About twenty years ago, I enjoyed playing with colorforms. Colorforms came with shapes made of rubbery material, which could be placed on a smooth surface to create scenes. The smooth surface provided a theme (Spiderman, a tree ready to eat Charlie Brown's kite, and so on) and the shapes provided thematic characters and props. Bit Jugglers has taken the idea of colorforms, blended in sound and animation, and come out with a program called Kids World. Using Kids World, you set up a scene which can transmogrify into an animated screen saver module.
You start off in Kids World by choosing between one of six background scenes (my favorites are haunted world, space world, and dinosaur world). You can also choose a plain white or black world, or import a PICT.
After choosing a world, you then go to town with a wide selection of stamps - haunted world offers stamps for ghosts, witches, and the like; space world has space ships, rockets, and celestial objects. Although each world's stamps share an overall design, any stamp can go in any world. You want a buffalo in your backyard? No problem. Haunted windows in a farm house? The ghost happily obliges. If you tire of stamps, you can switch into painting mode and use a basic collection of painting tools to change the look of the world.
Each stamp and painting tool has an associated sound - I especially like the Erase tool, which makes a vacuuming noise. All this play proved so absorbing that I spent a full hour on it, about 45 minutes longer than I had intended.
When you tire of stamping and painting, you click the Go button to animate your creation. The scene and its stamps take over the entire screen and many of the stamps move about and make noises. Occasionally, the stamps interact with each other or the background - the ghostly door creaks open, rockets launch, witches cast spells, and the cowboy (if you wait a bit) lassos and is dragged off by the buffalo. Using an elegant interface, you have created an animated screen saver module. To edit your module, you click the Stop button, unobtrusively positioned in the upper left-hand corner. (The Stop button only shows in this Print Preview-like mode - it does not show when you use the module as a screen saver.)
Bit Jugglers also sells UnderWare (see TidBITS-192), a control panel that offers desktop patterns, background desktop animation, and screen saver functions. If you've seen UnderWare, you will recognize some of the stamps and animations.
For more long-lasting entertainment, you can use the module with UnderWare or After Dark. A copy of UnderWare comes with Kids World (but only with a few modules). Bit Jugglers encourages users to share the Kids World modules they create with friends who have Kids World - unfortunately, it seems that Kids World modules saved in After Dark format require the 3.3 MB of Kids World shared code, making it impossible to share Kids World modules with those who have only After Dark.
According to the manual, Kids World requires 4 MB RAM, System 7, and at least a 68020-based Macintosh. Kids World comes on two high-density disks, but Mac II owners can request 800K disks. The manual is short, clear, and accessible. Anyone trying to learn all there is to know about Kids World should read the ReadMe, which explains the Preferences dialog box.
I played with Kids World on a Power Mac 7100, Apple 13-inch color monitor, 8 MB RAM (doubled to 16) and System 7.1.2. As one would hope, I found the speed to be excellent, with the only slow-downs (five to ten seconds) occurring after I pressed the Go button to see the module as an animated screen saver (the slow-down did get slower on Adam's 660AV, taking about twenty seconds for the same module). My main disappointment was that the interactions between the stamps and the worlds were not more numerous and varied. Perhaps, even now, imaginative people at Bit Jugglers are planning more interactions for version 2.0. In the meantime, Kids World lists for $59.95, but its street price should be around $30. The colorful and attractive interface works nicely; you won't find any Barbies, Power Rangers, or Barneys lurking within; the program has more bells and whistles than I mentioned in this review; and kids should have a blast with it.
Bit Jugglers -- 415/968-3908 -- 415/968-5358 (fax)