- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 13, 2006

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

Family Fu

Seth MacFarlane’s assault on popular culture and the world of cartoons continues with an online “Battle of the Network Stars”-type challenge between members of his two animated shows.

American Dad vs. Family Guy Kung Fu (www.americandadvsfamilyguy.com) promotes the 20th Century Fox release of the first season of “American Dad” on DVD but also gives gamers a chance to enter an arena with some wacky characters for a fight to the death.

Via a colorful side-scrolling presentation, one or two players select from eight characters from either of the shows and use keyboard commands to face off in best-of-three-rounds competitions in contests that last 99 seconds.

Each character has four special combos and his or her own deadly finishing move that leads to loads of sophomoric and mature humor on the screen. Only hard-core fans will be able to stomach such graphic finishing moves as Peter Griffin throwing up on his opponent or Stan Smith stabbing a foe with an American flag, and death sequences including Stewie Griffin being decapitated or Lois Griffin committing hara-kiri.

In the Arcade mode, the single player who advances after five fights ultimately meets the legendary Ryu from the Street Fighter video-game franchise (talk about the inclusion of a non-sequitur character, a trait true to the MacFarlane brand of twisted humor). Those who beat Ryu win a downloadable belt (in the PDF format) and desktop wallpaper.

I admit to plenty of laugh-out-loud moments during the action, which includes Lois Griffin dressed in the yellow suit Uma Thurman wore in “Kill Bill,” Stewie positioned in a mech warrior exoskeleton, Roger the alien dressed as Wonder Woman, and a battle environment highlighted with the famed “Star Wars” Emperor observing the outcome.

Voices of the cast, sound effects and Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting” embellish the silly fun. Fox promises to expand the game in the coming months to add new characters, more special moves and Easter egg surprises.

A Cryptic Net

Tom Hanks tries to solve the Da Vinci Code at theaters next week, and visitors to the film’s official Web site (www.sonypictures.com/movies/the davincicode) are in for a treat from a series of mind-sharpening puzzles.

The Web design is punctuated by a sweeping musical score and loaded with film clips, photomontages and the mysterious Cryptex vault, which all sneak up on the visitor as the cursor is moved over disguised hot spots on the screen.

Eagle eyes first should try the Da Vinci Gallery to search for symbols embedded in the famed Renaissance artist’s works. As visitors drag a bar across the bottom of the screen, masterpieces such as the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” are zoomed into. A barely visible icon may be highlighted on six images, which, when touched with the mouse pointer, moves into the bar and will help uncover other site secrets.

Under the section Games, visitors will find a Sudoku-like challenge in which symbols replace numbers and a difficult anagram simulation that has the wordsmith moving letters around to create a new phrase.

Cyber Schell

In honor of Mother’s Day,21-year-old VH1-award winning artist Katherine Schell gives music lovers and moms free access to her piano-driven stylings, characterized as a blend of indie pop and chamber rock.

Through today, Miss Schell offers MP3 downloads of three songs — “Rest Assured,” “Emptier Streets” and “Come to Me” — from her recently released CD, “Emptier Streets.” The downloads are available through her public relation firm’s Web site (www.walkersands.com/mothersday/).

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 (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.washingtontimes.com/family times/romperroom.htm.

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