- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2006

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

Cooking Mama from Majesco for Nintendo DS, rated E for everyone, $19.99. This quirky but irresistible simulation for Nintendo’s dual-screen hand-held gaming system gives amateur chefs access to a virtual kitchen as they learn the finer points of cuisine preparation.

Since my real-world expertise in making meals is defined by the pushing of microwave buttons, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to quickly create such delicacies as spaghetti Neapolitan, miso soup, fried octopus dumplings and Salisbury steak.

Through the generous use of the stylus pen on the DS touch screen, chefs mash, knead, peel, carve, tenderize and mix their way to medals under the watchful eye of Mama, whose peepers light up with a fiery rage when mistakes occur. Players occasionally must solve math puzzles when asked to dole out servings and even can blow into the mike to cool food.

Players eventually will find 76 real-world dishes with more than 200 minigames to bring them to a final, plated presentation. Chefs can practice the preparation process or work under timed conditions to gain points and unlock more food combinations.

My only regret is that the game does not include actual, text-based recipes that could be taken to a real kitchen to extend the cooking fun.

‘Done the Impossible: The Fan’s Tales of Firefly and Serenity,’ from Creative Commons and Rivetal for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, not rated, $16.95. “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon’s short-lived sci-fi television series “Firefly” was extinguished after just 11 episodes in 2002.

Fans, however, refused to let it die, and a swell of support for its DVD release, along with an effective guerrilla marketing campaign, eventually led to a full-length movie — “Serenity” — released by Universal Studios last year.

This single multimedia-packed disc, produced by a tech-savvy team of fans led by Brian Wiser and Jeremy Neish, recounts the passions of the Browncoats (lovers of the “Firefly” mythology) through a targeted documentary that becomes much more, thanks to the potential of the digital video medium.

The presentation never becomes an infomercial, nor do participants reach a level of obsession reached by Trekkies. Surprisingly, it also doesn’t use clips from either the movie or the TV show to tell the story.

What viewers get is an avalanche of fan testimonials to Mr. Whedon’s vision of cowboys in space while actors and production folk reflect upon the missed opportunity to keep a great show alive.

Extras include a fantastic set-top timeline that mixes text-based bullet points covering December 2001 to September 2005 with narration, photos and video clips. Also, viewers get a trivia quiz, explanation of the show, a dictionary of terms and an optional producers’ commentary track.

Additionally, the 79-minute documentary quickly turns into a six-hour-plus experience once the DVD is popped into a Mac or PC. A generous mix of multimedia-enhanced resources use the IVEX software plug-in and set up a viewer’s computer screen to watch the documentary. The script scrolls underneath it, and sections to the left include Topics, Full Interviews, Glossary, Biographies and Factoids.

Most of the section content simultaneously appears in windows alongside the main feature, and a helpful search function allows viewers to hone in quickly on one of the program’s 5,000 synchronized segments.

This type of viewing already has been seen through some of New Line Cinema’s Platinum series DVD releases, including “Blade Trinity,” “The Mask” and “A History of Violence,” but never to such an extent.

“Done the Impossible” can be purchased online (www.donetheimpossible.com) and a portion of the proceeds go to Mr. Whedon’s favorite charity, Equality Now.

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

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