For me, it is the first 24 hours that my daughters have a new Toca Boca title that are always the most fun.
Usually I’ll load up the new game on their iOS devices in the morning before I leave for work and get to see their faces light up as they wait anxiously to see what the Toca Boca logo will morph into this time, always resulting in big toothy grins of their own. Then sometime later in the day I’ll get an IM, text message or even a phone call from my 5-year-old (with Mommy’s help of course) telling me all about some ‘really cool’ feature that she discovered all by herself. Finally, when I get home from work later that night, both girls are hyped up with excitement and have their iPods at the ready. They cannot get the words out fast enough to tell me ‘how they did this’, or ‘did I know that you could do that?’ and this usually continues through dinner and straight up until I turn out their lights, with several hands-on demonstrations in-between.
The night before I was going to reveal Toca Train, I loaded up the app on both my daughters’ iPod Touches and the family iPad in preparation for the next day’s fun. As expected, Emily (age 5) and Claire (age 2.5) were super excited to see a new icon waiting for them in their respective Toca Boca folders, Claire let out exuberant shouts of “Thomas! Thomas!” (she calls every train Thomas now), while her sister tried in vain to correct Claire, her own eyes never leaving the screen of the iPad.
Toca Train is exactly what it sounds like, a kid friendly train simulation featuring Toca Boca’s signature ‘no words’ play style that make it ideal for a wide range of ages (in this case, ages 3-7). There is no need for your child to be able to read to enjoy this ‘digital toy’, for all instructions are given via a series of easy to understand pictures.
Your child is the steam train conductor, pulling levers to make the train go and stop, or tugging on the train’s whistle (like Emily did for several minutes straight). Aside from swiping or pinching the screen to take in the scenery from various angles, your little one also has a number of jobs to perform.
The train carries both passengers and cargo and it’s up to your pint-size conductors to get them where they need to go. They’ll decide when passengers get on and off the train. Hands down, Emily’s absolute favorite part of the game is these passengers. She has always been a people watcher and she loves seeing all the new characters getting on and off her train. When the passengers first get on the train, all you can see is their back, but when they get off the train, you finally get to see them from front. Before she had seen all the game’s characters, each time Emily dropped a passenger off, there would be a giggle-filled call from the couch saying “Daddy, Daddy, look what this man looks like…isn’t he funny!” When I asked Em if she’d change anything about the game, she simply replied “MORE PEOPLE!”
Other than speeding up or slowing down the train and the aforementioned whistle and scenery, the other main action kids can do is to place cargo on the train using a crane, and then drop it off at one of the other five stations. Emily was a bit confused by this part at first and just kept picking up the item and immediately discarding it at the same stop. Eventually she got it, but the instruction images could use a little tweaking here. From my point of view, I would have liked to see this part be a bit more interactive and use gesture driven controls rather than just a single tap to grab, and another tap to drop.
Both girls have been having a great time with the app and over a week later, are still very much enjoying it. However, I just don’t see Toca Train having the same longevity (with my daughters at least) that many of Toca Boca’s previous titles still have. In fact, the length of their average play sessions with Toca Train tend to be shorter than the other Toca titles, even though this is the newest one.
Kids LOVE trains. Toca Train is a wonderful and charming app featuring Toca Boca’s usual whimsical graphical style. It will surely help stimulate imaginative play and creativity, though it feels a little more limited in this respect, compared to some of Toca Boca’s earlier titles like Toca Hair Salon, Toca Tea Party or Toca Store which allowed more room for individual creativity. Perhaps this could be something solved with the addition of more locations, or more interactivity with the cargo and/or passengers. My daughters have found Toca Train entertaining and I’m sure it’ll bring smiles to the faces of your little ones too.