Open Playground to Build
Toca Boca has made its mark in the app world by providing open-ended play experiences that encourage kids to explore their creativity. Toca Builders continues this pattern -- this time by providing a set of robots programmed to do specific building tasks. Kids use these robots to build digital worlds in which to play, create stories, and produce art.
How to Play
The app starts with a large open grid on which to build. Six friendly robots populate the grid. Blox specializes in dropping and smashing blocks onto the grid. Cooper and Jum-Jum both focus on painting. Vex has the unique ability to stack blocks on top of each other; while Stretch can reach up to make blocks float in the air. Connie lifts and moves blocks, sort of like a building crane.
With these six wonky-looking robots as their tools, kids explore this open world to fashion whatever their imaginations can think up. Creating mazes is fun, as are worlds filled with floating platforms. After you have produced a few levels, the app provides you with a pre-populated scene, filled with blocky trees and wandering streams. Later, you will find levels with a boatyard, and one showing a replica of Stikk Figga, the beloved rapper dude from Toca Boca's popular Toca Band app.
While these robots are fun to program and use to create a Minecraft-like building experiences, they take some practice to get used to. The direction a robot is facing is controlled by one button, while the action it does (dropping blocks, painting, etc.) is controlled by another. The world is shown in 3D and your finger easily rotates the camera so you can view the world in 360 degrees.
Open-ended playsets are fabulous for some kids, but they can be intimidating for others. Offering a robust tutorial and the pre-populated levels earlier in the play experience would be a good way to ease reluctant kids into this play experience. Perhaps Toca Boca will address this in an update. The ability to add characters into your built scenes, other than the building robots, would also be a welcome addition.
Toca Builders is best for kids who thrive in unstructured play environments. It is also good for kids who enjoy building. If your child is into Legos, he or she will probably enjoy this app.
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