My kids (I mean my OWN kids) have long been fans of Toca Boca. The latest offering from this Stockholm-based company is Toca Nature.
Toca Nature presents you with a landscape you can shape to your will. You begin with a plot of land roughly square and mysteriously floating in space. Day and night drfit by and you can rotate the landscape using the globe icon to view it from different compass directions. You can dig depressions in the land which eventually fill up with water and are populated by fish and other wildlife. You can also raise mountains. If you keep building mountains they get higher and eventually snow will settle on their peaks. You can also plant trees. Different tree species attract different species of fauna such as woodpeckers, deer, hares, bears and foxes. These animals interact with the landscape (usually foraging for their favourite foodstuffs). It quickly becomes addictive providing food for the wildlife as they roam.
Children playing the game quickly learn that they can match the food to the animal and that sometimes it’s not a straightforward process. For example, some bears prefer blueberries and some red. Beavers won’t touch the fish but the foxes will. You can also get wolves to come if you plan the landscape well enough.
The various animals sleep and forage. Sometimes they give you a hint through strategically placed thought bubbles what food they would like. The whole thing is a lot of fun and there is an element of mystery in the game in the presence of huge footprints that can sometimes been seen on the ground, and that recalls the game’s logo as well as speaks to the potential for a future development.
My kids appreciated the orienteering possibilities in the game (it IS Swedish, after all!) By rotating the game through various degree in the globe function, you can travel across the landscape and then challenge each other to navigate back to any giving starting point.
By tapping on mushrooms, acorns, berries and fish you can replenish your stock ready to feed the animals when the natural sources of these foodstuffs become scarce. The thrill on my kids’ faces when they collected enough mushrooms to get the deer through a particularly barren period when no mushrooms appeared to be growing on the ground, was very satisfying.
Inevitably, the kids quickly want more species to be available and different landscape features (volcanoes, jungles, coral reefs, deserts!) These may be forthcoming in future editions of the app, but for now I rather like the woodland setting – especially given the current real weather outside. Definitely the best app of the season.