First off, many reviews said the toy FIJIT Friends Willa Interactive Toy
didn't respond properly until the batteries were replaced. It's hard to see, but this is written on one side of the box about the 5 installed AA batteries that come in the toy: "for safety purposes [the installed batteries] are for demonstration use only". I take that to mean they are not regular batteries and will, by design, discharge rapidly. This is to prevent the batteries leaking and damaging the battery box in the toy if it sits on the shelf for a time. That would also serve to prevent getting toxic stuff on little (or big) fingers. The toy did start malfunctioning after less than an hour of use with the original batteries. Replacing them made everything work perfectly again. With the original batteries, some of the actions like the dancing, didn't work and even though I knew the battery situation beforehand, I thought they'd last a bit longer than what they did so I initially thought the toy was defective.
Expect to change the batteries right off. Since it takes 5 batteries, a couple big AA battery 10 packs may well be worth adding to the toy when you purchase it. I haven't had it long enough to see how long battery life is. For the eco-aware, maybe rechargeables and a charger would be the way to go. Just get enough so one group can be charging while the others are installed. Expensive, yes, but probably the right thing to do.
I didn't find the toy excessively loud as some complaints about a lack of volume control implied. It may be distracting if you were watching TV and someone was sitting right next to you playing with it. But, in another room or any distance away and you aren't going to hear it unless you you are trying to listen for it and are just looking for nit-picks to dislike the toy. There are regulations in place that govern audio levels for most consumer products. Well, except for the double volume TV commercials far too many networks play even though that is against FCC rules.
Some things the toy says are very hard to understand at first. It speaks in a voice that mimics an auto-recorder- that device that adds an electronic almost robotic effect to voices that is popular among some recording artists. It took some time to figure out everything Willa was saying. The difficult to understand become clearer after careful listening. After you know what it says it gets easier to understand.
This was requested by an 11 year old girl for a birthdat present so I'll see how long it keeps the "cute and cool" factor going. I'll post back on any other developments.
After the toy was in use for a month it now sits on a shelf collecting dust. After all the jokes have been heard several dozen times, after all the other responses, comments, dances, and everything else the toy does was had been repeated so much there were no more surprises, the girl lost interest in this toy. It took slightly less than two weeks. It was a lot of fun when she first got it and she probably saw and heard everything it could do or say within the first couple days. Then there were a couple days of showing it off. Then it wasn't as much fun and I dare say she was even getting annoyed with it. Because it has a rubbery skin and you can feel the hard parts underneath it, it isn't a cuddly kind of toy where it's something a kid would carry around to snuggle with. It reminds me of the type of rubber skin that would be prone to dirt and grime from dirty fingers sticking ot. Instructions say it can be washed with a detergent-free moist cloth. The curly things pull off and there is an optional set of things that can replace them. They must be purchased and ordered spearately, of course. FIJIT Friends Willa Accessory Pack
When I told her that there are supposed to be downloads available at some point with new material, the girl sighed and said it would only end up being boring again after a short time. On that note, I haven't looked too closely but I don't know if there is a port or any connection point for a cable. Right now just how this update process works is still a mystery. There is nothing in any of the instructions or 'how to' sheets that shows much about it. The planned updates are mentioned, but that's the extent of it.
So far, I haven't been able to locate any update site but that doesn't mean there isn't one. I just haven't found it yet.
There was no problem with the toy responding as long as it was commanded with a normal, clear voice. Shreiking or yelling at it didn't cause any response or an incorrect one. As an adult, I did find some of its actions amusing and I did laugh out loud over some antics. I still never found it too loud. Again, it was a gift for an 11 year old girl. In terms of the content of the jokes and much of its other interaction I think from 9 up would be the appropriate ages for kids to 'get' the jokes. I think they may be a bit much for younger kids to understand but the rest of the actions are fairly younger kid safe. The dancing and rest would definitely be amusing to younger ones and probably the younger the recipient is, the longer before boredom with it sets in.
I asked the girl if after she had it for a month and had grown tired of it if knowing what it said and did if she would still want it again or gotten something else of equal monetary value. Without hesitation, she said "Something else."
Addition again: One person commented then deleted it but had a valid point. I did rate Willa with 4 stars, but because it was a neat concept and it certainly was amusing. But, the luster wore off very quickly. Despite having asked a dozen or more times for the recipient to bring it back so i could test the extras as i outlined in my follow up, but she's so disinterested in it that it's a forgotten item in her life all together. If she still does show up with it, I will follow through. Right now, her not even wanting to do that speaks volumes.