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Players build their own games

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2008

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

Build a Ben 10 game

Cartoon Network continues its innovative ways with a new online challenge based on one of its hottest animated properties. The Ben 10: Alien Force Game Creator (http://gamecreator.cartoon network.com) is a way for fans of the show not only to do some quick role-playing with their favorite 15-year-old, but also become junior game developers.

Basically, players get a template on which they can construct a level of action just like any side-scrolling platform challenge seen in a hand-held video game.

They first select a background and then choose a hero from four of Ben's new alien transformations. Swampfire, Humongousaur, Jetray and the web-blasting Spidermonkey are available, each equipped with unique powers to fight the bad guys. Developers then pick the objective the player will have to achieve, e.g., defeat all the enemies, collect all of the orbs or get to a door.

Next, the major part of the development is the actual map design, which incorporates positioning walls, floors, objects and hazards around the gridded action area, all applied using a simple a drag-and-drop interface.

Of course, the last step is the bug-testing phase, which requires the developer to beat his game to prove it works smoothly and logically.

Those who register on the site can keep track of their games, send finished challenges to the site's gallery for others to play and compile statistics on what players think of their efforts.

Also, let's not forget that in addition to the Game Builder, the Cartoon Network site has almost 200 more challenges based on properties such as "Naruto," "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends," "Transformers" and "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy."

Virtual Tower of Terror

To celebrate and promote a new attraction in Disneyland Paris, Mickey's online "Imagineers" have created a stunning ode to a classic hotel that has fallen on frightening times. Why this type of cyber-presence could not have been offered for the American equivalent of this ride is beyond me, but the Tower of Terror (www.disneytowerof terror.com) comes alive on computer screens.

The site beautifully mixes photo-realistic settings and characters along with music, sound effects, videos and a couple of interactive features to place guests in the haunted twilight zone of accommodations called the Hollywood Hotel. Visitors follow a ghoulish bellhop around the hotel to find slick interactives too tempting for the cyber-tech lovers to pass up.

First, guests upload a photograph and can apply five Tower of Terror effects to their faces to reflect their elevator-dropping experience.

Next, in the Terror Movie Theater, amateur sound mixers can dub a movie clip with their own voices as they re-enact the final fated moments of some of the unlucky hotel guests who drop into the fourth dimension in the famed plunging elevator.

Finally, a scavenger hunt for ghosts concludes the fun, requiring the visitor to find five guests who vanished in the hotel in 1939. The detective explores from the basement to an endless hallway. All locations are highlighted with dusty deco designs perfectly fitting with the attraction's ambience.

Those who find all of the apparitions can enter a drawing to win tickets to the park.

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 to jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com).