The folks at Toca Boca must either have kids of their own, or be big kids at heart, because they certainly seem to know exactly what kids like. Emily was hooked on the game from the moment it loaded and the now familiar Toca Boca logo splash screen morphed into a robot (instead of growing hair like it did on Toca Hair Salon) and she said while giggling, “Daddy Daddy Daddy look…the smile turns into a ROBOT!!!”.

I was trying to put Emily to bed since her mom was having a girls night out. Emily, missing her mommy, was having trouble going to bed. So I pulled out my iPhone and launched Toca Robot Lab for the first time, and Emily got the biggest smile on her face. We both laid next to each other on her bed playing Toca Robot Lab laughing and smiling for about 30 minutes until (amidst big-eyed protests to the contrary) I turned off the game and she finally went to sleep, well past her bed time. I left for work the next morning and Em was still asleep, but when I got home from work I found her playing again and discovered that she had apparently played it much of the day as well!

Toca Robot Lab’s game play is fairly simple and is broken into two distinct parts, “building your robot” and “flying your robot”. When you press PLAY, a cardboard box and conveyor belt appear on the screen and three crazy sets of robot legs roll out to greet you. You select one pair for your robot creation by dragging it into to the marked area of the cardboard box. Then the belt sequentially brings out a selection of robot bodies, robot heads, left arms and right arms. Your choice of parts is completely random, adding to the fun and craziness of the robots you can create. The robots are colorful and fun to look at and the game has some fantastic and often humorous sound effects that really create the ambiance of a “robot laboratory”.

Last night Emily and I were once again playing Toca Robot Lab at bedtime (shhh don’t tell her mother) and Emily was on her iPod Touch and I was on my iPhone. We made a little game out of trying to form the exact same robots as one another, but in the 15+ creations that we each made, we only were ever able to get at the most, four components the same. However we had A LOT OF FUN trying. I really enjoyed seeing how the game got my daughter using her imagination and creativity, even at times evoking a cute little 4-year old robotic voice. She is usually someone that has to have things symmetrical, but it didn’t bother her in the least that one of the robot’s arms might be shaped like a hose, while the other was a fan. To her, it only made it that much funnier and many squeals of laughter could be heard, so much so, that I was a bit afraid she’d wake up her baby sister in the room next door.

As I mentioned, the second half of the game is where you fly your robot creation, navigating around a randomly generated cardboard-box like room with all sorts of blocks and balls to crash into while trying to collect up to 3 hidden stars and land on the giant magnet which takes your robot away. This part is really cute, as it reminded me of when I was a kid, flying my action figures around a make believe world I’d setup with toys and boxes in my room. The flying half of the game is where Emily struggles a bit with the game. That’s not to say she isn’t still having fun, but she just can’t seem to get the hang of moving the robot. Instead of keeping her finger on the screen and gently leaning it left or right to get the jet-powered robot to fly to the left or right she has this urge to keep taking her finger off and using short swiping motions…it’s not pretty but it gets the job done. She enjoys trying to find all three stars and doesn’t leave the level until she does. She even felt the need to assist ME in finding all of my stars as well, saying things like “Daddy, I can help you find your stars too if you need help.” while still in the processes of finding her own stars.

In Conclusion

As I said at the opening of this review, the team at Toca Boca really understand what kids like and Emily has a blast with each new title they release. It’s gotten to the point where their logo alone elicits smiles just at the anticipation of the the entertaining time that is about to be had when a Toca Boca app is launched. At 99¢ Toca Robot Lab is a cute, imaginative, simple, entertaining and repetitive (but with enough randomness to keep things fresh) app that any preschooler will love to play over and over again! Thank you very mucha Toca Boca!