Toca Hair Salon 2: Even more hair raising than the original.
Developer Toca Boca have made their name creating hugely imaginative and charming apps for children. One of the earliest offerings was Toca Hair Salon, a game that let the youngsters style the hair of a variety of bizarre characters. For the first time, rather than building something brand new, Toca Boca have opted to release a sequel with Toca Hair Salon 2. Have they overplayed their hand in building on laurels rather than continuing the creative streak that made them famous?
In common with other character-based Toca Boca apps, you kick things off by picking a model for your tonsorial ministrations. There are four, one male, one female, one who could be either, and one furry … thing. You’re then presented with a wide array of hair styling tools, from miracle-gro cream to various shavers, scissors, dyes and curlers. You can even wash and blow dry your hirsute customer with spectacularly bouffant results. Press a tool to select it, then brush your finger over the targets’ coiffure to see the effect in action.
The select-then-drag interface seems a little unintuitive, but in reality even small children get the hang of it really quickly. Same goes for the fact that all the tools are split over different screens, three or four to each one, which you can move between by swiping. In fact I think my three-year old realised the variety on offer rather quicker than I did. There’s even a context-aware element to the controls that makes things like dyeing stripes into a bristling mane of hair an absolute doddle.
In addition to styling hair, some of the screens also give you the options to add accessories such as hats, glasses, bows, bands and baubles. There’s a fair selection of these as well, new choices popping up out of the containing box as the previous is examined and discarded by the discerning hairdresser in charge of the app. When you’re done, pose your model in front of a selection of colour screens and snap a photo for posterity.
Use of the app is basically the same as the original Toca Hair Salon. So what’s been added for fans of the original? Well there are some new frequently requested tools such as curlers, tongs and straighteners and the range of accessories has been increased. The four characters on offer to style also feature much improved graphics and animation over their predecessors, but their numbers have been thinned from the original six.
It seems like such a simple premise, styling a little hair; not something that’s likely to divert kids for hours on end. A lot of Toca Boca apps are based on similarly narrow premises. And just like all the other Toca Boca apps, Toca Hair Salon 2 demonstrates how a child’s imagination can make the flimsiest foundation into an endless playground if it’s offered to them correctly.
But it is just a little limiting. There’s nothing like the camera tool from Toca Tailor that allowed you to base designs on pictures you’d taken or uploaded to your device. Regardless of its limitations though, there’s something inherently amusing about hair that keeps this entertaining. Drenching your poor customer in the shower and then power-drying them and watching ripples spread out over both their face and their hairstyle never seems to get old, even when you’re pushing forty.
It’s amazing how Toca Boca continue to create things that manage to make everyday activities vastly entertaining, but whatever magic dust their developers sprinkle into the code, Toca Hair Salon 2 has it in abundance. Its scope may be limited, and it may not be enough of an advance on the original Toca Hair Salon to wow people who already own that, but on the whole this is yet another showcase to demonstrate Toca Boca’s uncanny ability to transform slabs of plastic and glass into wonderful creative otherworlds for children.