Toca Tailor (iPhone / iPad review)

Developer Toca Boca is building a strong reputation for itself as a purveyor of high-quality children’s apps, with 16 million downloads and counting on iPhone and iPad.

The song from its last app Toca Band is still rattling around our skulls, but the publisher has something new: Toca Tailor, which launched on the App Store tonight.

Aimed at children aged four and up, it’s a logical successor to previous Toca Boca apps like Toca Kitchen and Toca Hair Salon, turning a professional job – clothesmaking in this instance – into a marvellously playful app.

As with the Kitchen and Hair Salon apps, you start by choosing a character – a boy, a girl, a lynx or a sloth (so we’re told, we would have plumped for ‘big-faced sad-eyed meerkat’ otherwise).

Choose one, and you switch to a virtual tailor’s with the character in a basic outfit. Tap on the top or trousers to change design, and drag the arms and legs to lengthen or shorten them. Now the fun begins.

Tapping on a box at the bottom left takes you to the materials screen, where you can browse a collection of colourful patterns and drag them onto the sleeves, top and trousers.

Stripes, spots, flowers and plain colours are all available, as are accessories including buttons, stars, pockets, feathers and even paint splatters. Clever use of multi-touch gives older children lots of control, shrinking and rotating the patterns to fit or work in combination.

That’s not all. As you swipe through the patterns, you’ll find a retro camera icon. Tap on that and you can take a photo using your iPhone or iPad’s camera and use the snap as your pattern. Grass, brick walls, the family cat’s fur, dad’s jeans, mum’s cardigan…

The potential is limitless, and judging by our sons’ reactions, thrilling. Your child really can create any pattern they want, and there’s an option to use pics from your device’s Photo Library too.

Back on the main screen, tapping on a box at the bottom right brings up a scrolling shelf of other clothing items: hats, bows, glasses, scarves and footwear, to further customise the character.

Once done, there are two more buttons to try at the top right. The camera button takes a snapshot of the character and saves it to your Photo gallery to browse later.

The second button, which looks like a mountain, is even more fun though. It uses the camera in a different way: to take a photo of the newly-clothed character against the real-world background: your garden, kitchen table or living room rug for example.

It’s a simple but rather wonderful use of augmented reality technology, with results that your kids will demand to show off to anyone within shouting distance.

As with previous Toca Boca apps, there are no in-app purchases or ads: everything is included in the one-off download fee. There is a little icon for ‘Toca News’ on the homescreen, telling you about the company’s other apps, but you can turn that off if you prefer.

As you may have guessed from this review so far, we love Toca Tailor, and we think parents and children will too.

Younger children will have great fun using the pre-designed patterns to create virtual clothes, but the camera features have huge potential for slightly older kids to indulge their creative instincts. Everywhere they go will become a potential source of patterns, which should give Toca Tailor a long lifespan.

We have one slight quibble. We like Toca Tailor best on an iPad, with the bigger screen ideal for rotating and pinch-shrinking patterns. But watching our five year-old trying to take photographs with our expensive iPad made us pretty nervous – we’re happier with him using the device flat on the floor.

Better for the upcoming iPad mini, perhaps. Or you may prefer to hold the iPad yourself and get your child to tap the capture button, to head off the prospect of a bouncing tablet.

As we said, it’s only a quibble. Toca Tailor is a marvellous piece of work. Forget staring slack-jawed at a screen while slumped on the sofa: this encourages children’s creativity, and gets them looking at the world around them with new eyes.

It may, of course, raise their expectations when shopping for clothes in the real world. But the odd tantrum at the high street’s lack of zebra-print trousers and jumpers with photos of cats’ bums on is a price worth paying for this imaginative, well-crafted app.

Rating: 5/5

Toca Tailor costs 69p on the App Store for its launch week, and runs on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

10 thoughts on “Toca Tailor (iPhone / iPad review)

  1. Pingback: Toca Boca tops 16m downloads and launches Toca Tailor

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