Bottom Line: Awesome and affordable app that preschoolers will love, but there is one issue parents may not like. Definitely at least download the free trial and check it out.
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In July I reviewed Dr. Panda's Hospital and made it one of our Top Picks and now Dr. Panda is back, this time with his own restaurant. Apparently he gave up his career in the medical profession to pursue the culinary arts. Or maybe he's just remarkable enough to work as a doctor by day and restauranteur by night. It's impossible to tell from the data presented in the apps.
But I digress.
I had a really tough time deciding whether to rate Dr. Panda's Restaurant four or four-and-a-half stars. Everything about the app is outstanding, far superior to the overwhelming majority of what is in the app store. The graphics and atmosphere are colorfully terrific. The music is great. The basics for cooking and cleaning are something most kids will really enjoy.
There was one thing, however, that bothered me. More on that later.
Dr. Panda's Restaurant and Dr. Panda's Hospital are very similar, with many of same animal characters playing the roles of diners in the new app instead of the patients they played in the first. They must be directed to tables, their food must be prepared and served and then they need assistance putting the food in their mouth. A lot of fun for a cooking game for preschoolers and toddlers.
For instance, the friendly neighborhood hippo, dressed in a basketball jersey, drops by the restaurant. The child taps on the character to direct him to a seat where said hippo orders cookies. The player prepares the cookies by dragging and dropping the frosting parts of the cookies (eyes, buttons, etc.) to the cookie. Once served the child must drag and drop the completed cookie to the hippo's mouth, where it is crunched on happily. Dirty dishes must then be moved to a dish rack before another customer can occupy that space. When a certain number of dishes accrues, they must be washed in a sink.
An intruding spider occasionally has to be shooed away, to avoid an unhappy visit from the health inspector I assume.
Another customer is an elephant wearing a lovely summer dress. She wants stir fry so the child must chop the vegetables, add oil to a pan, then add the mushrooms, tomatoes and onion and then stir all until cooked, adding a drop of soy sauce at the end. It sounds complicated for the targeted age group but it's all accomplished through swipes, taps and drags - great basic, early motor skill work. In addition to the basics, certain things have to be done in a certain location, such as ingredients moved to the top opening of a blender rather than just to it, so it takes a bit more attention, which I really appreciate.
The app also includes work on following a sequence in order, some basic cooking functionality and the cleaning up afterwards. There are 10 recipes total and eight different animal customers to feed.
Dr. Panda's Restaurant has no social media links or ads but there is a link to the app store.
Back to my main problem with the app: I really prefer that an app for kids only focus on healthy foods. There is a nice vegetable stir fry, an apple pie, a smoothie, corn chowder and some orange juice but the rest of the menu includes toast with chocolate syrup (?), fried eggs, pizza, cookies, and chocolate pudding with about a gallon of whipped cream on top.
For many parents that might not be an issue, but for one who is struggling desperately to keep his kids off the junk food wagon, all healthy food would have been a better for me, so that "Dad can we squeeze fresh orange juice!?!" wouldn't be followed by "Dad, can I put a gallon of whipped cream in my mouth!?!"
It's a very good app though, so I'm making it a Top Pick with that caveat. Your kids will love it, but you'll probably have to explain why they can't have toast with chocolate syrup for breakfast.
Ron Engel would like to put a gallon of whipped cream in his mouth for every dessert. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority review fee for this review.