- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 2, 2006

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

Fine feathered friends

One of the hottest films around takes place in the coldest place on the planet as Warner Bros.’ animated adventure “Happy Feet” continues to heat up theaters with laughter.

The tale, which chronicles the woe of an unorthodox penguin named Mumble who can dance but not sing, also comes to magical life through the film’s slick Web site (www2.warner bros.com/happyfeet/), which is loaded with activities for its younger fans.

Even before waddling into the interactive site, visitors can click on the Happy Feet Penguin Cam to stop by Baltimore’s Maryland Zoo and watch some of the real feathered friends in action at its Rock Island exhibit.

A subsequent click on the Flash Site icon then will take visitors to the frozen and snowy outdoors and caverns of Antarctica for a multimedia experience. Mumble kicks things off, demonstrating some of his hottest moves while accompanied by snippets of the film’s soundtrack.

Of the 12 sections available in the main site, a trio are well worth a look, each featuring sounds and colorful animations from the movie.

First, Downloads provides a selection of wallpaper, screen savers, AOL Buddy Icons, an e-mail footer and printable stickers, fun facts and a 4-foot-tall growth chart. It also has a game that requires the player to herd penguins into a cave.

Next, Books offers three PDF downloads to give children something to take away from the computer as they follow the exploits of the “Happy Feet” gang. A mitten-covered arrow selects from among the multipage coloring book “Find Your Heartsong,” activity-rich “Gone Fishin’ ” and excerpts from the movie storybook.

Finally, visitors to Games first virtually sculpt a penguin by clicking on a block of ice. After the creative exercise, they will find such challenges as Tap ‘n’ Match, a delightful variation on classic Concentration as the player must select penguins dancing on icebergs sporting similar steps to succeed. (Requires the Virtools Web Player plug-in, www.virtools.com.)

Also, the activity Soundboard enables visitors to hear from all of the main cast of penguins through multiple audio clips, while Jump ‘n’ Move gives choreographers a chance to instruct up to six penguins to shake their groove thing to a trio of songs.

All Aboard

Take-Two Interactive Software helps usher in Sid Meier’s latest tribute to the railroad industry with a free download of his original 1990 game Railroad Tycoon (www.sidmeiers railroads.com).

The DOS-based strategy simulation (anybody remember DOS?) puts a player in the role of president of a small railroad business. The player gets an initial investment of $1 million ($500,000 from the sale of bonds and $500,000 from investors) to build an empire as he operates and micromanages the enterprise, carefully balancing expenses and revenues.

With the objective to haul freight and passengers for a profit, the player will lay track, decide which locomotives and cars to put in service, construct stations, schedule trains and impress stockholders to become a baron of the industry.

The graphics are, of course, of the grainy two-dimensional variety for the 14.9-megabyte game, but the methodical action is an intricate (as witnessed by the 146-page manual) and cerebral challenge for the player.

Those intrigued by the premise also can download a free demo of the latest title, Sid Meier’s Railroads ($39.99 to download full game), which offers a taste of the real-time action within three-dimensional environments. The new, full version of the game includes a multiplayer component to conduct corporate warfare around the world.

Doggy in the window

To help promote Heartgard, a medication to prevent heartworm in dogs, Merial Ltd. has created a too-cute simulation of a videotaped pooch ready to obey commands from its online owner.

At the Web page I Do Dog Tricks (www.idodog tricks.com/ index_flash.html), visitors simply type a command in the text box, and either the dog performs in a seamless video presentation or a message pops up that he is confused. That means, wise guys, that commands such as “bark,” “roll over” and “sit” work better than “get my slippers” and “pee on the carpet.”

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 ([email protected] times.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washingtontimes.com/ familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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