ELECTRONIC ARTS ARE the people who bring you Deluxe Paint, that consistently Amiga Format-Gold winning paint and graphics package that we continually refer to as the paint program to have for your Amiga, though, EA have come across yeat another phenomenal paint program, but this time it is for the kids - well sort of!
Kid Pix was created solely with kids in mind - it was designed by a dad, Craig Hickman, for his three-year old son Ben. Apparently, Ben used to play with 'adult' paint programs but ended up in tricky situations, so what was called for was a more kid-friendly application. And Craig has certainly managed to come up with that.
Once you have launched your copy of Kid Pix you are presented with a blank screen - and then you are all ready to start painting away. There are just three menus at the top of the screen: File, Edit and a special Goodies menu, but all of these menus can be turned off if you opt for 'Small Kids Mode'- which is more or less kid-proof.
Down the left-hand side of the screen are the tools with which to explore the program. As you click on each tool you are given various different options at the bottom of the screen, these change depending on which tool you click on. The Interface is such fun to work with, kids will have no trouble becoming familiar with the way the program works, and although Kid Pix comes with a comprehensive manual, you really do not need it - you can just get straight in and play away to your heart's content, creating everything from fairly simple drawings, to quite intricate and stunning pieces of work - even if you are just five-years-old.
The first tool you are presented with is the Wacky Pencil (all of the tools have fun-looking icons that represent what the tool does). Click on the pencil and the options at the bottom include various line (or a thick circular brush) styles and widths. But it is when you first move the mouse across the screen to draw your first picture that you come across Kid Pix's pièce de résistance: sound! Yes, of course there have been other children's paint programs before, but none has managed to merge sound with vision as well as this.
It is a great laugh exploring what each tool and its various options do to the pictures on screen, and that alone will keep you amazed for hours. But Kid Pix adds another dimension, and you and your children will be eager to discover all the different noises and samples that are there to be uncovered. Everyone will have their own favourites. I love the stretching noise that the line-drawing tool makes, it matches the drawing move you are making so well, it sounds like a squeaky wooden door opening, as you stretch the line one side of the screen to another.
The graphics capabilities have not been sacrificed for the sake of sound though. You will find all that you would expect from a children's paint package and then some! There is a more than adequate colour palette - 16 colours in total - and some wonderful (some would even say quite wacky in fact) painting options once you select the Wacky Brush!
My personal faves are the Zig Zag line - the pattern is similar to the blip-blip pattern that the machine that goes 'ping' makes; Echoes - circles within circles, very reminiscent of Spiro graph sets; Trees - draws your very own fractal forest, and if you hold down Ctrl while you click the mouse button, it draws a real mighty oak of a tree; Drippy Paint - while you draw, the 'paint' dribbles down the page. Connect-the Dots - yes, you can make your very own dot-to-dot picture, who needs paper, eh?
The only drawback with the Wacky Brush tool, though, is that there are no sounds with it. The thing is it is probably the one you go to first and so you are initially disappointed - but once you go on to discover the noises in some of the other options, you do not feel at all cheated, but it is certainly something that could be considered for an update.
Once drawing has been created with any of the drawing tools, and you fancy spicing it up a bit, then it is time to have a go with the Electric Mixer tool. It is so-named because it will simply mix up your picture in some wacky, weird and even abstract ways. Kids will reap hours of enjoyment trying out all the options available to them. At the same time they will discover more and more about the program, and new ways to manipulate their drawings - I certainly have!
So when a drawing is finished what then? Well, if your kids are happy with their artistic endeavours they can save their pictures to disk and print them out for posterity. It is all very easy and what you see on screen is what prints out on paper. Obviously, a colour printer is preferable, but mono printouts can look pretty good too, the ones in the manual are black-and-white and they look great - though try explaining that to your nagging eight-year-old.
If your budding computer graphic protégés are not happy with their drawings then they can simply erase using the 'Erase' tool. Remember what a tedious task rubbing out your drawing was when you were young? Well the present generation won't find this to be the case with Kid Pix - because there are even options for erasing pictures. Firecracker is the most impressive because your screen explodes in Pop Art-style with accompanying sound; or you can go for the Hidden Pictures eraser, it rubs out the drawing but displays, albeit briefly, some of the program's hidden secrets.
Electronic Arts say of their latest paint package that "No one is too young, no one is too old", and that is certainly true, everyone in the Amiga Format office has been huddled around the screen, just wanting another quick play! It is definitely a great entry-level paint package whatever your age. It may even be better suited for an Amiga bundle than Deluxe Paint is. And what better way to get your young ones interested in the Amiga? If they learn how to use a mouse, recognise icons, print out their drawings and get an artistic slant before they even get to school age that has got to be 'A Good Thing' hasn'it?