- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2007

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

Three times is the box-office charm for William Steig’s lovable green ogre, who triumphantly returned to the silver screen Friday in DreamWorks’ animated epic “Shrek the Third.”

His home in cyberspace has been firmly in place since the first film back in 2001 (www.shrek-themovie.com), then “Shrek 2” got a fantastic site (www.shrek2-the-movie.com), and his latest digs (www.shrek.com) offer a multimedia-packed destination for fans.

Donkey’s fire-breathing spouse, Dragon, lights up the opening screen, which leads off with a trailer for the new film and displays sections covering the history of the franchise.

For those unfamiliar with the Shrek legend, I suggest reading about the cartoon cast through a rotating character menu that offers background on 15 luminaries from the twisted fairy-tale world. Each gets complete biographical information, including diary entries and attributes, video footage, an image gallery, wallpaper downloads and history. Unfortunately, eight bios are still missing, mostly from the second film. Let’s get with it, Web guys.

Next, a Fan Community area divided into Kids, Boys, Girls, Teens and Parents re-compiles some of the site features for the targeted groups. For example, parents get four recipes to download (Waffles a la Donkey sounds tasty) while girls get an interactive Honeymoon Storybook to read or have read to them, about a harrowing adventure involving Shrek, Fiona and a ghost.

Another site highlight is found in Explore Virtual Shrekland. It enables visitors to move around an interactive map, zoom in on areas and take a closer look at some of the places.

The 3-D walk into Shrek’s swamp abode, a spot Yoda would appreciate, shows off its rustic and earthy comforts. Hot spots explain some of the owner’s furnishings and also highlight his always plentiful supply of earwax candles and bowl of eyeballs for guests to munch.

Unfortunately, only the Swamp is available for a detailed look. Developers will need to kick in the overtime for visitors to stop by locales such as the Honeymoon Hotel, Dead End Graveyard and Dragon’s Keep.

Gamers also may be disappointed with the main Shrek site as they will only find a memory challenge and Sudoku using character heads instead of numbers.

However, those wise enough to click on the Shrek the Third: Royal Tournament Box move to an AOL- and Hillshire Farm-sponsored site (http://shrek.aol.com/main.php) offering a quartet of areas — Villains’ Action Stadium, Gingy’s Activity Area, Merlin’s 3-D Midway and Pinocchio’s Puzzle Pavilion — presented in a theme-park setting and loaded with a dozen challenges.

My favorite, conjured by King Arthur’s favorite wizard, Merlin, provides four timed games (with another two on the way). Action includes jousting from a first-person perspective, maneuvering a princess through a slick 3-D maze, and racing the Gingerbread Man on a trippy rainbow course.

Those who register (a rather intrusive proposition that requires a phone number, full address and e-mail address) and conquer the games will receive virtual Donkey Dollars they can use to “buy” digital merchandise from the site, including printable games and computer wallpapers.

Additionally, visitors using a PC can download a 304-megabyte demo version of Activision’s upcoming third-person adventure video game. Based on the latest film, the game has a player control either Shrek or Puss in Boots and, with help from Donkey, explore the lands of Far Far Away.

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, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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