Pok Pok is a playroom for children, on iPad or iPhone. The project was incubated at creative studio Snowman (which made games like Skate City), and it’s now live on the App Store. Purchase 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 meant to encourage creative thinking. New toys will be added over time, I guess, but there are no ads, no in-app purchases, and even no in-app text other than the name Pok Pok.
My seven year old is slightly outside of the age range that is going to get the most out of Pok Pok, I guess, but over the past few weeks she has happily exploited it. One of the six toys is a city – the kind of printed rug city you can lay out on the living room floor. Unless it’s a digital toy, you can move townspeople around, put them in cars, check inside buildings, and generally investigate every item.
Next to the city, there are other standards like a beautiful drawing app, which lets you save images and also has a glorious Etch a-Sketch-like swipe bar to remove all the doodles. There’s some sort of animated book sorted by type – sports, outdoors, ocean life – that looks like a starter encyclopedia. The artistic style is simple but rather timeless. I’m fascinated that it didn’t settle into some kind of ’50s vibe that a lot of kids’ toys do when they try to appear unadorned. It’s very difficult to place Pok Pok at a specific time, which I think is the point.
Elsewhere there is a selection of forms which are also sounds. You press a circle and it turns into a donut and lets out a low note. You draw a wavy line and – well, finding out is half the fun. There’s also a toy filled with stackable items, including springs, cartoon heads, and washing machines. It’s a rare day that isn’t enlivened by a touch of stacking.
My favorite part of Pok Pok – and I understand I’m far from the target audience – is the sixth toy. It is a collection of general interactive switches and doorbells and gadgets. You spend twenty minutes idle and press a few buttons, turn a few dials and before you know it you don’t want to leave. There are oscilloscopes, intercoms, fans, and some sort of telephone. Every time I look I see a new gadget and there is real joy in bringing them to life for a few busy seconds.
There are games I play that are kind of like this – I like the kind of interaction game with an odd diorama that seems to thrive on smartphones. But Pok Pok is also very distinct. It’s up to the rec room table – a lazy afternoon with nothing to do but investigate and see where a moment leads.