- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 2004

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

An unfortunate site

Comedic chameleon Jim Carrey provides Christmas jeer this holiday season as the evil Count Olaf in the film version of author Daniel Handler’s series about three orphans protecting themselves and their inheritance from a despicable human being.

“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” debuted yesterday in theaters. A visually depressing, though dazzlingly designed, ode to the movie (www.unfortunateeventsmovie.com) has been inhabiting cyberspace in anticipation of its release.

Negativity and interactivity abound as visitors learn from the pseudonymous Mr. Snicket’s personal papers about the lives of the Baudelaire children, relatives they encounter and the horror behind the production.

While clicking about among artifacts and imagery redolent of the days of the Industrial Revolution, visitors will find treachery, misery and woe along with a photo album, a faux theatrical production with computer posters of the stars and word games to boggle the brain.

A special area devoted to the count features a 360-degree walk around various rooms of his miserable abode using the Ipix plug-in and the side-scrolling adventure Captain Sam’s Game of Villainous Rescue.

Additionally, those collecting nine eye symbols while visiting the various areas will be rewarded with even more unfortunate treasure: downloadable computer wallpaper, messaging icons and film footage.

This cyber farce goes even further, as visitors can venture into Count Olaf’s own egocentric Net space (www.countolaf.com) to find virtual souvenirs, a Web log, a movie trailer enhanced to Mr. Olaf’s specifications and even access to a separate Web site created by two female fans hopelessly in love with him (www.whitefacewomen.com).

The wonderful ambience and dark humor of the mixed-media cyber stop should continue to attract moviegoers and fans of the books well after they’ve seen the film.

Cyber Sonic

Video-game legend Sonic the Hedgehog stars in a new game for PC users, Sonic Heroes. A stop by Sega’s official Web site (www.sega.com) gives visitors a chance to download and install a 160-megabyte free trial version of the challenge and take part in a round of the furiously paced fun.

To start the mayhem, players need a Pentium III or better PC running Windows 98SE, ME, 2000 or XP; DirectX version 9 or higher; and any ATO Radeon or Nvidia GeForce series video card with at least 128 megabytes of system memory.

The action involves controlling a trio of animated characters (Sonic, Tails and Knuckles) via keyboard commands. The three burn up turf in a highly vibrant three-dimensional world while collecting rings, flying to platforms, maneuvering through dangerous paths and crushing Dr. Eggman’s minions.

Those in love with the game can buy the full version, which boasts 14 stages, 12 characters and a battle mode for up to four players.

Additionally, players can visit the Sonic site (www.sega.com/gamesite/sonicheroes/content.html) to download a 19-page strategy guide from Prima Games in the portable document format (PDF) to help get them through the Power Plant, Ocean Palace, Seaside Hill and Grand Metropolis environments.

Merry Midi music

The winter holidays just beg for an old fashioned singalong, and with the help of the Internet, that off-key dream can become a reality.

A site containing a catalog of Christmas tunes with accompanying lyrics (www.btinternet.com/~edward.caution) has been developed by mystery man Edward Caution. He divulges nothing of his origins on the site, other than touting links to his son’s, sister’s, mother’s, father’s and bagpipe teacher’s Web sites.

A list of musical selections celebrating all four seasons is found on the front page of the plain, though colorfully designed, site. Among them are 43 pertaining to the jolly time of year, including “Blue Christmas,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Silent Night” and “White Christmas.”

Each song has been rendered with the barest of digital instrumentation and can be heard with either a Quicktime or Microsoft media player plug-in. Each tune also has its own page that clearly displays its lyrics along with a simply animated artistic rendition of its themes.

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 an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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