App Review: Hoopa City

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Children love to use their imagination to create made-up worlds and tell stories about that world. Whether they're saving the city from an evil villain or picking out a new pet puppy, children are actually developing a key early literacy skill while telling these stories. Toys or apps that encourage open-ended play and storytelling are a great way to develop these narrative skills. 

App developers such as Sago Sago and Toca Boca have earned accolades by developing their free-play apps, but with the release of Hoopa City, TribePlay seeks to join their ranks, especially since the app is available at iTunes ($2.99), Google Play (free with IAP), and Amazon ($2.99).

To start, you'll complete a brief, wordless tutorial, showing you how to build your city with just a few taps. After that, it's up to you. Build a sprawling city, beach resort, suburban neighborhood, or don't plan at all!

To build something, you'll choose one of seven elements and then tap a square. Elements can be combined to create more than 50 objects for your city. One of the best parts about the app is that it doesn't tell you which elements to combine. You'll have to use trial and error to see what you can build. (Don't worry, though. If you forget how to build something, the app provides a cheat sheet, but not until after you've discovered it on your own.)

While you build your city, animal residents will start to move in and cheer you on. If you have more than one child, fear not. You have the ability to save multiple cities, a recently released feature that was much needed.

As you play with your child, talk about what you're building or what you think the animals are doing. The possibilities for stories are endless!

Note: The Android version of this app only includes three elements and asks for a $2.99 in-app purchase to unlock the other four elements. Also, the first time you use the app, you'll see advertisements for other TribeCity apps. To leave the app, you'll have to pass a parental gate, but if you don't want to take any chances, you do have the option to turn the ads off. Just tap "For Parents" and disable the promotion screen option.