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Animated App Review: “The Winston Show”

Animated App Review: "The Winston Show"

In a world of seemingly endless point and click iPad fodder, Winston and his buddy Ellington are here to entertain you for hours on end with The Winston Show. You will not be crushing candy or slashing fruit with Winston. This is not your typical “talk to the funny cartoon character” type app, either. There are many apps where you are recorded, then your voice is played back at a higher or lower pitch, faking interactive dialog. Not here! The Winston Show delivers true interaction.

Users will be the guest star across five different activities, including things like Win with Winston, Fireside Chats, and dressing up in the Costume Department. Parents will get email updates from the app, including photos of their kids from the show.

Oren Jacob and the ToyTalk crew have gone above and beyond, creating something that feels like a real show. The voice recognition and reaction is something that just isn’t really happening in children’s entertainment software right now.

The writing team at ToyTalk is a big part of how this works. They write the show almost like a stage show, with each line of dialog being scripted. The only problem is that they don’t know for certain what the other character is going to say. Imagine a stage show where one character has a script, and the other is only improvising. That is exactly what’s happening here. The writing team can make educated guesses as to what the player might say, and write responses based on those answers. This is not done with Microsoft Word or something like that, but rather ToyTalk’s own proprietary writing software. The result is a huge sort of behavior tree, where one answer will lead to a certain set of responses from Winston, while a different answer from a player will yield a completely different reaction. Given the amount of content here (over six hours), I would venture to guess that no one will have the exact same experience with the Winston Show.

The animation and overall design of The Winston Show is very well done. It feels like a modern day Muppet Show, complete with wacky characters, obscure references, and corny mayhem when the show doesn’t quite go how Winston expected. The flow of the app and how it reacts to the user is impressive, but you as the user are the star of the show. The front facing camera of the iPad will focus in on your face, slightly adjusting if need be to keep you in the shot. This is perfect for little kids who may not always hold the iPad steady enough. There are more activities planned for the Winston Show. Look for those in the weeks and months to come.

The app is free, and comes with over six hours of content. The Winston Show is available now on the app store.

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