- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Stooged and Confoosed and Goofs on the Loose by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment, for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $24.95 each. The trio of vaudevillians that defined the role of slapstick comedy in the 1930s and 1940s returns to usher in the latest revolution in digital film coloring.

I would have loved to have been in the Columbia Tristar boardroom as the head honchos determined which black-and-white classics to spend an incredible amount of money on to colorize.

Should we color the likes of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “It Happened One Night” or “On the Waterfront” — or blow the bucks on the legendary yuks of Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard?

This pair of DVDs highlights their choice by bringing the beloved Three Stooges and the latest skills of computer artists to home entertainment consoles.

The digital coloring process involves researching every object and nuance in a movie by collecting original props, searching online for antique comparables or guessing the color, and then determining a style sheet for all the possible colors. Then, computer artists painstakingly isolate each piece to be colored by drawing a polygon around it in each frame of film and adding the appropriate tints.

The new methods involve faithfully restoring and then remastering the black-and-white film in high-definition video to give the artists the absolute best grayscale tones to work their colorizing magic on, using a 16-million-color palette.

Each disc features four comedy shorts from the boys, a documentary on the enhanced coloring process and ChromaChoice, the option of switching between color and black and white.

Viewers can enjoy classics such as 1934’s “Men in Black” (the boys destroy a hospital), 1941’s “An Ache in Every Stake” (the boys destroy a birthday party) and 1940’s “You Natzy Spy” (the boys destroy the Kingdom of Morinica).

I am not sure why film historians would want the ChromaChoice option. Maybe the subtlety of delivering an eye poke or a piece of frosted cake to the face requires careful studying of the monochromatic textures of the incident, juxtaposed against a digital artist’s interpretation of what the hued violence might look like.

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Sudeki by Microsoft for Xbox, rated M: content suitable for ages 17 and older, $49.99. This action-adventure epic attempts to meld role-playing and real-time combat with results that confound more than inspire.

A single player eventually will manage a quartet of heroes simultaneously — sword-wielding Tal, wizardess Ailish, female martial arts master Buki and science officer Elco — working together to rid the lands of Illumina from the Aklorians.

The player must acquire bounty, maintain inventories, talk to characters and upgrade powers while unleashing powerful combination and defensive moves to defeat more than 65 types of creatures.

The game’s bright points include some slick graphical presentations when delivering death blows to opponents, some of its inventory complexity and each main character’s use of necessary powers, but I found myself cursing more than excited by the on-screen action.

Annoyances include having to follow fairly linear paths to reach objectives (What happened to roaming vast 3-D environments?), having to constantly break things to accumulate items, an overabundance of blood that does nothing to further the plot or enhance the combat, too much baby sitting of heroes not in use and a set of controls that caused swelling in my brain and fingers.

I’ll readily admit that when surrounded by enemies, I usually fall into a button-mashing frenzy as my fingers begin to fumble over the buttons and analog sticks. This game does little to help me in my moment of need.

Unleashing a battlefield-clearing combination involves correctly timing out and hitting a sequence on the A and X buttons. Besides the utter waste of time trying to time out the sequence while getting pummeled, my fingers kept slipping to the B button for a weak roundhouse attack, or worse yet, the Y button, which unleashed a power I did not necessarily want to set loose.

Most fighting games also allow for some downtime, such as while investigating environments, to practice moves. Not in Sudeki. The only time to practice is in the middle of a big fight, and that spells disaster for the newer gamer.

Also, how can four mighty heroes reach a crescendo of action only to send just one of them to battle the main boss at the end of a level?

With online multiplayer epics such as Final Fantasy, Star Wars: Galaxies, Everquest and Morrowind being so immersive and intense, Sudeki has little chance of consuming its targeted demographic’s dollars.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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