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Plopp review

Verdict:

Needs PowerPC G3 600MHz G3 or better or Intel Core processor + Mac OS X 10.2 or higher

Review Date: 12 Apr 2007

Price when reviewed: (£8.09 ex VAT)

Reviewed By: Steve Caplin

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

Plopp is a new drawing program for kids with a twist: draw anything you like and Plopp will turn it into a 3D object for you. Sounds impossible? Not quite, but it's fiendishly clever.

The Plopp drawing environment is a child-friendly screen with varying sized pencils and erasers, a paint bucket for filling bounded areas and an eye dropper for sampling colours. A set of 16 basic colour swatches gets you started. Choosing any colour loads it into a paint splodge, surrounded by five paint tubes in red, blue, yellow, white and black. Dragging on any of these will roll the tube back and forth, adding or subtracting that colour. For kids, this is as near as colour mixing can get to being intuitive. In addition, the last three colours mixed appear as extra swatches.

So far, so good. The real magic comes when you press the button to 'inflate' the image you've drawn. It's a good metaphor: imagine cutting two shapes out of plastic and sealing them around the edges, then blowing air into the assembly. The larger the area, the more it inflates. And yet even thin, wispy streaks will still inflate to some degree.

Once inflated, your drawn image appears in the main Plopp window in three glorious dimensions. Click on it, and an intuitive set of control handles appears, enabling you to rotate, scale and move the object in three dimensions. There are also buttons for duplicating the object and a pin to delete it: selecting this makes the object pop and fly away like a burst balloon. A rotary dial moves the sun position, changing the direction of shadows and turning day into night.

Clicking the Pencil icon on a character will return you to the Drawing environment, where it can be edited and refined. A neat addition here is the ability to flip the drawing over, so you can draw the back, which is essential for any 3D object. Creating backgrounds is just as straightforward. There are two halves: the sky and the ground. Painting the sky is as simple as you would expect, and you can either begin from scratch or modify one of the existing backgrounds. When drawing the ground, you're presented with a triangle on which to sketch: when it's drawn, it will be placed onto the ground plane in three dimensions, disappearing off towards the horizon.

The standard download is Plopp Classic, which features 'Flip from the planet Plopp', who is possibly the most annoying cartoon helper yet devised, who, with a gratingly ecstatic American accent, guides you through the application. Once you've figured out how everything works, download Plopp Aqua instead, which has the same tool set but a more restrained, grown-up interface.

With no menu whatsoever, Plopp relies on icons for printing, emailing, exporting screen shots and quitting the program. All creations are saved within their own scenes, so they can be easily retrieved. If you make changes to an object's outline, these are all saved as thumbnails as well.

Plopp is without doubt the most extraordinary and entertaining kids' drawing application since Kid Pix. So easy that even a four-year-old could use it, Plopp nonetheless offers enough interest for kids of all ages. The only real drawback is that the window can't be resized - and it's to be hoped that animation features will be added in a future version.

In the meantime, though, this is a fantastically enjoyable program that will keep kids entertained for hours. Hugely inventive, both in terms of its interface and its features, Plopp is truly innovative software.

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