A muddle indeed, this unstable and badly designed holiday minitale will spread more frustration than cheer.
In the nonsensical storyline, Santa has only just returned from his Christmas rounds when the head elf discovers that the pages of the toy-delivery list have been mixed up. Santa dispatches seven elf-driven sleighs to the various continents to make amends—leading to a simple matching game in which viewers can select only Europe, Australia or North America on a world map. The text differs slightly depending on the choice, but the quartet of child recipients (all white) and gifts to be dragged into place are the same for each. The app has a strong tendency to crash at various points or if paged too quickly—and there’s no thumbnail index, so the story has to be started from the beginning every time. Moreover, instructions for the first matching game (putting elves in their sleighs) sometimes appear a screen or two beyond the game itself, and bookmarked screens will sometimes flash past out of sequence. Children can opt for either silent reading mode or a dispirited audio narration; in either case, the rhymed text appears just one verse at a time and must be tapped for the next to show.
An assortment of tap-activated giggling elves, color changes and sound effects adorning the cartoon illustrations don’t compensate for fundamental flaws in execution. (iPad holiday app. 5-7)