Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Toca Kitchen 2 is a companion to the popular Toca Kitchen - a favorite digital toy for both children and adults. I admire Toca Boca for their willingness to update their apps as well as to develop new versions of their creations in order to continue to challenge the creativity of young people in their various Toca Hair Salon apps, as well as Toca Kitchen apps - be it Kitchen Monsters, the original Toca Kitchen, and now Toca Kitchen 2.
A few things have changed from the most recent update of Toca Kitchen; specifically the ability to combine ingredients both in the cooking process as well as on the plate to serve. The other major change here is the use of 3D graphics - as also seen in Toca Nature - when representing the three customers, as well as using muted shades of food textures to replicate the ingredients instead of the bright and colorful food illustrations I was fond of in the original app.The fridge has been expanded as now sixteen foods are available to cook with. From the realistic looks of the corn on the cob, whole pineapple, broccoli, and even the skin of a drumstick, these familiar textures and colors can be seen as adding a sense of realism to these selections. Although I find the choice to add these natural touches interesting, I must admit that I find these foods unappetizing compared to the food images used in the original Toca Kitchen.
I miss the whimsy and charm seen in the artist's representation of good things to eat. Instead I find the level of authenticity here to be a bit off-putting as the colors used to style these foods, at least when raw, seem bland and unappetizing - possibly an issue as this app strives to create dimensions. By trying to make the spherical nature of the potato or broccoli top pop from the screen, the depth and shadows created tend to make the food look grey and aged past its prime. I do, however, admire the ability to select multiple foods to cook at once - great for making stir fry, complex smoothies, and balanced meals containing protein, vegetables, and bread or potatoes. This app contains more of a prep area where plates of different foods can be organized as well as prepared together while using items such as a knife, blender, frying pan, boiling water, and an oven for baking.One cold winter night I wanted to cook a nice soup or stew for the character I chose to feed, yet after chopping and placing items in the water to boil it became apparent that, although one can use these appliances to heat up food, there is no ability to change their texture to something one may eat with a spoon instead of a fork - past pulverizing ingredients into their liquefied state. There is no mechanism to make chicken broth from boiling the chicken legs offered from the kitchen, and no ability to make mashed potatoes or make a tomato sauce. These limitations also seen in the first app did not bother me as much, but here, attempts at real food appearances reminded me of what was not possible as much as they have opened the door for limitless possibilities.
Even with this important note, I still enjoy cooking a complete meal within Toca Kitchen 2. However, I would greatly appreciate the ability to plate these foods in a deliberate fashion instead of the elements of my dish falling from the sky, sometimes missing the plate completely as they are dropped in front of the hungry character in a grotesque fashion that does not resemble the meal I thought I was preparing - issues that bothered me less in Toca Kitchen, where the food was served with a subtle side toss from the lateral cooking area of the app instead of being dumped long distance from over the head of the character who has sat down to eat.I do admire the additional touches seen within Toca Kitchen 2, including more opinionated personalities to keep in mind when in the kitchen as well as the addition of other condiments past the salt and pepper seen in Toca Kitchen, such as hot sauce and lemon. Yet it would be nice to have a larger selection of basic ingredients included within the kitchen such as butter that one could use for potatoes, sliced bread, or the ability to create soups served with a ladle and into a bowl after adding multiple ingredients to the boiling water, possibly including soy sauce or broth. The chance to simply crack an egg - be it into a skillet or the aforementioned water to poach - and having a selection of simple dry ingredients one can cook with such as rice or pasta would also be appreciated.
I do find the use of 3D images and realistic food textures to be a double-edged sword as these images will be appealing to some, opening the door to realism yet not going far enough. Having said this, I am quite fond of these changes being made into a different app from the first Toca Kitchen, keeping it unaffected by the new look. There is still a lot of quality and polish within Toca Kitchen 2, even though the style is not quite my cup of tea. Children will no doubt be entertained by all the ingredient choices and possible combos to be made. This app may have been one that I overthought a bit, but I simply did not find it as appealing as its illustrated predecessor, and the limitations here are front and center.I do hope Toca Boca does not become married to the computer-generated images seen in Toca Nature and Toca Kitchen 2, as I have always marveled at the different looks seen within their applications from Toca Tea Party, Toca Train, Toca Builders, and more recently Toca Pet Doctor. Even with these strong words, Toca Boca has gained my long-standing loyalty and I will always be eager to see what they will develop next.