App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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As readers may know, the Dr. Panda series of apps gives children many different opportunities to role-play as they play mini-games based on working in a hospital, restaurant, airport, beauty salon, and many other venues. TribePlay recently released a new app, Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars - a departure from their previous format, creating an app for open-ended exploration. Here, children choose between summer and winter landscapes and can drag eight different cars around the town, each complete with many road layouts. These areas also include Dr. Panda-styled homes and other buildings that one would expect to find like police and gas stations, hospital, and factory.
The simple gameplay reminds me of the townscape area rug my son had once, allowing him to drive his cars over roads that connected the included buildings and dwellings. Like the experience we often had kneeling on the floor pushing toy cars around, there are no rules within Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars, and multiple children and their families are welcome to all play at once.
I have to be honest about my six year old son not declaring this app as a favorite as he now gravitates towards more sophisticated building apps. Likewise, the rug we used to play with was one day washed and for no specific reason was not put back down in my boy's cluttered room as he now prefers to build his own track rather than simply driving over something so simplistic. Similarly, I think Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars would be a hit for the preschool and toddler crowd, allowing parents to build language as they talk about the cars or boats they may be driving and making up stories of the errands they may be running.
There are many small interactive details to be found that add richness to this experience, including car-specific sound effect such as a simple horn or a siren. I love the simple goals found within as a fire may need to be put out by the fire truck, a burglar may need to be brought in by the police, or the monkey character may fall off her bike and be in need of the ambulance to take her to the hospital. The pig driving the truck may ask for boxes, but I do wish that he had a request for where he wanted the cargo to be brought.
It would also be be nice if all of these characters had agendas to fulfill as these moments add something quite special to this application. I do love to watch the animations of the vehicle workers - be it firefighters or paramedics as they get out and complete their job. I would love to see more scenes like these. It would also be nice to be able to pick up an animal resident to bring it to another area of the neighborhood, possibly asking for a ride to a specific building via speak bubble.
A universal app, Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars will be a nice distraction when playing with arms full of toy cars is less than ideal, such as in bed before sleep, while traveling, or simply out and about. Although older kids may not be as drawn to this app as others, the youngest drivers will be happy to take Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars for a spin.