Bob the Builder: Build City

App review by
Christy Matte, Common Sense Media
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Fave TV construction vehicles offer only idle entertainment.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Created with educational intent, but we don't recommend it for learning. Link between truck and the task at hand is reduced to some very simple color matching (kids figure this out themselves). Kids don't actually see the truck in action or learn more about it, they aren't told that a truck might need a wash because it's dirty, and they don't actually have to make any real decisions about anything in the experience, so no creative options.

Ease of Play

Controls require a "tap and drag," which should be comfortable for most kids in the target age. There are no directions for kids and no verbal prompts unless kids try to use the wrong truck for the job. Kids should eventually realize that the construction jobs are color-coded for the appropriate truck, but this is never explicitly stated. A special icon appears when a truck is dirty that corresponds to a small icon on the car wash. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Connected to Bob the Builder TV show and properties, though no product pushes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bob the Builder: Build City is an open-exploration experience that allows kids to use trucks (Lofty, Muck, and Scoop) to clear obstacles and build buildings. Bob barely appears, and none of the other characters from the TV show appear at all. There are no instructions or prompts, so younger kids may struggle at first to figure out what to do. The experience resets each time you exit, so kids will need to build the same buildings over and over each time they play. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared. 

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What's it about?

In BOB THE BUILDER: BUILD CITY, kids are tasked with helping Bob's crew of trucks, including Lofty, Scoop, and Muck, to build new buildings and clear debris in Spring City. There is no set path or goal, but certain areas on the map are highlighted with a color that corresponds to one of the trucks. For example, Lofty might be required to lift a fallen log, so that area will be blue. There are multiple steps for building buildings, so kids will need to bring in each truck as it's needed. Repairs require placing a truck in the right spot and tapping a button. Kids can also blow the horn for the truck they are using, send it through the car wash (special icons indicate when they are dirty), or explore the environment for interactive spots. The game resets when the app is closed.

Is it any good?

It's exciting to have a kids' game with popular characters and no in-app purchases, but, unfortunately, it also lacks depth and content. Bob the Builder: Build City has the makings of a great app: It's ad-free and open-ended and features beloved characters who also happen to be construction vehicles. What's not to love? The problems start from the beginning when kids are greeted with some trucks in the street and a rousing, "We can build it!" And then nothing -- no prompts or gentle hints as to what they might want to do. Kids will likely try to drive the trucks and stumble across an obstacle or a highlighted construction area. If the color matches the current truck, a button appears and kids can push it and watch as a building magically grows and obstacles disappear in a cloud of dust. If not, the correct truck's name is mentioned. When the trucks get dirty, a car wash icon appears to suggest that they visit the car wash, but there's no verbal prompt to let kids know what it means or how to get rid of it. There's a certain amount of fun in navigating the trucks around the map, and younger kids may be content with driving them around aimlessly for a while, but the overall repetition might shorten the shelf life. If kids could help design the buildings, scoop dirt, interact with characters, or exercise creativity in some way, there would be educational value beyond color matching. As it stands, though, this construction app stalls out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about using apps such as Bob the Builder: Build City for learning. Do you think this is a good app for learning? Why, or why not? What did you learn? 

  • How do you like this app as compared to other apps you could play? If you had or have limited screen time, would you pick this app over other apps on your device? Why, or why not?

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