Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
I am pleased to have had a chance to review Toca Boca’s new app, Toca Cars. As many may know, Toca Boca is known for their wonderful digital toys based on the real world playthings children use every day, and Toca Cars continues in the footsteps of their other great apps. It is worth explaining that Toca Cars is not so much a first-person POV driving simulator. Instead, it allows one to drive a car around a track with the drag of a finger. More impressive is the chance to drive and crash into the landscape the track has incorporated within; including many various buildings, street signs, a few animals or other characters, colorful ice cream puddles, ramps, and many more details too numerous to name.
I absolutely admire the choice to create all of these details out of corrugated cardboard reminiscent of the cardboard building blocks my son has used heavily now for many years, the paper playhouse standing in our living room, and also the buildings my boy creates with our extra cardboard boxes earmarked for recycling. This is a wonderful decision, allowing children to crash to their heart's content devoid of any simulated violence that one may partake in when wiping out in other arcade-style driving games. Also marvelous is the ability to restore all these details that may have been flipped onto their sides during the driving process, or clear the track with the tap of a "bomb" button - both clever ways of aiding children during gamely.
This app opens up with the ability to choose one of two drivers, taking users to a course that includes a wonderful town full of houses and other buildings and even a forest area, all built around the tracks. There is much to do within the driving area provided but one can also build one's own landscape in Editor mode, dragging and dropping pieces to chosen areas of the track. The selection is vast and full of whimsy. I especially enjoy the colorful pink, blue, and yellow ice cream puddles children can drive through, leaving colorful trails that take time to dry and disappear. A few animal characters and even a robot or strong man of sorts can be interacted with as they may approach and possibly knock over one’s car if tapped. Children will enjoy working with ramp elements to send their cars flying through the air or demolishing the cities they may have built. Every child’s experience will be different using Toca Cars, and don’t be surprised if kids can get lost in the worlds they have created.
Because the Editor section is so complex, I would love Toca Boca to take a few tips from their other construction app, Toca Builders, as here multiple children can work on their landscapes as my son was not too keen on sharing this app with me (I made changes to his backgrounds for testing purposes), although I do enjoy how the Toca course is always accessible for children to enjoy separate from the building area, and how changes made to one's landscape are saved for later. I would also like more control over these cars, which follow a dragged finger around the screen. I did notice that there is more control with greater distance of a finger from the car moving around the screen; still, drifting is prevalent. This may not be of concern to children who enjoy crashing into everything and anything, but it gets frustrating when one has a difficult time steering up ramps or into specific ram-worthy structures.
Another Toca Boca app that I look towards in terms of a few elements is Toca Train. What I would love to see added is how within the app one can choose between the view of either the train tracks or the conductor, using fingers to pinch or swipe the track as well as changing the perspective with a slide of the fingers. I would also love to see a selection of camera views during the driving section of Toca Cars as well, as I do have the urge to move the camera that one is presumably looking through, switching to another position when moving along the track when my line of site partially obscured by large ramps or other obstacles. Another issue that I have is how the view from the Editor mode includes a bird's-eye view of looking down directly into the track, and this angle does not allow one to see many details that do not have a large footprint, allowing smaller street objects such as street signs or traffic lights to all but disappear from view. I would love have the option of changing this perspective to include more of a side view instead.
Even with these notes, the experience provided by Toca Cars is unlike any other. I love the look of this app; with wonderfully, almost aggressively styled with indie qualities that make me smile, a heavy use of tan cardboard, raw corrugated edges, and child-like painted details to recreate the look of various buildings such as post office, grocery, gym, or mechanic shop. Adults will welcome the background music used as something with an appealing sound that can be listened to for long periods of time - a nice touch, to be sure. I am thrilled that the play factor of classic cardboard box bricks, playhouses, and the like has been touched upon here as a digital toy. This is an app that will keep children busy for a long time and will be a hit among a wide variety of children, including older students and parents, but I do wish that the cars were easier to handle and that one could view the track from a variety of perspectives.