- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

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

Virtual Gorillaz

The popular — and now Grammy-winning — virtual band the Gorillaz uses the latest technologies, including performing onstage with Madonna at this year’s Grammy awards show as holograms, to maintain a mysterious presence and deliver its musical message.

The British brainchild of Tank Girl comic-book creator Jamie Hewlett and Blur lead singer Damon Albarn, the cartoon quartet of vocalist 2D, bass player Murdoc Niccals, guitarist Noodle and drummer Russel Hobbs has delivered an eclectic sound to listeners since its first album was released in 2001.

A major portion of the band’s mythology can be found at the Gorillaz’s multimedia-packed interactive Web site (www.gorillaz.com), which sets the benchmark for immersive band cyber-stops while defining the group as a living entity.

Set up to enable visitors to take a virtual walk through three floors of the Gorillaz’s creative headquarters and home, Kong Studios, the site mixes an animated video-gaming atmosphere of fun with music, sounds, challenging videos, photographs and colorful collages.

Using the mouse and cursor, the visitor simply clicks and drags to move around the first floor, ground floor or basement. If lost, the visitor can click on a monkey wearing a fez in the corner of the screen to see a mapped diagram of the studio layout and then click on a location.

A menu at the bottom of the screen enables visitors to zoom in on an area, check an inventory of collected items, find nine games and check out the bedrooms of the band members and their computers.

A walk through the lobby on the first floor, for example, enables visitors to use a jukebox to hear parts of 36 songs from the various Gorillaz albums, leaf through the colorful Gorillaz press booklet or play a mah-jongg game found on a table next to a bonsai tree. Next, they can ride the elevator to other floors and walk down the corridor to find the Cinema Box Office and enjoy 12 music videos in Media Player and Real Player formats.

Just aimlessly wandering around rooms can unearth goodies such as a Super Wide Screen Pong game for two players in 2D’s bedroom, a bowling simulation in the band’s own bowling alley on the ground floor and a video intercom in the kitchen showing which famous guest wants to come into the studios.

Of course, visitors can stumble upon other musical interludes, ranging from listening to mixes on Noodle’s Minidisk player to using a DAT player to enjoy tapes of instrumentals collected. Or watch a full concert from the band performed at the Manchester International Festival in support of its latest album, “Demon Days” through a link to AOL Music Network (https://music.aol.com/ network_live/ concert_videos/gorillaz/concert).

Surfing Scared

Before New Line Cinema’s violent action-thriller “Running Scared” opened Friday, an interesting marketing ploy was aimed at cyber-audiences through the movie’s official Web site (www.runningscared themovie.com).

The cool idea, complete with Big Brother overtones, allowed visitors to watch the first six minutes of the R-rated film in the QuickTime format after jumping through a few hoops.

Sounds great, but here’s the creepy part: Visitors must enter their names, dates of birth and ZIP codes as listed on their driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs to be able to log in and watch the beginning of the movie.

Can it be that New Line has the capacity to tap instantaneously into a government or credit-checking database, match this information and spit out an authorization? It appears it does because I tried several times to get through using fake information, but I was successfully only when I used my legitimate ID.

Adults who prefer not to divulge their identity still can enjoy some of the site, which carries mob-influence and gun themes to the extreme. Startling sound effects and imagery explore the forensics of shotgun and handgun blasts, give visitors access to the corrupted world of Grimley, N.J., and throw in an action game.

The challenge mixes driving a vehicle and first-person fun as the player customizes a Mustang with choices of color, rims and body art and then recklessly maneuvers through the streets as Joey Gazelle. Eventually the player stops at locations to blast the bad guys. Visitors who make it through the first level must register (using the age verification form) to continue into the levels containing mature content.

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]washington 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.washington times.com/ family times/romperroom.htm.

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