Along with Originator and Sago Mini, Toca Boca is probably the most well-known maker of preschool apps. All of these companies make great apps, but Toca Life Town is probably my favorite so far. And that’s saying a lot. I (and my daughter) have looked at a lot of apps of all sorts. Finding something that really stands far above the rest has been pleasant surprise.
Toca Life Town is basically like playing with figurine play sets you’ll find in any toy store. There’s Little People, Calico Critters, and sets based on every children’s property you can imagine. One of the first things I bought for my daughter as soon as she could sit up and hold a figurine was a Sesame Street play set. I got a little obsessive over making sure she had all the characters, even the rare ones, and spent a good chunk of money on that stuff that I’ve seen her play with once in the past six months. (She’s my only child and I’m still learning.) But the point is you can end up spending a lot of money on play sets that have constraints based on the pieces included. That’s why Toca Life Town is so great. It’s like a giant play set for a really small price.
Toca Life Town
Toca Life Town is the first in what is looking to be a series of apps along a similar vein. There are six locations that you can visit and more than 20 different characters to play with. Two of the locations are houses. The small house is pretty messy and has two occupants when you enter it. Once you’re inside a house or other location, you can interact with just about anything in the environment. You can move things around, open and close appliance doors, and even have characters use the bathroom. You can make characters hold something and then take them somewhere. They’ll still be holding the thing when they arrive in the new place.
The other locations are a grocery store, a police station, a park, and a restaurant. Each location has neat little interactions specific to it. You can go swimming or have a picnic in the park. You can lock up criminals in the police station. And you can make and serve food in the restaurant. There are enough little interactions to keep you delighted for a long time. I even had a blast playing by myself (see the video above).
My favorite location is definitely the kitchen. There are recipes on the wall that show you what foods you can combine to make other foods. But after a little experimentation I found that there were other combinations that aren’t written out. I still haven’t had the chance to try out everything, but I’m not ashamed to say that I probably will.
Toca Life Town costs $2.99 on its own, but it can also be purchased as part of a bundle with Toca Life City for $3.99. I really can’t stress enough how great these apps are. (I’ll be featuring Toca Life City in the next column.) You get way more diversity of characters, locations, and interactions than you could ever get with physical play sets. Not to mention the much cheaper price and much less clutter in your house.