Toca Hair Salon is yet another wonderful, creative, and quirky app from the developers at Toca Boca, one of my favorite developers. This universal app allows one to cut, style, and color the hair of one of four available models.
Toca Boca is an exciting group of developers who design apps that they consider to be “digital toys,” creating open-ended experiences much like the toys they are based on, within the portability of an application. Digital toys include a helicopter much like a radio-controlled flying helicopter that many kids own, with a twist. An absolutely wonderful tea party application is available, as well as a doctor-themed app with a nod towards the game of Operation. A lovely art app also exists, allowing the player to paint beautiful butterfly wings. Toca Hair Salon allows players to create any and all styles of hair they can dream of, reminding me of both the classic Playdough “Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop” as well as the Barbie styling head I had as a child whose hair I cut off.
The interface is very easy and child-friendly here, as one enters a retro-styled barber shop, complete with spinning red-and-white pole out front. When inside, tap one of four customers waiting for service. These clients are certainly interesting-looking, two of whom are more bear- or lion-looking than human and they will make sounds, either positive or negative, giving feedback as you are doing their hair, details that add character and whimsy - something I have learned to expect from Toca Boca.
Once a model is selected, the fun beings. First, notice that subtle movements of one’s device change the perspective as one looks past the client and at the salon used in the background, even looking through the glass windows and onto the street, all of which give a nice 3D feel to the experience. I really enjoy the look of the salon with so many details such as the patterned wallpaper and chair used for waiting, Other details include the stack of flyers off to one side, mail coming through the slot in the door. and noises from the street. The door even has a bell on top, heard when someone enters the salon.
To start styling, scroll through the available tools at the bottom of the screen, giving the options to comb, cut, blow, buzz, or dye the hair of the client. My personal favorite option available is the magic potion G.R.O. - to grow back cut hair or simply to grow the model’s hair as much as desired for longer styles. I also love the sound effects used. Beyond the realistic cutting, hair dryer, and clipper sounds, the spray paint sounds used for the hair color are wonderful, complete with the sounds of the ball bearings rattling as the can of spray color is shaken as well as the aerosol sounds when the color is being sprayed.
Do read the parents' section about the use of these tools. The interface is very easy, and kids will have a lot of fun even without any specific direction. However, I appreciated the tip on the use of the comb, as one should be combing from the roots to make hair the most manageable.
It is intriguing how realistically the hair moves with the use of physics. Looking closely, the hair looks much like rooted doll hair where small amounts of hair are sectioned off and placed through the head in a symmetrical pattern of rows. It does take some getting used to in terms of how to comb these tufts of hair to get the desired effect and not to look as though the model has very staticky hair that may follow unintentionally with a finger. I also have a hard time giving the my a true blunt cut, but I think these are perfectionist adult concerns as my son never shows any issues of frustration while playing with this app. I am equally impressed with the physics used for the spray color, as it is applied to the hair the way one would expect, as short spray of color will create highlights but longer spray time is needed to fully change the hair color.
This app truly is enjoyed by the entire family. My husband and I have a lot of fun creating hair styles and saving them with pride on the camera of both the iPad and iPhone, something we adults don’t usually bother to do with many other applications. This app has also brought out the artistic temperament in my son. He really, really likes this app and is not always easy to handle as he always comes up with great ideas for other people's models. My boy is constantly giving the character I am working on a reverse mohawk and choosing his own colors for my masterpieces. I hear him talking to himself often about his future plans for the hair he is working on, as he gets very involved with this app.
I would love to see in a future update a model with curly hair. Hair accessories would also be nice additions, like clips or bows, and a can of spray glitter would be fun as well. It would also be great if one could swivel the client around to get 360 degree access to the hair, all the better to show off one’s mohawk and to cut the side or back of the model's hair.
I am surprised to see the icon of their tea party app on the bottom right corner of the opening screen as one can tap on this icon to be taken to see their other apps and ultimately to these apps on iTunes, as this app's description states that Toca Hair Salon does not have any ads. I think this info about other apps is best left tucked away in the parents' section and out of the eyes of children in order not to fuel their list of “wants.” This issue aside, Toca Hair Salon is another wonderful app from Toca Boca, a very important and influential developer. I look forward to seeing what other great apps they come up with in the future, as finding out that Toca Boca has a new app out is an exciting moment!