Home Computers: A quick-draw show that's just dynamite: Nicholas Timmins uses a new art program and has even more fun than his children

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EVERY now and then you find a program that is a little bit of magic. Kid Pix is one. A drawing and sound package, it claims to be good for children of all ages from three upwards. It certainly left this adult with a silly, fixed grin on his face, while in the sober judgement of Zoe, aged eight, it provides 'a wide range of fun and crazy things to do'.

Jonathan, five, says it is great for drawing super-heroes. Robert, the same age, fell in love with the 'glass mountains and the North Pole' which he drew, while he giggled with glee at the (American) voice which spells out the letters as you click on them to stamp your name, or anything else written, into the picture.

The program's American origin is shown in Spanish being the alternative language in which it will speak and spell. Ole.

The freehand drawing offers more than 30 basic line colours and scores more to fill in with once you descend a bit deeper into the program.

There are more than 100 pre-drawn stamps which can be blown up, shrunk again, moved around, or edited into something completely different in shape, colour and orientation before being 'stamped' into a picture.

Almost everything you do is accompanied by an often witty sound effect - which can be switched off if it drives you mad - and there are scores of special effects, such as a multi-branching tree - each tree each time is different - dripping paint, patterns, and even something that will let you generate a join-up-the-numbers picture.

If you do not like what you have just done, it can be undone - to the accompaniment of a voice groaning 'Oh no]' Dislike the whole show and you select a tiny stick of dynamite, which after fizzing for a second or two blows the whole screen into multi-coloured pieces.

Pictures can be made to scroll across the screen and 30 seconds of sound - children singing or telling you what the picture is - can be recorded.

Slightly older children can find all sorts of special effects just by using the keyboard at the same time as the mouse. But there is also a 'small kids mode' designed to reduce the chances of your tiniest wiping out your almost-complete great novel.

Smaller children learn good mouse control, producing pictures almost instantly, while the alphabet and spoken letters help them with reading and spelling.

Kid Pix also provides a high-grade introduction for an older child or adult into the basics of more advanced graphics. All of which is hunting for unnecessary merit in something that is simply enormous fun.

Pictures can be saved and printed out, some of the results leading you down the primrose path of coveting your neighbour's colour printer.

If there is one criticism, and it seems almost mean to make it, it is that there are so many things the program will do for you, it discourages free-hand drawing.

The only difficulty we had was getting it running in the first place. Neatly, it uses less memory on smaller Macintoshes. But on the more recent larger machines - from the Performa 400 up - you need to adjust upwards the maximum and preferred memory sizes, using Get Info from the file menu. That was not in the manual of our copy, although the Broderbund helpline sorted out the problem in seconds.

Vital statistics

System: Apple Macintosh; also available for Amiga, DOS and Windows.

Publisher: Broderbund Software.

Distributor: Electronic Arts, 90 Heron Drive, Langley, Berkshire SL3 8XP; 0753 549442.

Availability: Retailers, dealers, mail order.

Price: List - pounds 34.99 Mac and PC formats; pounds 24.99 Amiga. Street - pounds 35, including VAT.

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