Toca Boca’s latest app Toca Nature, which launches on 13th November 2014 (£1.99/ €2,69), captures the wonder and magic of the natural world with its unique, dream-like style. In Toca Nature, kids can create and explore their own environment, populating it with different species of plants and animals, sculpting the landscape with lakes, mountains and different types of forest and woodland.
Inspired by a child’s perspective and attention to detail, Toca Nature was also influenced by the Swedish app designers’ childhood experiences of the natural world. The app is quite unlike Toca Boca’s previous digital toys, with the dreamy, artistic context amplifying the mysterious and magical side of nature.
Habitats spring up depending on what kind of environment a child builds within Toca Nature: different actions will result in different animals coming to live in certain areas, with each species tied to a particular terrain or plant type. Bears, foxes, deer, woodpeckers and wolves will begin to appear on the map as the natural world expands and grows. Different types of food will also begin to grow in certain environments, and players can gather these foodstuffs in order to feed the animals which have appeared. Children will need to find out for themselves what are the animals’ favourite snacks!
While the different elements of Toca Nature do not necessarily behave exactly how they would in the wild, the beautifully-designed app encourages children to think about how different aspects of the environment connect and interact. Children can view the landscape they have built by zooming in and out using the magnifying tool, observing their world as one entity, or exploring it in far greater detail up close.
As with all of Toca Boca’s digital toys, Toca Nature has an intuitive, child-friendly interface, and there are no in-app purchases or external advertising. There are no rules, with the app being inherently non-competitive and encouraging open-ended play and creativity.
Mårten Brüggemann, Toca Nature Play Designer, comments: “With Toca Nature, we wanted to convey the magical elements of nature. There are many amazing experiences to be had by children out in the wild, like seeing an animal in its natural habitat for the first time or learning about how a plant grows. Toca Nature doesn’t aim to replace the experience of going out in an actual forest, but instead builds on these experiences, adding a mystical edge. Children are totally in charge of sustaining their virtual world, which is alive in itself but still dependent on their care and attention.”
Download the app here: http://bit.ly/TocaNature
View trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoSm63_lQVc
Letter to Parents from the Designer of Toca Nature
When I was a kid my sister, my dad and I used to take walks in a forest close to our home. We had found this clearing just a few metres off the beaten path where we usually stopped and played for a while. In the middle of the clearing stood an old stump, it was like a meeting point in the middle of a town square. Once, we found a small piece of wood resembling a small person which we put on the stump and it would sit there greeting us every time we came back to the clearing, forever untouched by anyone else. We usually took the same path to reach our little hideout, but one time we decided to go another way round. Coming from the other direction we found that the clearing was almost impossible to find as we had come to rely on certain distinguishing landmarks to know where to look. It was then that we realized the clearing would always stay our own little secret.
In Toca Nature we want to convey the wonders of nature. Big and small, there are many experiences to be had out in the wild. It could be finding a stick that resembles something else, or seeing a live animal for the first time. Toca Nature does not aim to replace the experience of going out into an actual forest; instead we want to amplify the mysteries and magical moments that COULD be experienced in the wild as well as some experiences that you could only wish for… In Toca Nature the forest is in your hands, you create it and you explore it. From big to small, Toca Nature simulates a world that is alive in itself but dependant of your care.
How to play
Toca Nature consists of two main interactions, creating a world and exploring it:
You start in the creation mode seeing your world from a birds-eye perspective. You can spin the world around by using the globe control in the lower right corner. There are also a number of different tools that will help you sculpt the world to your liking; all tools are used by pushing them in the interface and then dragging your finger across the world.
The tree tool is used to paint trees in the world. There are five types of trees to choose from, push the tree tool once to select between pine, birch, spruce, alder and oak.
The axe is used to cut down trees.
The mountain tool raises the ground to create mighty hills. Raise them high enough and they will even have a bit of snow on top.
The water tool will dig into the ground, eventually creating water filled holes.
The magnifying glass is used to take a closer look and even zoom in on any location you’ve created in your world.
You may notice small animal icons on the tools as well. Every nature type has a specific animal tied to it. Paint enough trees or mountains and these animals will start moving into your world! The animals that are available are: bear, hare, fox, woodpecker, deer, wolf and beaver.
When you’ve used the magnifying glass to zoom in on your world, you may end up standing in the middle of a forest you’ve just created. Drag your fingers on the screen to move around and use the globe to turn to face another direction.
Besides the animals that have moved into your forest you will also find different types of food growing in your environment. These can be picked up by touching them. They will be gathered in the interface at the bottom. From there they can be dragged out to be placed in the environment again. The food can be used to feed the animals that you come across. Can you figure out who likes what food?
There is also a photo feature in the zoomed in view. Push the camera icon in the lower left corner and the photo framing will appear. Pushing the cross in the middle of the screen will take a photo. These photos are then saved to the camera roll of your device.
To talk about
Toca Nature is based on the wildlife that lives in a forest. You might not have a forest where you live, but can you recognise the animals in Toca Nature? Or even the trees? It’s not that often you come across animals like the ones in Toca Nature in real life. You would probably act differently in real life from how you act in Toca Nature. Maybe you’ve mostly seen wild animals at the zoo? How do you think they act differently in their natural habitats? In Toca Nature we wanted to simulate the wild, so don’t expect the animals to be totally reliable! Because animals have their own wills don’t they?
In Toca Nature things are connected. What is the structure of the circle of life? Well, in Toca Nature we’ve tried to connect things in a way that encourages exploration of the different environmental types. Nature seems to adapt to its current conditions. What animal lives in what kinds of forest? And does a fox living in the snow have a different appearance to one that does not? Animals also like different kinds of food. Some are meat eaters and will only eat fish which you can gather from the lakes you create. Other animals only eat acorns. All types of food have specific growing conditions. The acorns can be found in a forest of oaks for example, can you figure out where the others grow? This is part of the puzzle of testing what animal likes what food. Animals will hint at what food they like the most. But what happens when you feed them their favorite food? And what does the fox say?
Also, be on the lookout for other objects in the environment. Who knows what you might find?
In the Settings panel of your Apple device, there is an icon for Toca Nature. If you open it you can toggle snapshots to “off” and no photos will be saved in your camera roll. There are also options for showing the “Toca News” and “For parents” buttons on the start screen as well as an option for toggling the music playback on and off. Please note that some of these settings may require the application to be restarted to take effect.
Also, in Apple iOS, there is a general Privacy setting, displayed together with a hand icon in the Settings panel. If you open it and select “Photos” you can choose if you want Toca Nature to be able to access the Photo album on your device. This has to be turned on if you want Toca Nature to be able to save photos to your album, regardless of the snapshot settings described above.
Mårten Brüggemann, Play Designer