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Toca Band app review

toca band title screenHaving just experienced the sheer bizarre joy that is Toca Band (Toca Boca, 2012), I fear it may be impossible to express exactly why this app is so much fun. But I will try. Oh, I will try.

The setting is simple: we are in a park. A large, boldly-hued stage with three tiers is in the foreground and a muted city in the background. Each tier of the stage has differently colored circles where characters (all shown waiting patiently in the pit) can be placed to show off their skill.

toca band stage

These characters act as instruments (of sorts) that know only one song. While each character’s role is individualized — the triangular sheriff only whistles while the jogging clock can only make clock sounds — the tempo and pitch of the character can be changed based on where the user places the character on the stage. On the bottom, the character will perform at its slowest tempo and lowest pitch. As the character climbs the tiers, it will begin playing/performing faster and at a higher pitch. If the character is placed on the topmost tier in the star circle, it will then perform a solo controlled by the user.

This solo region is remarkably instructional. I think that, simply by playing with the crying harp-mime, I developed a basic idea of how string instruments work. When I placed the cat with the universe in its mouth on the star-spot, I discovered that larger planets made lower pitched noises while the smaller planets made higher pitched noises.

toca band universe cat

Focusing on this same concept — big means low, small means high — produced similar results in the triangular sheriff whistler. Did I know before using Toca Band how an accordion works? Possibly. Was I positive? Nope. How does one work? You hold the little buttons on top and, when the accordion is stretched out, it makes sounds. The sleepy, blue accordion taught me so.

With seven spaces for characters, the user can create many entertaining and surprisingly melodic combinations (this is because everything is in the key of C major). My absolute favorite character is the beatboxing blue balloon. With big hipster glasses and an orange hat, it beatboxes like one of Gru’s minions might with occasional English phrases thrown in for good measure: “To the ladies, to the fellas…Toca Band, yo! We rockin’ it — we in the house now.” The blue balloon’s counterpart, pink ballet-dancing balloon, plays a gentle melody while dancing on tiptoe. The cat with the universe in its mouth wails the song as one would cry in the cold expanse of space while hippie boy plays the guitar, rainbow girl sings in lalalas, and opera Grandma aria-s to the heavens.

The user can take these same characters and change the mood and tone of the song by moving them to different tiers. For example, opera lady and rainbow girl on the second level with hippie boy on the bottom is kind of chill and campfire-y while the same combination with hippie boy on top takes on a rockin’ beat. Beatboxing balloon on the bottom gives a little rock to the combo, but when placed on top turns this band into preschool dubstep.

See how much fun this is? And I didn’t even tell you about the frog family, blue bass man, or chef drum.

If this seems a bit much (or maybe not enough), the “for parents” information is incredibly helpful, listing ways in which a caregiver can focus the child’s play or increase understanding of the concepts.

I would tell you more, but I have a date with a beatboxing blue balloon.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 5.0 or later); free. Recommended for preschool users and up.

Siân Gaetano About Siân Gaetano

Siân Gaetano is assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @KidLitChick.



  1. Hi Sian!

    Great review! love the way you go into every details of this beautiful game. I too play it sometimes when I’m bored

  2. Katie Bircher Katie Bircher says:

    I love that universe cat so much. The music of the celestial spheres? 🙂

  3. Siân Gaetano Siân Gaetano says:

    I love this game so much. I forgot all about the crying harp-mime! I need to play again.

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