Sony Talkman

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Sony Talkman

Pros

  • Functional, Has some potential

Cons

  • Slow, Microphone performance, Sketchy voice recognition, Limited amount of responses

Bottom Line

Language students may find it helpful, but most holidaymakers will find that they are better off with that most old-fashioned of translators, a papery foreign language dictionary.

Would you buy this?

Ever been surrounded by people who couldn't speak a word of English, unable to get your message across? Now imagine, if you will, a videogame that could solve communication problems such as this and provide a little fun on the side. That is essentially what Sony's TalkMan promises - a new peripheral accessory for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). While it does work to some degree, there are a few notable flaws that mean this product isn't all it could be. With a packed-in microphone peripheral, TalkMan acts as a translator for English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. By saying what you need translated into the microphone, you can get an approximation of what you said in any of the available languages.

The microphone simply plugs into the bottom of your PSP and is fastened via a scrolling lock wheel. We felt its performance could have been better, as you need to speak fairly close to it for TalkMan to hear you. This isn't practical when you are on holidays, especially when you are in the middle of a noisy cafe or restaurant, for example. Purely as a game TalkMan is not particularly fun, and as a translator it is functional but flawed. The voice recognition is sketchy at best, and while it could conceivably help a truly clueless traveller out of a bind, the limited responses included in the system means that it won't actually help you converse with anyone. TalkMan merely allows you to ask them basic questions such as if you can use their toilet, or find out where your hotel is located.

The game features some popular scenarios and locations, such as the beach or a hotel and you can select phrases from each of these with help from the game's character, Max. You simply select a response from the menu and TalkMan will read this out loud for you. Alternatively, if one of the 3000 responses isn't what you're after, you can use voice recognition to see if TalkMan can understand what you are trying to say. This is achieved simply by holding down the square button and speaking closely into the microphone.

In addition to a translator, TalkMan also offers a game mode where you are able to learn basic discussion in each of the six languages. We found these largely hit and miss though, as your trusty friend Max's reports aren't always accurate. Particularly annoying was the tendency for TalkMan to vary his ratings - even when the phrase is spoken almost identically. TalkMan is also let down by sluggish load times and this detracts from the experience. Waiting for TalkMan to respond while you are struggling to converse with someone speaking a foreign language is a very frustrating process. Overall, while TalkMan has some potential, Sony hasn't quite hit the mark just yet. Unless you travel regularly and want the novelty value TalkMan offers, stick with a foreign language dictionary.

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