- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2007

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Vermin on the Web

The French rat Remy is captivating lovers of food and animated films as Disney/Pixar’s “Ratatouille” keeps packing them into theaters.

The little fellow also has a delectable cyber stop (http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/ratatouille/main.html) loaded with multimedia activities for the younger crowd and a couple of challenges even older fans will appreciate.

As the orchestral soundtrack soothes, visitors are taken to an opening screen that displays a panoramic view of Paris with Remy admiring its beauty. As a mouse cursor is moved over the landscape, icons magically appear to take visitors to Skinner’s office, a food locker, Linguini’s apartment and, of course, a restaurant kitchen.

The ghost of culinary genius Auguste Gusteau pops up as visitors click around hot spots in each location and offers coloring pages to download, wallpaper and facts from the film production. (More than 270 pieces of food were created in the computer, and Remy has 1,150,070 hairs on his body.)

Most impressive, as is usually the case with Disney sites, is the Games section. Challenges include pinball (called Rat ‘N Roll), card matching, a personality quiz (to see what character the player most resembles), mazes and finding a hidden Remy in images.

My favorite time-waster, Choppity Chop, has the player control a virtual knife to cut bread and vegetables as he finely hones speed, precision and portion skills to meet the stringent demands of a kitchen line cook.

Additionally, chefs can download an interactive recipe application (for Mac or PC) and receive instructions for a new dish every day in this desktop resource.

Croft toons

One of the superstars of the video game world celebrates her 10-year anniversary with a new game for the PlayStation 2 — Tomb Raider Anniversary (Eidos, $29.99) — and, better yet, new cartoon adventures exclusively available online.

Hosted by the Turner Broadcasting System’s GameTap, an online digital game distribution and broadband entertainment site, the tribute to adventurer Lara Croft (www.gametap.com/tombraider) begins within some of the dangerous environments she is known for exploring.

An outdoor rain forest with cascading waterfalls loads on the opening screen, and panels offer entrance into multimedia realms to learn about Croft’s history and see her current animated adventures.

To start, I suggest a look at the legend of Lara with a nine-part retrospective that helps explain her popularity and offers comments by her creators, the folks involved with making her a pop-culture icon, the fans and the actresses who brought her to real life.

Next, a click over to the Re\Visioned: Tomb Raider Animated Series section delivers the 10-part mature cartoon epic that offers a new segment every Thursday.

Currently online for this review was the three-part story called “Keys to the Kingdom” created by the father of Aeon Flux, Peter Chung (http://video1.washingtontimes.com/zadzooks/2007/07/lara_croft_meets_peter_chung_1.html). Others involved in the animated stories include comic book greats Jim Lee, Warren Ellis, Gail Simone and Brian Pulido.

PC Gamers also can sign up through the site to play a free version of Tomb Raider Legends or pay a monthly fee of $9.95 to enjoy Tomb Raider Anniversary, Lara’s other adventures and more than 900 other titles.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www3.washingtontimes.com/familytimes/romperroom.htm.