recommend also looking at Outfit7 Limited’s other offerings. Rating: 6/10