XINESS Games' Santa Factory isn't likely to inspire much confidence in players over the age of five. It's clearly aimed at very small children, featuring extremely simple platforming mechanics and some light edutainment elements after each level. That being said, it's not fair to write it off for its target demographic simply for being childlike, and there are some appealing aspects to the title that kids might enjoy. Unfortunately, these are held back by some truly grievous technical problems - wrenches in the works that make the game feel downright unfinished at times.

As previously mentioned, there are things to like about Santa Factory. The concept, while borrowing liberally from a number of other titles, is a good idea: to help elf Tonttu and reindeer Rudolf retrieve Santa's lost wishlists and presents, you can draw platforms on the GamePad. For every candy cane "magic wand" you collect in a given level, you're allowed to draw another short line that can be used to cross bottomless pits, get a boost to higher ground, and trigger switches. While a bit rough around the edges, this system works well enough that most players will be able to use it effectively with minimal effort.

There's also an edutainment element to the game; after collecting all the wish lists or presents in a given level, you must sort their contents. This is a simple matching game where you must match a word with the given picture; it's obviously not going to offer much of a challenge to older gamers, but it may be fun and educational for young children. Unfortunately, the text-to-speech voice that reads the words sometimes pronounces them incorrectly, which mars the learning potential a bit.

On the presentation side of things, as one might expect the visuals are very simple. With that said, they do have a soft, welcoming vibe that's likely to please the intended audience. This reviewer personally found the comic-style illustrations explaining the backstory of each level rather adorable, in spite of (and sometimes thanks to) the goofy translation errors in the characters' speech. The music, on the other hand, consists of an ear-obliterating loop about 30 seconds long - truly one of the most aggravating and obnoxious soundtracks to be found on the eShop.

Horrible music is, sadly, the least of Santa Factory's problems. Though the game might have been lighthearted fun under different circumstances, the launch build is plagued with all sorts of technical problems and programming oversights. Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle to enjoying it is the frequent freezing - it appears this is triggered by certain events not being accounted for in the code, and requires a hard reset of the console to fix. This can result in certain levels freezing every time you play them, unless of course you discover a way to bypass the janky portions - something the average player should not have to do.

Beyond that, there's a rather embarrassing flaw with the game's central conceit: though the idea of the game seems to be retrieving the wish lists and presents, completing a level even without a single one obtained makes no difference at all. Bypassing the collectibles entirely and reaching the goal flag will still allow you to sort the presents and earn a perfect score, an apparent oversight that makes some of the game's more interesting puzzles pointless. On top of that, there seem to be unused or misplaced elements hanging around in the levels - here are a just few mystifying examples of the wonders you'll find: switches that don't do anything at all, a level where a present is surrounded by an unbreakable wall, levers with a rock on one side that cannot be moved, and balloons that are supposed to lift your drawn lines out of the way but inconsistently function across levels.

Worst of all, there's even an unwinnable level that, in turn, makes the game impossible to beat. The lines you draw across the clouds in this stage fall ineffectually out of play, leaving you with the single option of quitting the game. That's not such a bad idea; this is really the final nail in the coffin of a sloppy experience, and it's downright inexcusable since even a simple test of the level would have revealed this problem.

Conclusion

It's not fair to knock a game for its target demographic, and to be fair, Santa Factory's ideas do have a degree of promise - it's not far-fetched to see this game being a decent piece of kids' entertainment under different circumstances. Under these circumstances, however, it's a slapdash, lazy mess full of programming oversights, glitches, unused artifacts, and an inexcusable tendency to frequently crash and require a hard reset of the system. It's a broken mess that feels downright unfinished, which is notable as it can't be finished with an unwinnable level in the mix.