Developed by: WaiS Co.
Published by: Teyon
Release Date: November 20, 2014
Available on: Nintendo 3DS
Number of players: Up to ten
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Price: $7.99 on Nintendo's eShop
Thank you Teyon for sending us two review codes!
My husband and I were early adopters of the 3DS platform and enjoy using many of its features. When our children got 3DSes we all liked using Swapnote to send notes privately to each other. In October of 2013, Nintendo pulled the plug from Swapnote due to minors being subjected to inappropriate images being sent their way. Chat-A-Lot is a similar service that offers voice chat with up to four people or text chat with ten friends simultaneously.
There are a couple of measures in place to make sure that your child is not subjected to strangers online. Before Chat-A-lot can be launched, the child online privacy must be disabled in the parental controls. This process has to be initiated by a parent who verifies their identity and submits their information to Nintendo for approval. Once it gets approved, Nintendo will send back an unlock code. Because this is a manual process, it can take up to two or more days to get the code. After my first attempt was ignored, I had to resubmit and try again and I got my code the second time around.
Strong Points: Child safe chat software
Weak Points: Pricey; low quality voice communication; micro-transactions; sometimes won't let you exit to home screen
Moral Warnings: None as long kids don't draw anything naughty
When Chat-A-Lot launches for the first time, a parent is prompted to set a pin and given the option to restrict online features. Even with nothing disabled, Chat-A-Lot users can only add friends who own the software AND appear in their 3DS friends list. (Because of that limitation I needed the second review code to accurately review this application.)
Once you have added a friend or two you can call them or invite them to a group chat session. They have to be running the software as well to receive the call or respond to the invitation sent to them. Friend requests can be approved the next time they are online. If you regret a friend request, you can hide your online status from a user.
In the group chat room, people can text, post emoticons, share drawings or pictures. Even though I had pictures on my SD card, it would not let me share them for some reason. There's a decent variety of emoticons and avatars, but sadly there is an option to buy more in the near future. Parents make sure your credit card information is not stored on your child's 3DS!
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)
Game Score - 64%
Gameplay - 13/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 4/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 4/5
Morality Score - 100%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
Chat room history is not erased and it is possible to leave messages for users to read when they log back on. There was a chat room for messaging the developers, but they never replied to my messages. The Chat-A-Lot News room is dead too with no messages. Be careful what you say or draw since once it is sent, there is no way to delete it. Chat rooms cannot be deleted either, but they can be renamed.
The voice chat works a bit differently. It's mostly in real-time, but there is a slight delay and the sound quality isn't that great. My kids don't seem to mind though. Since we tested this locally, I'm not sure how much lag there is with long distance communication. In the voice chat room there is a group shared drawing board that is open to everyone. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how liberal the chat room members are with the eraser.
My kids seem to enjoy this program and as a parent I feel pretty confident that their privacy is protected. Since micro-transactions will be possible in the future I strongly discourage saving credit card information on your children's 3DSes. While not perfect or cheap, Chat-A-Lot is bound to entertain children for a little while.