Review: My Talking Tom
My Talking Tom is a long running series of virtual pet games that have inhabited a number of platforms, including Windows, iOS, and Android. This week has seen the release of the feisty feline for Windows Phone 8. How much fun is this freemium tale? Let's find out...
Version Reviewed: 22.214.171.124
As the game opens, the tom cat pops out of the box, and you are taken through the main areas in which you can interact with your cat. The four icons that represent food, play, sleep, and bladder functions are introduced one by one, before he settles down to sleep and you can name him.
Finishing this 'tutorial' advances you a level, and rewards you with some gold coins and new items for your cat. Your tom doesn't have to stay looking as he does when the game opens - each level you go up unlocks with some cosmetic items (such as different colours of fur, eyes, and body modifications) as well as wardrobe items to dress your tom cat.
These don't come free, levelling up only gives you the opportunity to buy these new toys. If you want them, then you'll have to spend gold coins to buy them.
As noted in the introduction, My Talking Tom is a freemium game. It stresses in the app listing that players can access all the levels in the game without buying any of the gold coins, although that option is available if you want to go crazy in the store and buy everything you can. The first items are a few hundred gold coins each, and the IAP costs go from 2,000 gold coins for 79p, up to 50,000 coins for £16.99. (A stupidly large level of 300,000 coins for £80.49 is also an option.) Any purchase will also remove the advertising from the game
Alternatively, you have some basic games in the app that can earn you 20 to 30 coins at a time through some whack a mole style tapping genres. This allows you to grind out some coins as you play along, but if you are playing the game in 'free' mode you're going to need to manage the coins you receive when you level up very carefully to get through all the levels.
My Talking Tom features fifty levels to achieve, which you do by playing and interacting with your tom cat to fill up the circular progress indicator to move up a level. This gives the game a sense of storyline. Knowing there are 50 levels means the game has an endpoint, which presents you with something to aim for. This is a far better option than an open ended freemium game where you need to find the drive in yourself.
Your tom cat doesn't sit idly by either. He will grow up as you work through the game, from kitten and toddler to sitting around on a cushion on his old age. This gives you another indication of progress as you spend time with the game.
This passage of time is important, because the tasks that you do are all very basic. You buy food to feed your cat (yes, that costs gold, but only a few coins, so grinding for food is a valid strategy), you take him to the toilet, you put him to bed, and you play games with him. You can also stroke and pet him through the touch screen, and call out to him, as the app utilises your phone's microphone.
The tom cat has a huge number of animations, which allow all of these actions to feel natural and not be hugely repetitive during the short gameplay sessions. Because My Talking Tom is not something you can sit down and play for an extended session - filling the four meters only takes a few minutes, and maybe a bit of game playing takes another few minutes,. After that, just leave the app and come back when you feel the need to play with your cat (or when the app patches into the alarm system and lets you know that your cat wants some attention).
While 'My Talking Tom' is a solid conversion to Windows Phone, it feels very much like a direct port from platform A to make sure it runs on platform B. There does not seem to have been any effort to exploit what makes Windows Phone different. The live tile is despondently static, there's no effort to work with the Windows Phone UI elements, and it all feels a bit disconnected from the handset.
Disconnected is a good word for My Talking Tom. The graphics are all very slick, but they're not enough to make me go 'aww', and the very short bursts of play are not enough to create a bond with the animated character on the screen. That's not to say there isn't something here for the younger gamer on Windows Phone, but there wasn't enough to get me hooked in.
Besides, the tom cat here is far too predictable and house trained compared to a real cat.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at