Night Before Christmas Deluxe offers old-fashioned fun, maybe too old-fashioned

Spoiler alert! ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Deluxe allows parents to share one of the most cherished Christmas stories with their children even without being in the same room. It combines a narrator with a coloring book and hidden object puzzles to provide a perfect distraction for the young ones when you’re busy ordering their presents on line.

One of the benefits of being a modern parent is that you can totally ignore your children and feel no guilt at all.

You can be a bleeding heart liberal and convince yourself your child will get plenty of quality time later. Some day. After they’re married and bring the grandkids over so they can ignore them the same way you did while they tell you how it felt having you as an absentee parent.

Or you can be a bedrock conservative and convince yourself your child is learning self-reliance and independence. And when they grow older they’ll learn to steal money from your purse or desk to buy drugs and alcohol, forcing you to bail them out of jail, which, in turn, will be the training they need to become self-reliant adults who cheat on their taxes and complain about people who milk the system for food stamps and the few welfare benefits remaining.

The catch is, you have to find something to distract them so they think you’re pampering them rather than conveniently pushing them aside. A new X-Box 360 perhaps, or copies of the Little Mermaid and the Complete Die Hard Collection on blu-ray to watch on the HD television you bought for their bedrooms.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Deluxe would be the perfect gift to reward your child for their self-reliance and suffering. This small iPad app contains the complete narrative to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas as an audio file synched with each new picture page. In addition it rewards your child for cleverly finding hidden objects in the art work, and even doubles as a coloring book.

Yes, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas would be the perfect gift. In 1950. Sadly this is an era where mentioning Grand Theft Auto to your ten-year-old dates you immediately. “Oh, dad, no one plays that anymore. It’s, like, so the month before the week before yesterday.” It’s no longer enough for your kid to have an iPhone, they need a Droid in their other pocket.

Don’t blame your kids. You raised them in a world saturated with videos saturated with commercial tie-ins to games and music that are only designed to promote stuff your children will demand that you buy them, only to realize later that all that crap turned them into alien creatures you no longer recognize.

I would like to be more positive, but it’s true. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is an app that parents would think their kids will love because it’s actually quite thoughtful and brilliant. And if it had scenes where Santa slides down the chimney only to be attacked by his reindeer who have been turned to zombies by the poison milk and cookies left on the roof, kids probably would love it.

If kids could make Santa shoot down the reindeer with a machine gun and clean the mess up with magic goo, available at $5 for an additional 30 units, your kids would definitely love it. And if they could post their scores on Facebook, it would be a bonafide hit.

In short, they would probably prefer the iPad game Santa in the City where they have to collect letters with Santa’s 3D sleigh. As a parent, however, I want them to desire erudition and culture.

Unfortunately, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is an intelligent piece of craftsmanship designed for the kids you wished you had, that you actually believe your kids will still become when you’re working your way through your third bottle of wine and your blu ray plays the scene in It’s a Wonderful Life where that precious precocious cherub that your child will never be says, “Teacher says whenever a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”

That would be the moment to give ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to your children because by the time you wake up the next morning to work on your hangover you’ll probably have forgotten you gave it to them and your hopes and expectations won’t be dashed when you realize they’ll never play it.

Too bad, too. Because I really like this app. Kids can explore the story in three modes. In story mode they can listen to the story while they read the text in an unobtrusive dialogue box at the bottom of the page. The illustrations are black and white, but this is okay because they can add color in the other modes.

In story and puzzle mode your child has to find the hidden object while the narrator reads. When she finds the object she can drag a star over it and the picture will suddenly explode with pastel colors. The hidden objects are far more sophisticated than those in most iPad hidden object games. They are actually drawn into the image with the same pen strokes so that your child will have to refocus her eyes to spot the object of her search.

When your child finds the carefully drawn hidden object and drags the star over it, the image changes from black and white to color.

Click image to see full size

Finally your child can explore the images in coloring book mode. This is true coloring book mode too, not the usual iPad coloring book where children fill in space by touching with their finger. The brush tips are small too, so your child will need to apply his fine motor skills to really make the page look good.

The coloring book requires real coloring skills, not simple click on the number action.

Click image to see full size

This is probably my only real criticism of the app. The brush strokes are too fine for smaller children to master. I’ve been painting digitally for twenty years and I would have liked to see some larger brush sizes. Unfortunately, the more likely your child is to have reached an age where they can color successfully with those brushes, the less likely your child will be to still enjoy black and white coloring books.

There were several other Christmas coloring book apps that were exactly what you would expect on an iPad, mostly color by the numbers apps were you click on a color and fill in a space. But, in the end, I have to admit there’s something appealing about an app that requires a little effort.

I would love to give ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas highest marks. It’s a well-designed and well executed app. It doesn’t try to do too much and what it is designed to do works well. I just wish I believed we still lived in a culture where most kids would approach the app with the wonder and delight it deserves.

But I also wish I could be a lost boy running around with Peter Pan.


The second wish is far more likely to come true.

Jenny Manytoes rates ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Deluxe

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It’s a fine piece of work that waited a whole century for a medium that could do it justice. And, sadly, during that century children in general outgrew it.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 3 Stars - nap, Entertainment, Games, Seasonal and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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