Play-Doh has come to the iPad. With the newly launched toy set for kids, Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio, Hasbro has made aÂ solid attempt at bringing the joy of Play-Doh to digital through an iOSÂ app that brings kidsâ creations to life. But the combination of physical play and digital is not a skill set thatâs easily mastered even by top kidsâ brands â just ask Disney Infinity.
And while Play-Doh itself holds up as the engaging and fun toy itâs been for decades, the Play-Doh Touch app fails to amuse after only a few minutes.
On paper, Play-Doh Touch sounds intriguing.
The idea is that kids can use Play-Doh to create as always â using scissors, stamps and molds â then place their resulting creations on a white surface whereÂ theyâre scanned and ported into a digital world where theyâll actually come to life. That means you can create a cute green dinosaur, for example, then see him begin to hop around on the screen.
However, the $40Â Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life StudioÂ offersÂ everything you need to get started, including seven cans of the modeling compound, 10 character and action stamps, plus tools and 15 cutters. Thereâs also the âShape to Life Studioâ itself, which is really just a white plastic platform where you place kidsâÂ creations before snapping your photo.
Though the kit has a lot of pieces, the choice of character stamps seem a bit odd. Instead of commonly popular animals like cats, puppies or birds, youâre given things like a jellyfish, three-eyed ghost, turtle, and something I believe is a worm, though it could be a snail. The rest of the accessories are focused on world-building: trees, a cactus, leaves, clouds, a bone (for T-Rex, ostensibly, though my kid was sad to find there was no dog), etc.
Of course, you can turn any olâ misshapen blob (see pictures below) into a digital character using the Play-Doh Touch app, as it doesnât criticize your totâs artistic capabilities by failing to scan their weird designs if they donât match up with oneÂ of the included molds.
The app, however, was hard to use at the kitchen table because you have to hold the camera high above the creation, and little arms can only reach so far. Parental involvement may be needed. (Plus, these jars donât open easily, I must note.)
Thereâs some initial fun in seeing whatever funny creature your kid hasÂ shaped appear on the iPadâs screen and animate, and the gameplay is easy enough for even little ones to understand.
But Play-Doh fails to create a compelling world after the whizz-bang glee of its digital trickery wears off.
Most kidsÂ today have a host of extremely well-built apps at their disposal,Â and are fairly adept gamers in general.
Even my kid â whoâsÂ still more into Toca Bocaâs digital âtoysâ more soÂ than Minecraft â became almost immediately bored with Play-DohâsÂ gaming experience.
AfterÂ not even five minutes, I kid you not, her comment was, I quote: âMommy, this is boring.â
It appears she quicklyÂ figured out there was no advanced gaming technique needed to move through the world and jump over the obstacles.
âAll you have to do is hold the side,â she explained, showing me how she continually pressed on the screen to keep the character moving forward.
Above: some of the more boring screens in the app
In other words, the game itself was not challenging. And, beyond the fact that it was something you createdÂ jumping around on the screen, it wasnât really interesting either. There are noÂ big storylines to follow, character dialog, things to unlock, puzzles, or anything else that would make the gameÂ fun.
At best, the appÂ might interestÂ toddlers â but Play-Doh has broader appeal, and should have tried harder on building a great game, too. As it stands, itâs pretty clear all the development effort was focused on the creation-to-life aspect.
For $40, Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio feels likeÂ too much to pay, considering the limited experience the digital componentÂ currently offers. Today,Â you can buy the best part of Play-Doh Touchâs kit for a lot less: a 10-pack of full-sized Play-Doh jars is underÂ $10 and a 24-piece setting of models and molds is running around $14 on Amazon.
If you still want to give Play-Doh Touchâs app a go, itâs a free download on iTunes. You can buy the other in-app worlds for an additional $1.99 each, if you choose. The app works on both iPads and iPhones.