- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

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

Virtual thrills

For those with a burning desire to micromanage, Atari delivers its latest real-time PC adventure game, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3.

Not sure you want to drop $40 to experience life as a theme-park manager? You can download a free 250-megabyte demo of the game at Atari’s Web site (www.atari.com/rollercoastertycoon/us/index.php) and enjoy an excruciating 45 minutes of corporate headaches.

To begin the fun, managers need a Pentium III or better PC running Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP; Direct X version 9 or higher; and any ATO Radeon or GeForce 2 video card with at least 32 megabytes of memory.

The simulation starts with a quick tutorial on camera control, placing rides and meticulously constructing roller coasters. Once the simulation gets going, the player takes on the responsibilities of a manager: hiring staff, building concession stands, purchasing new attractions and even shaping the terrain — all while balancing a budget and keeping park visitors happy.

The gorgeous-looking demo comes complete with fireworks displays and opportunities to view all of the rides from a first-person perspective. You can even build your own thrill rides — from a wooden coaster with padded seats and lap bar restraints to a Ferris wheel to a swinging inverter ship.

Still, the demo only hints at the amazing features of the full version of the game, which range from developing dynamic fireworks displays with personalized music to integrating family members and friends as virtual participants.

Digital Donnas

Rocking all-female quartet the Donnas stop by the 9:30 Club on Wednesday in support of their latest album, “Gold Medal.” The band’s Web site (www.thedonnas.com) gives new fans a taste of the ladies’ musical prowess via a multimedia front page. The trippy design shows the members in action, while a controllable mini audio player blasts the band’s latest single, “Fall Behind Me,” and offers 45-second snippets of about half the songs on the latest album.

In addition to the obligatory message board, band pictures and tour information, visitors will also find, under the Media section, an ample selection of full music videos in the Windows Media format (and a few in Real Player). Included are “Who Invited You,” “40 Boys in 40 Nights,” “Too Bad About Your Girl,” “Take It Off” and the black-light visual accompaniment to “Fall Behind Me.”

Hard-core followers can also join the Donnaholics fan club and, for $19.99 a year, get exclusive online content, a membership for backstage meet-and-greets and even a T-shirt of their musical heroes.

Amazon goes Hollywood

Amazon.com is giving holiday shoppers a special gift. Through the middle of December, the online superstore presents on its front page a series of short films from Ridley Scott Associates featuring name actors. The weekly Amazon Theater debuted Nov. 9 with “Portrait.” The short, which stars Minnie Driver as a domineering corporate executive who learns a bit about inner beauty in a Dorian Gray-ish way, is directed by music-video orchestrator.

Jordan Scott.

Stars such as Blair Underwood and Daryl Hannah appear in the roughly five-minute tales in subsequent weeks. Each short can be viewed either directly from Amazon’s front page with the click of a button or saved for posterity via a multimegabyte download in Windows Media, RealOne Player or Quicktime.

Naturally, there’s a clever technological marketing hook here. During each film’s credits, the products used by the actors — such as a Nokia 6600 camera phone, Sephora Bubbly Body Wash and Nordstrom leather tote — roll by. Click on any item, and the Amazon product page pulls it up for sale.

Additionally, some cast members’ names are highlighted. These links may lead to charitable-donation pages set up by the actor or pages to purchase multimedia products associated with him or her.

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 (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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