Want to turn your 3DS into a social device that allows you and your friends to exchange text messages and partake in voice chat while collaborating on doodles? That’s the experience that Chat-A-Lot advertises, and while it delivers in some regards, overall this simple application falls very flat.
Part of this is due to how limited the options are. Once you’ve gone through and added friends from your friends list (keep in mind that they must also own the game), there are two options to choose from: text exchanges or voice chat. We were only able to test the text session between two users (it’s said to support up to 10, total) and it functioned pretty well. When connected, friends have the option to post text messages, sketches, or emoticons to a feed that’s displayed between everyone in the group. Although the options are quite restricted overall, what is offered in the text session gets the job done. We can’t see anyone that has access to cell phones and/or tablets getting much use out of this mode, or the application in general, but it might be entertaining to younger 3DS owners.
Where the big issues come in, however, are with voice chat, which is occasionally very shoddy. Connecting to other users is a simple process that doesn’t take too much time, but unfortunately the core function of this mode doesn't always work as it should. Voice communications can be fuzzy and of extremely low quality, and we even had to deal with whirring feedback when our two 3DS units weren’t even in close proximity to one another – it got so bad at times that we couldn’t make out what the other person was saying. During voice sessions, there’s also a single sheet of paper on the touchscreen that anyone in the chat can draw on, simultaneously. This is a nice touch, although it doesn’t mean much when the main draw of this particular mode isn't cutting it. Voice chat is said to support up to four users, but we ran into major headaches with only two, so we can't imagine that it would run any better with the inclusion of two more friends.
There are other oversights and shortcomings, too: the UI uses images as icons without providing text to indicate what they are, the visual presentation is a tad cheap, and there’s sometimes an extremely annoying delay when drawing. Also, you must have an internet connection to utilize any aspect of the package — local play didn't seem to be an option. So at the end of the day, Chat-A-Lot is an application that offers two modes, and one of them is sometimes useless. Had there been better execution and more options included within, this might have made for a worthwhile tool for young children. Sadly, as it stands, this just isn't quite deserving of your money.
At its best, Chat-A-Lot is an average piece of software that might entertain some folks (we expect mostly kids) with its group text functionality. Unfortunately, the other half of what's on offer, the voice chat, often doesn't perform well enough to be worth the trouble of using it. In an age where the majority of us have regular access to electronic devices that handle these same tasks in a far better way, a 3DS application that's below par is a very tough sell.