Toca Robot Lab Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 25th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Toca Boca Robot Lab is the new and original universal app and “digital toy” that kids of all ages as well as parents will enjoy.

This new Toca Boca app allows players to create their own robot from a series of creative and interesting scrap pieces or metal and other industrial materials. Although many pieces are ultimately available to choose from, kids will have a choice of three head, body, and leg selections each session, as well as left and right arms, mixing or matching, or however the player chooses.

I really enjoy that the robot lab building area takes place in a corrugated box, and that the robot pieces to choose from are recycled bits from other machines that adults will be familiar with, such as old radios, coffee machines, sinks, the electronic eye from a surveillance camera or incandescent bulb, giving the players a way of viewing these bits of scrap in a new way, transforming them into pieces of a new robot.

These pieces are nicely distressed with rust and dirt, and it is great fun to see and hear these pieces being soldered together after a chosen part is dragged into the outline found in the box above the parts conveyer belt. The building of these robots could not be more intuitive, and my son simply adores creating his robot, as well as watching it come to life as some of these heads will become mildly animated, with blinking eyes lighting up or talking - one of my son's favorite parts.

After the robot is created, test-fly the robot to the magnet, which will deliver the robot to another area where one will receive the test report. Arrows will show the player in which direction to fly to find the magnet, but take some time to experience the testing area before moving on. Three stars are hidden among each maze-like area; gather these stars to later add them to the report.

An excellent physics engine is incorporated here as the robot has the chance to interact with many blocks, balls, and beams that fall to the bottom of the screen if knocked over as if gravity is in effect. I love the bouncing balls and the longer plank pieces that can pivot before falling off the edges of the maze-like structures found in this area, a colorful and stylized testing center made up of the wonderful textures of more corrugated cardboard and other materials. Engaging and cheerful colors nicely contrast with the industrial feel of chains and rusty gear details also found, much to the joy of steam punk fans. Interesting shadows are also cast onto this area, creating a feeling of a much larger warehouse space. Music is also included that fits this robot theme very well and is nice to listen to.

I thoroughly enjoy moving my robot around with the touch of a finger without effort, watching as his rocket feet propel him where my finger directs, also witnessing him plummet when a finger is removed - something that gives me an excited queasy feeling as I watch him drop from what would be a far distance with the given scale used. I love playing with all the varied toys and often forget to continue to look for stars or the magnet, being deep in play. My son is a bit more goal-oriented, choosing to go to the magnet sooner to in turn create a new robot sooner, his favorite part of the app. I am glad to see how simple the flying is here, as these robots follow the drag of a finger nicely, and one does not need to cover up the robot to navigate smoothly.

My son really enjoys how some of these robots talk when completed, and he would really like to see every robot created have some extra animated features like lighting up and talk, not just a selected few. I would like to see a photo of the created robot on the test report as well as space provide to type in a name for the robot or other notes, and it would be great to have these reports kept “on file” to look back at on a later date, as my son really gets attached to his creations and would love to be able to look back, collect, and name what he spent time working on, possibly taking an old favorite for another test drive.

This is a truly open-ended toy as one can spend as little or as much time in the test flight area as desired, and different children will approach this area differently, either as an area of creative play and exploration, or as a focus for finding the stars or magnet to start the game over again - the choice is theirs.

I think the immersion of interacting with these toys being affected by gravity and physics has some nice educational components as does following the arrows and narrating these maze-like testing areas, which also have a nice variety of screens possible each time a new robot is made. The level of difficulty is very good here for pre-school and up, but I have on rare occasion not found the third star I am looking for, and a “hint” option would be helpful, especially for children, possibly by having the ability to zoom out and see the maze as a whole for a moment.

I have been extremely impressed with all of Toca Boca apps; they are wonderful “digital toys,” as these developers like to say. I give them credit as well for making all of their apps affordable and often universal, always accessible for anyone interested in trying any of these wonderful apps. I recommend not only Toca Boca Robot Lab, but any and all of their other apps as well. I follow these developers very carefully and get very excited when I hear that a new app of theirs is soon to be released. I can’t wait to see what these creative minds come up with next.

iPhone Screenshots

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iPad Screenshots

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