For ease of browsing, phrases are chopped into 28 situations (shopping, meeting people, skiing...) and if you can't be bothered speaking into the mic, you can browse the options from a set of sub-menus. It's supposed to be 'fun', too, so Max clinks glasses and winks and messes about on the golf course.
There are problems with this, of course. For a start, it isn't always clear what phrase is going to be where ('Can I have your phone number?', for instance, is under 'Meeting People', not 'Telephone') and you'll often have to flick between menus to carry a conversation.
Chunky loading pauses make this bad enough, but Max also insists on jamming in 'funny' asides whenever you change scenes (typical 'joke': 'Don't take me in the ocean - I'm afraid of sharks!' Ha ha ha!), meaning that you're going to have to pick somebody patient to chat up.
It also offers limited practise options, including pronunciation and listening tests - but this isn't really a serious study guide. For one thing, the phrases aren't direct translations but rough equivalents - the 'coffee' question actually translates as 'Shall we go for a tea or something?' - so you can't rely on slotting words into new sentences.
For another, although repeating a phrase/question will prompt Max to spell it out in Kanji or Korean, there's no way to see it in English letters. Though this is apparently deliberate, to encourage listening, it also means that you can't always be entirely sure how to pronounce what's being said.
Talkman's a bit more of a novelty than an invaluable new way to communicate. Though you really can't fault it value-for-money wise (it's only a shade more expensive than getting three phrasebooks), it's not practical.
If we were heading off for the World Cup we might invest - the Euro pack includes Japanese, French, Spanish, German and Italian - but we probably wouldn't take our precious PSP to a football match or nightclub any more than we'd wave it about in a dark alley trying to find the 'please don't mug me' button.
Still, it's an excellent excuse to finally use that fey-looking wrist strap you got with the value pack.
Import Talkman now, or wait until May 2006 for a UK release.