capsule review

GollyGee Blocks

There's more to children's software than games and education programs filled with drills. GollyGee Blocks is an innovative 3-D program for children ages 5 to 12 that teaches children to think creatively by building, coloring, and reshaping 3-D objects.

Dream On

GollyGee Blocks lure a child's imagination into the world of 3-D by building scenes using virtual building blocks and a library of premade objects. Its interface is colorful, inviting, and easy to use. A main tool bar is always on the screen, and each button is labeled. The program doesn't come with a formal manual, although the booklet in the CD case is helpful.

The scene begins with an empty plane of grass. You can add geometrical shapes or objects (such as horses, human figures, and trees) to the scene, or give color and texture to the background and to the objects. You can also stretch, resize, and rotate the objects. Each object sits on a plane, and that plane can be moved up and down, or even rotated. It's easy to undo and redo actions. When you finish a scene, you can "photograph" it from an aerial perspective or as it appears on screen by clicking on the camera icon. These photographs are saved as printable bitmap files in the program's photo album.

Keep It Simple

GollyGee Blocks is easy to jump right into, but it doesn't create fancy graphics or elaborate details, so anyone expecting an in-depth program will be disappointed. Because it's such a simple program, it has some limitations. Some objects won't do exactly what you want them to do. For example, when we tried to move an airplane onto the bed of a truck, it was impossible to keep the airplane on top of the truck: some of the airplane appeared below the truck. Also, some objects lose their three-dimensionality when you color them. For example, when we colored a horse black, it lost all shadow detail and became a one-dimensional shape on screen.

GollyGee Blocks doesn't include any animation -- the scenes are entirely static. Disney's Magic Artist 3D includes the ability to animate 3-D objects but isn't as easy for younger children to use.

Some software problems, including flickering caused by the undo/redo buttons, can be fixed by downloading the 1.4A update.

Macworld's Buying Advice

GollyGee Blocks are a lot like wooden building blocks: you can only build so much with them. Simplicity aside, this program is an inventive and inviting introduction to 3-D design and can potentially keep young minds active for a long time, but older children may find it limiting.

Step-by-step: Place objects wherever you want, and then add color.
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