Pok Pok is a playroom for kids, on your iPad or iPhone. The project has been incubated at the creative studio Snowman (who made games like Skate City), and it’s now live on the App Store. Buy the app and you get six interactive toys for kids to play with. They’re all open-ended with no right or wrong way to play, and they’re intended to foster creative thinking. New toys will be added over time, I gather, but there are no ads, no in-app purchases, and not even any text in the app besides the name Pok Pok.
My seven-year-old is slightly out of the age range that is going to get the most from Pok Pok, I suspect, but over the last few weeks she has tapped away at it quite happily. One of the six toys is a town – very much the kind of printed mat town that you can lay out on the floor of the living room. Except because this is a digital toy you can move town people around, put them in cars, check inside buildings and generally investigate every element.
Alongside the town are other standards like a lovely drawing app, which allows you to save pictures and also has a glorious Etch a-Sketch-like swipe bar to remove all scribblings. There’s a sort of busy book of animations arranged by type – sports, outdoor things, ocean life – which feels like a starter encyclopedia. The art style is simple but rather timeless. I’m fascinated that it hasn’t settled on a sort of ’50s vibe that a lot of kids toys do when they’re trying to look unadorned. It’s very hard to place Pok Pok in a specific moment, which I suspect is the point.
Elsewhere there’s a selection of shapes that are also sounds. You tap a circle and it turns into a donut and lets out a low note. You pull a squiggly line and – well, finding out is half the fun. There’s also a toy filled with stackable objects including springs, cartoon heads and washing machines. It is a rare day that isn’t enlivened by a touch of stacking.
My favourite part of Pok Pok – and I understand that I am far from the target audience – is the sixth toy. It’s a collection of switches and doorbells and general interactive doodads. You drop in for an idle twenty minutes and press a few buttons, spin a few dials, and before you know it you don’t want to leave. There are oscilloscopes, intercom boxes, fans and a sort of telephony thing. Everytime I look I see a new gadget and there’s real joy in bringing them to life for a few busy seconds.
There are games I play that are a bit like this – I love the sort of interact-with-an-odd-diorama game that seems to thrive on smartphones. But Pok Pok is also very distinct. It belongs on the table of the playroom – a lazy afternoon with nothing to do but investigate and see where a moment leads.