Developer: Shimon Young
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.3
App Reviewed on: iPad 3

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Storytelling/Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Intuitiveness Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

My PlayHome Stores is the much-awaited sequel to the popular app My PlayHome; a digital dollhouse app that allows children to interact with a play family within their house, including a vast amount of interactive options. My Playhouse Stores now allows this family a day of shopping as children can explore a variety of stores including clothing and ice cream shops, a smoothie shop, and a restaurant. These apps are lovely, simple, and sweet, bringing the creative play of a traditional dollhouse and other creative play to the iPad and iPhone, and as such bring an intuitiveness children will enjoy a great deal.

Fans of My PlayHouse as well as those new to this series will enjoy the many interactions as one places a character into these scenes. Do note that although the family from My PlayHome (a mom, dad and three kids) can be seen at the top right of the screen, one also has easy access to a large cast of characters that include men, women, and children of various races and backgrounds – a very nice touch.

ice creamIn the grocery area, characters can move a shopping cart around the page as taps and drags will fill the cart with any food or drinks one can pull off the shelves or retrieve from the frozen section. Feel free to feed characters foods before or after paying at the register. When ready, add groceries to the conveyer belt, swipe to scan items, and help pack items into paper bags. Children can be added to the shopping carts, the lights can be turned off, and items can be tossed in the trash or put back on the shelves as children see fit. Outside on the sidewalk connecting these shop two riding toys can be used by children – a moment that makes me smile as my son expects to have rides such as this when we go to the store as well.

The smoothie shop is a fun place where one can add fruits and vegetables to a blender to their heart’s content, complete with color-specific juice flowing from the machine and the ability to change the overall juice color found in the cup. Characters can also eat these healthy foods raw or buy produce by the pound by using the electronic scale, complete with a presumably accurate measurement of the items added.

Over-filled paper bags buckle under their contents and become too heavy to lift with a drag or be held up by a character, so children may need to split foods between a few bags – a detail which I appreciate. Fountain drinks and ice cream cones can be created next door, and children will have fun helping these characters share their desserts.

groceryThe clothing store is a boutique where children can re-arrange the clothing from being folded, to hanging, to their placement in the store. Do try on clothing, finding sizes to fit each character, with previous clothing now found on the floor in a pile to be re-hung or shared between others in the store as well.

For the most part this app is a quiet choice for children, including ambient sounds such as a motor from a drink machine found in the ice cream shop and gentle sound effects such as chewing or tossing empty cups in the garbage. I am not a fan, however, of the music heard in the boutique as this song is presumably hip-hop in nature and contains lyrics. True to this app’s intent, it makes me feel like I am shopping in a trendy boutique – honestly not a place I spend a lot of time in. Although there is nothing specifically wrong with the selection, I find this style of music out of place in an app for young children and would prefer music without lyrics that does not draw too much attention to itself. Luckily, one can silence the music with a tap of the speakers. Music complete with lyrics can also be heard in the smoothie shop, but with a more mellow tone. It is less of a concern and can also be turned off with a tap of the speakers as well.

smoothyI enjoy all the details one will find within these sections as well as those found on the sidewalk out front; such as the ATM that will give characters money which can then be given to a shop person but unfortunately cannot be placed in the cash register, which does open. Do note, however, that a piece of fruit weighs less if one begins to eat from it – a really charming detail that I greatly enjoy.

There is a fair amount of whimsy and fantasy included, such as being able to line stores with unlimited paper bags or placing multiple children in shopping carts at once. I also appreciate being able to take props from one scene to another and how the characters maintain the chosen clothing choices tried on in the store section into other sections of this app. I would have loved, however, to add fruit to top off my ice cream cone as well as to be able to stack more than four scoops of ice cream in a cone or make a float by adding ice cream to a cup half full of soda. I also find it to be a missed opportunity to dress the littlest characters from this app as baby clothing is not included, as well as characters being able to try on clothing too large or small for them to see if they would fit. Please understand that these issues stand out as my creativity is jogged by this app and in some ways are compliments rather than serious flaws compared to all that one can do within this application.

clothingI admire this series of apps as they give children a chance to have this kind of house, or store creative play when their family is on the go or before bedtime. The interactions are simple and relaxing, and this app would be a huge hit with families ambivalent about sharing their devices with children for fear it would be time somehow wasted on fast and flashy games or animation.

This gentle and subdued app may not be a hit with children jaded by or overly exposed to arcade-style antics, but it’s perfect for children who love to play house or store – a point of development I hope to keep my son involved in until he gradually outgrows such things, not be rushed by the loud sounds or flashing lights other games are known for.

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