App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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I always find it exciting when Toca Boca releases a new digital toy for children, and I am excited to let readers know about their new app, Toca Pet Doctor - an application that will allow toddlers and young preschool-aged children a chance to express their empathy as they mend sick or injured animals in this charming application. Toca Pet Doctor allows children to peruse a veterinarian’s waiting room complete with 15 animals that could use a little help. I am really fond of the tone of this app, bringing out the caring side of children who will enjoy all the different animals looking for a little TLC such as a gassy mouse, an itchy, flee-bitten puppy, or my favorite, an iguana with a belly ache. Each of these creatures looks uncomfortable in its own way but Toca Pet Doctor is devoid of drama, as no creature looks too sick or unhappy that it would make children uncomfortable - which I really appreciate.
Choose an animal with a tap and complete the helpful, intuitive interactions to bring better health to these special patients - be it cleaning and bandaging the ear of a cat, brushing hamster teeth, or adding adhesive bandages to a bunny in the puzzle-themed section. Fans of Toca Boca may note the different look of this app as here, simple, colorful illustrations are used; presumably hand-drawn compared to other apps that to me look as if more technology was incorporated to bring these detailed, whimsical applications to life. I also enjoy the interesting animal close-ups offered when working on these creatures, really making the bright colors pop and creating a sense of style that adults will appreciate as much as their children will. The simple yet interesting jazz-inspired music also included here is something special and quite desirable to listen to in the background as children spend some time exploring each of these animals who need to be taken care of. I also appreciate the inclusion of multi-touch, allowing more than one player to work on these animals so that children can share in the experience.
Be it giving eye drops to a spider, setting the wing bones of a bird, or helping to remove the parasites from a snail in a simple maze-related section, young children will find just the right level of difficulty within these areas compared to how my son did need help when first playing the related Toca Doctor app. My only noted exceptions here are the need to flip over the turtle and untangle an unhappy worm - two interactions for which young children may need to borrow some dexterity from an adult, leaving the majority of this app easy for children of all ages. Equally charming is the chance to feed these animals their favorite treats - a reward for behaving during their treatment, much like the stickers given to my son after his trips to the doctor’s office. These may include seeds or vegetables as well as insects or other protein-based offerings that make a lot of sense for these naturally carnivorous creatures such as spiders, snakes, or frogs. I do wonder, however, if the most die-hard animal-loving children will shy away from making pretty yellow butterflies into a snack food. Asking children to draw a line about who is food vs. companion is a conundrum I have no answers for.
Even with this minor point made, the vast majority of children will be quite fond of this application. I am quite smitten by how each animal, now out of distress, curls up in its own special way and sleeps comfortably until children choose to wake their new friend up to explore their related activities again and again. Cynical adults may make note that this app can be a little repetitive, and that all of the animals maintain the same symptoms instead of new maladies each time a creature is chosen. I do not, however, see this as a flaw within an app designed for those as young as two years as this consistency allows children to easily choose not just an animal, but an activity they are looking to participate in. Likewise, my six year old son finds this app so utterly endearing that he finds it hard to put down, re-treating his favorite animals again and again.
Although I would like to encourage developers to make a role-play medical app that is more open-ended in nature, allowing children to use tools to examine patients in any way they see fit as children do while playing pretend doctor in real life, Toca Pet Doctor is an easy app to recommend to young app users.