- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Sentry Alert Batman by Mattel, stand-alone product requiring two AAA batteries, $14.99. Children can learn the stealth and investigative techniques employed by DC Comics’ famed Dark Knight through a line of 8-inch action figures and their high-tech accessories.

Based on WBKids’ latest cartoon ode to the Caped Crusader, “The Batman,” these rugged, multiarticulated dolls initially do little on their own but provide some imaginative play sessions. The real fun begins when the included EXP Power Key is plugged into a figure’s removable backpack.

With a quick turn of the key, the backpacks spring open, a circuit is completed, and the unit can perform some electronic magic.

In the case of Sentry Alert Batman, the figure holds a muffin-shaped invisible-beam unit to keep unauthorized persons from entering a protected territory. When something or someone crosses the beam, an alarm sounds and lights flash. The unit also has missiles on each side that can be fired using buttons on top of their launchers.

Surprisingly, the device works only in the light, which seems to take away from its purpose, considering the Caped Crusader’s propensity to work during the late evening hours.

Other figures include Truth Detector Batman, which comes with a recording device in the backpack to capture and play back nine seconds of an assailant’s voice. The audio is then processed in the detector (wink, wink) and a red light comes on if the person is lying or a green light if he is telling the truth.

Sonic Spy Batman uses an amplification system with an ear bud so owners can listen in on the criminal element hatching plans to take down Gotham City. Unfortunately, its range is only about five feet because of very short cords, and it works best when the crime fighter is hiding near a suspected party.

Further enveloping children in the multimedia world of Batman, each package comes with a 12-minute DVD that contains a compilation of the comic book-character’s famous cartoon battles, including fights with the Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Manbat and Bane.

Lady and the Tramp: 50th Anniversary Edition, Buena Vista Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated G, $29.99. Disney gives royal treatment to one of its most beloved cartoons with this two-disc DVD set, which will thrill animation historians, dog lovers and computer users.

As if watching the digitally restored version of the 76-minute 1956 tale of a romance between an affluent cocker spaniel and a roguish mutt were not enough, Disney also unloads the deconstructive extras.

These gems include a pitch by two artists using the original storyboards for the movie, a look at the world of storyboarding, a documentary on the making of the film and a slide show of galleries covering the animation process.

Dog fanciers get a history lesson on the breeds and origins of dogs (with some silliness from comedian Fred Willard), a multiple-choice game testing knowledge of Disney dogs and a way to find out which pooch personality they most resemble.

The real magic, however, occurs when one pops the disc into a DVD-enabled PC. A software program allows youngsters to virtually take care of a younger version of one of the movie’s canine stars.

Owners first choose from five breeds, then name their new friend and print out adoption and biography papers. The pup then appears on-screen in a lush background where owners feed, pet and play with the pooch and even click on a personalized doghouse to give him a rest.

Meters monitor the dog’s happiness, hunger, energy and learning abilities. When the owner manages to max out the pup’s learning meter, the pet can learn new tricks, such as standing up, barking and shaking paws.

The cute simulation will never be confused with the much more immersive Nintendo DS Nintendogs video game, but it may temporarily satisfy a younger owner’s desire for a pet.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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