- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

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

Cyber-fight in Iraq

Developed directly from events occurring in Iraq, the computer game Kuma War: The War on Terror gives players the chance to become soldiers during re-creations of pivotal moments of the current conflict through first- and third-person squad-based action.

The free, full version of the title (which is rated M for mature players) is available at the Kuma Reality Games Web site (www.kumagames. com). It requires a PC with a broadband connection, a 1-GHz Pentium 3 processor, 3-D accelerated video card and a Windows 98/2000/ME/XP operating system.

During the lengthy download process, a text stream offers a series of information nuggets, such as that soldiers in Vietnam used Slinky toys as highly effective mobile radio antennae and that Detroit awarded Saddam Hussein a key to the city in 1980.

Once the game is ready, the player can choose from more than 50 missions that can involve disabling hidden explosives across an Iraqi town, commanding an M1A1 tank, battling Uday and Qusay Hussein in a “what-if” scenario, or controlling a soldier as he infiltrates Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz to gather evidence of an illegal uranium enrichment program.

Features to the very realistic simulation, which uses decent 3-D graphics and involves keyboard commands and using the mouse to target enemies, include multiplayer options, online voice chat, cooperative play and the opportunity to become a virtual part of prestigious units such as the 82nd Airborne Division, Green Berets and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

A Web site interface also supports each mission with video shows, intelligence gathered from multimedia news sources and tips from Kuma’s team of military advisers. Its full library of educational resources incorporates computer-generated re-creations of actual military events in an interactive documentary format.

So, in the case of preparing to capture Saddam Hussein at the infamous “spider hole,” for example, the player can get a briefing on the Web site that gives him satellite imagery, a history of the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division (used in the mission), background on the weapons and a three-minute QuickTime video showing what it was like when the final assault on the “Butcher of Baghdad” occurred.

Other interactive documentaries, all of which mix real video footage with interviews and computer animation from the game, range from the Battle of Mosul to a Mahdi army fight in Baghdad to the Samarra bank heists.

Not surprisingly, about 25 percent of the game’s user base is soldiers on active duty, according to Kuma. Many of them use the multiplayer version’s message boards and forums as a way to contact friends and family back home.

ONLINE Fun With Dick and Jane

Another movie remake hits theaters Wednesday, starring Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni in the title roles of the reimagined 1977 bank-robbing comedy “Fun With Dick and Jane.”

Sony’s official cyber-ode to the movie (www.sonypictures. com/movie/funwithdickandjane/index.html) keeps the comedic possibilities of the couple’s financial dilemma flowing through online games using four of the major characters.

Players move their cursor over a quartet of the stars and, accompanied by silly sound effects, select from Dick, Jane, son Billy Harper or housekeeper Blanca in activities primarily using the keyboard to deliver the action.

Picking Billy leads to helping the youngster spring off a diving board and collect allowance based on his execution. Choosing Dick and his Business Buzzword Translator allows the former vice president of communications to put a positive spin on any message typed into his system. Selecting Jane places players in a kickboxing studio and requires that they follow the instructor’s text commands as a trio of trainees mimic the moves.

Finally, a click on Blanca complicates matters, as the player must quickly drag and drop appliances from the Harpers’ kitchen into a laundry basket to pay for her services before the items disappear into a puff of smoke.

I Saw Mommy Blogging Santa Claus

Of course, the jolly fat man is hip to one of the current online crazes — Web logs — and Santa’s Yule Blog (https://360.yahoo.com/YuleBlog) gives him an easy way to keep in touch with his fans around the world while documenting life in the North Pole.

Hosted by Yahoo! 360 — a free online service where visitors use cyberspace to share what’s happening in their lives — the yule blog features access to holiday stories and tips on Christmas preparations from Santa, Mrs. Claus and Rudolph.

Each popular cultural icon uses its own Web pages to share pictures; list movie, book and music recommendations; and provide personal memories.

Remaining online through this month, some of the latest entries include Santa discussing how he relaxes during his busiest time of the year, the famed red-nosed reindeer mentioning his love for aviation and Mrs. Claus offering her recipe for the sweetened and spiced red wine called glogg.

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@washington times.com).

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