Toca Boca has done it again by developing a new digital toy that kids will love. Toca Kitchen, as the name implies, is a creative, fun and open-ended cooking toy for kids.
Here, players can choose one of four characters to cook for and feed. Male and female characters are included, as well as a cat and a cow.
To the left of the screen one finds the refrigerator full of 12 different food choices. Once a choice is made, place on the plate in front of the character that one is looking to feed.
From here, children can start feeding the chosen food in raw form or move to the right of the screen where the cooking implements are kept on a shelf. Options include a knife for cutting, food processor, pot for boiling, pan for frying and a microwave.
It is quite tempting to write about the players and their favorite foods, as each character wonderfully has unique likes and dislikes that make this game so fun and utterly Toca Boca. However, I will resist this temptation as I would not want to spoil the chance to allow one to find these preferences by oneself. I do love that both animal and people are included, and thoroughly enjoy the cow becoming disgruntled by being fed steak - something he is unwilling to try for obvious reasons.
I have often been impressed by the ability of special needs children to learn from Toca Boca’s apps in terms of social awareness. This too is a digital toy that can be used by children who would benefit from learning about social cues.
In this app, the characters express their personal feelings with regard to what they are being fed, and children can then try their best to find foods that these characters like.
I appreciate that these characters have strong feelings expressed, such as the cat either salivating with pleasure, or hissing with distain, as well as more subtle feelings of “it's...ok” or "ummm...no" that kids will also need to interpret, as these reactions are expressed in a language-neutral way that children from all backgrounds can understand, and I love how it is both fun and realistic how these characters will prefer foods cooked a certain way such as potatoes fried vs. served raw, having been macerated in the food processor.
Since receiving a review copy of this app, my son has spent a great deal of time playing Toca Kitchen. My boy has played with play food and his kitchen and has fed his dolls and animals daily for almost two solid years now, so I was not surprised by his reaction as he loves to cook and feed these characters - especially the cat.
I enjoy how he can have some basic experiences, be it simulated, with boiling food, as the look down into the pot with a rolling bottle, or with an up close view of food in a pan frying - are both things he has never really gotten a good view at as I still worry about him being around the stove as I cook.
I do wish, however, that one could cut the food into more pieces than just four, and I would love to see one be able to flip over what is being fried in order to cook both sides the way I can with my more adult-oriented simulated cooking apps.
Anyone who knows me well knows that food safety issues are a huge pet peeve of mine, and for this reason, I would very much like to see the raw meat, sausage and fish placed on the bottom shelf of the fridge in order to not drip onto the other food on the shelves below, something my son and other children will never be too young to learn about.
I also have the urge to cook food way too long, burning the steak and other foods. As a result, these characters could refuse to eat their favorite foods if cooked too long, bringing some other educational aspects to this game as kids will need to learn when to remove the foods from the heat based on color to serve something worth eating.
It is great how characters here will give cooking tips if offered food raw, an element I would love to see more of, and I am confused as to if the eggs offered are raw or hard boiled as the eggs can be fried or boiled, yet can be cut or mashed up like a boiled egg as well, a discrepancy I have mixed feelings about.
More discerning characters would also be interesting, as sometimes as my son often fries or boils eggs previously pulverized in the food processor, shell and all, to be served with no issue from the eater.
Basic extras, such as sugar, salt or pepper and maybe condiments like ketchup, mustard or hot sauce could be interesting additions as well.
As of now, some characters enjoy eating lemons if ground up - a food I wish could be made even more palatable with some sweetness, also allowing characters to like foods less if they become too sweet, salty, or spicy, making it possible to teach the concept of how much is too much and that sometimes less can be more.
Other foods would be wonderful as well, and although one can have multiple foods on a plate, players can’t cook more than one food at a time - something I would love to see. Being able to sauté broccoli along with potatoes or to blend multiple fruits together to make smoothies would make the possibilities here truly endless.
I enjoy the kitchen tools available, but it would love to see more methods of preparation, such as stirring, peeling, grating or whisking, and it would be terrific if one could scroll down the kitchenette section to find a working oven to bake in as well. Desserts would also be a welcome inclusion, as my son has a play food cookie baking obsession - something that I encourage as I don’t really want to bake sweets for him too often.
Having said this, I have seen a dramatic shift in my son asking again for the iPad when he has alone time after Toca Kitchen was downloaded, as the iPad is an item that sometimes wanes as my son gets involved with other toys, as much as he still enjoys apps when we are in the car, shopping or when I make a special point of sharing an app with him for review purposes.
I do find the physics engine used to make the food move and bounce with a touch a bit sensitive for my taste, as these foods react as if they were in more of a zero gravity situation than earth-bound, bouncing around in a way that is kind of unnatural and even at times distracting. I have heard no complaints, however, from my son about any aspect of this app - something he is not shy about sharing.
It is also worth mentioning that my son enjoys playing other Toca apps as an extension of Toca Kitchen, his idea that I am enamored by. I would love to see even more crossovers included through out Toca Kitchen, such as foods one can buy from Toca Store available to cook, or deserts from Toca Tea Party available to bake as well.
Not only is the gameplay enjoyable, but the subtle ambient sounds and fun details Toca Boca is so good at are also included here including the hum of the fridge which can be heard when opened, Toca magnets lovingly displayed, and the words "Love" and "open" found intersected crossword style found on the door briefly seen when opened, as well as the basic restaurant sounds used within, but it would be nice if the fun jazzy music included - very Toca sounding - were louder in comparison to the other sounds included, just something to think about for a future update.
I hope I do not come across as overly critical of my son’s favorite new app, as this application as it is has kept my son quite busy with no end in sight, as I am happy to say that Toca Boca is a developer that takes the comments and criticisms of their fans very seriously, encouraging me to give notes that could make this great app even better.
I give Toca Boca credit for keeping their fans in the loop regarding their new apps, as well as asking followers what kinds of apps their children would like to see, as well as keeping their digital toys affordable by most. So far Toca Boca has created applications that my son is super-engaged by, based on his favorite toys and activities, and this app is no different. We greatly look forward to hearing about more Toca Boca apps in the future.