- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 11, 2006

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

Surfing the pipes

A sewer full of vermin comes to computer-generated life in the recently opened DreamWorks’ animated film “Flushed Away.”

In support of the high-tech ‘toon designed by the creators of “Wallace and Gromit” and “Shrek,” a lively Web site (www.flushedaway.com) offers a place to jump down a drain for some multimedia fun.

Visitors first click on a toilet handle and, alongside high-class rat Roddy, are flushed into a soggy, pipe-filled world populated by talking rats, slugs and frogs and enhanced with animation, music, dialogue clips and colorful backgrounds.

Five primary sections — Movie, Downloads, Galleries, Video and Games — come to life with a touch of the cursor.

Each of the areas has a bit of introductory interactivity. For example, before viewing concept art and photographs from the film, the visitor can solve a puzzle shuffle, or before starting on some games, the visitor can click on flies and watch the aristocratic amphibian, Toad, consume them.

While on the topic of games, visitors initially will find a quintet of challenges highlighted by poker (aptly titled Five-Card Slug), pinball, a sewer escape (with a Pac-Man feel) and a musical note match that stars screaming slugs. Maestros also can free-form with the creatures by poking them and recording a screechy session.

More impressive is the Flushed Away Underground Adventure (https://movies.aol.com/flushed-away-game), a massive undertaking for the gamer, who tries to complete 24 challenges to enter a sweepstakes for prizes, unlock some digital downloads and earn mysterious bubbles.

First, the player must register. (Parents should be aware that registration includes required fields such as name, address, e-mail and phone number.) He then gets an introduction from Roddy before accessing a plumbing system with 24 points that each designate an entrance to the games.

Challenges include using a row of frogs to catch bugs, flying through the skies of Ratropolis to pop balloons, breaking colored ice blocks by dropping complementary cubes on them (a simplified Tetris) and taking advantage of Sid’s potent belching to squash flies and keep floating slugs away from his food. (The rat eats cheese puffs to replenish his gassy powers.)

Downloadable prizes range from audio snippets from the movie to printable coloring pages, ring tones, coupons and bookmarks; as the player completes challenges, he collects bubbles in the Think Tank. The bubbles can be popped to reveal letters that eventually form a question. If it’s answered correctly, that leads to more prizes.

Although the player is bombarded with ads — not only viewed as banners but also embedded in the action — the ambitious, time-consuming experience is well worth a long look for its variety of multilevel challenges.

Players who wish to compete for grand prizes, including cash and a trip for four to Hawaii, have until Nov. 20 to get through the entire adventure and solve all of the puzzles Roddy presents to officially enter the sweepstakes.

Dead men do tell tales

To help promote the Dec. 5 DVD release of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” Buena Vista Home Entertainment has set up a slick Web site that gives visitors the chance to talk like swashbucklers and send a special e-mail to friends and enemies.

Dead Man’s Mail (www.dead mansmail.com) first allows visitors to accessorize and add a background to a talking skull and crossbones. The coolest part of the minianimation program then gives creators three ways to add a voice to their customized bonehead. They either can type up to 200 characters (which are converted to vocalizations), add prerecorded audio with eight voices from which to choose or, most amazing, record a free message by phone.

The phone option syncs the user’s performance to the skull and will give e-mail recipients quite a personalized treat.

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


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