- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 10, 2006

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

Lego online

The famed Danish company Lego and its block-based construction kits have inspired generations of little builders for more than 70 years. Fans may not know the company has taken its mission to cyberspace with an incredible interactive Web site (www.lego.com).

Sure, plenty of “buy” messages are scattered on nearly every page, and an online store makes it too easy to heed those buy messages. However, the amount of creative all-ages, family-friendly multimedia fun thrown at the visitor more than makes up for a parent having to deal with the chance that Junior will beg for a must-have purchase.

Some of its licensed product lines boast the most online fun, and a simple click on the opening screen’s Products tab takes visitors to a pair of wonderful universes transformed into Legos.

First, a legendary galaxy far, far away has been part of the Lego world since 1999, and the cyber-stop devoted to “Star Wars” will not disappoint.

The area is spearheaded by a rather complex online game, the Ultimate Lightsaber Duel, which allows a player to fight some of the most famous characters from the films.

Through the simple use of a keyboard’s arrow keys, the player mimics a string of commands to power up heroes including Yoda, Luke Skywalker and Mace Windu or villains such as Darth Vader, Darth Maul and General Grievous.

A crackling light saber becomes the mouse pointer and reacts as the player swings it upon the menus. Before the duel, a player must decide on an avatar, a phrase to utter if he is victorious, a planet on which to stage the battle and a list of moves to execute during the fight.

Once the turn-based battle has been completed, players who registered with the site can keep track of their scores, battle other players online and view a video of the latest high-score duel.

Also, a Screening Room offers short episodes of Lego Star Wars minifigures in action, accomplished through digital or stop-motion animation techniques. Especially clever is the 12-megabyte QuickTime-friendly “Revenge of the Brick,” which features Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Chewbacca and Anakin Skywalker in a war against a droid army on Kashyyyk.

Lego acquired the Batman license this year, and its online component to the product shines. The microsite boasts a pair of online comics, a character encyclopedia complete with trivia nuggets and movies (Windows Media or QuickTime) of Batman, Joker, Penguin, Batmobile, Batwing and Batboat in action — with all of the characters and vehicles fully Lego-ized.

Some of the company’s in-house brands also should excite pop-culture fans. The six-year-old world of Bionicle is the most recognizable, and the lands of Metru Nui come to cyber-life through 21 online comic books (culled from actual DC Comics issues), movies to summarize each year’s adventures, and five games.

The best of the Bionicle challenges, Stop the Morbuzakh, has a player download a first-person shooter simulation in which he defends the molten protodermis reclamation foundry against Morbuzakh vines by shooting the creepy crawlies with Kanoka disks. It sounds complicated, but the action has the player move around platforms and use keyboard commands to blast away growths from support poles.

One of Lego’s big lines for this year is the anime-inspired Exo-Force, a team of children who pilot massive mech droids against evil robots. Its complementary Web happenings deliver plenty of multimedia background on the drama unfolding on Sentai Mountain.

Some of the microsite’s highlights include the ability to write and submit short stories about the characters, 360-degree views of the robots, biographies, building instructions for each model, movies and a training simulation that involves the destruction of hordes of mech warriors.

A final feature to the site perfectly blends the computer with hands-on Lego kits as a user can download Digital Designer software to virtually construct a brick masterpiece. Once that’s completed, the pieces can be ordered from Lego to bring the creation to life.

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, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.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/familytimes/ romperroom.htm.

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