Toca Life: Hospital app review

Toca Boca apps are well-loved in the Horn Book offices, and Toca Life: Hospital (Toca Boca, April 2017; iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire) is no exception.

As the app opens, you are presented with a multi-level hospital on a busy street with mountains, a river, and several swaying trees in the background. To begin exploring, tap on a level of the hospital. Each floor is indicated by a number and an icon, such as a baby bottle for the pediatric floor.

On each floor, swipe the scene left and right and use the different characters to explore the hospital and create your own story. When you enter the first floor, you are in the waiting room and cafeteria of the hospital. Your characters can take a number from the ticket dispenser, look through the stacks of books, or eat some of the food provided in the cafeteria, among other things. From this level, take the elevator or go through the home screen to travel to the other levels. Perhaps you would like to play with the infants on the pediatric floor, investigate the medical equipment in the operation rooms, or restock the ambulance's supplies in the basement/garage.

Tap the yellow crossing sign at bottom right to access a menu with a diverse cast of characters. Drag as many — or as few — to your scene as you would like. Each character is able to hold any object and wear any outfit. Characters can also sit or lie on chairs and beds, and they will eat edible items that are dragged to their mouth. Most objects can be dragged and placed anywhere, and those that cannot be moved will likely react in some way when tapped (turning the overhead sprinklers on and off, opening and closing doors, etc.). If you feel things have gotten a little too untidy, press and hold the backwards arrow on the home screen to rewind and reset everything to its original place.

The recording feature can record up to two minutes of whatever is happening on the screen and uses the microphone to capture sound, allowing the you to provide your own narration of the scene. The colorful animations and the bouncy music — which can be changed or turned off by tapping on the radio on every level — are inviting and engaging. Overall, the app’s open-ended presentation allows for limitless possibilities for exploratory play and gives young users an opportunity to become more comfortable with a medical environment. For those looking for more concrete instruction, the parents’ page offers helpful information about the design, as well as a few guidelines on how to manipulate the various parts of the app.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 8.0 or later), Android devices (requires Android 4.3 and up), and Kindle Fire; $2.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.
Emily Day
Emily Day is an editorial intern for The Horn Book.

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