- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007

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

Angst-ridden Peter Parker and his superheroic alter ego return to theaters Friday in Sony Pictures’ “Spider-Man 3.”

The film’s official Web site (www.sonypictures.com/movies/ spiderman3/site) continues to explore the cinematic life of the comic-book superstar and gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the Sam Raimi-directed epic along with a couple of impressive-looking games.

After getting acquainted with the six primary characters of the saga — clicking on a tiled grouping of icons will display animated photo collages — visitors should swing over to Video to find 20 enlightening segments.

In addition to three trailers for the film, the section offers minute-long insights from some of the production crew, such as illustrator E.J. Krisor and his designs for the villains Sandman and Venom, and interviews with minor role actors, including Ted Raimi (who plays Hoffman) and Elizabeth Banks (who plays Betty Brant).

The site’s real highlight is a couple of dynamic games that pit Spider-Man against the film’s major villains.

First, the Battle Within is more of an interactive cartoon than a traditional game. It requires a player to click on aiming circles or power meters to continue in three separate fights with the New Goblin, Sandman and Venom. Fail to click on these defensive and offensive meters at the right time, and the player loses one of three lives or taps into Spider-Man’s more aggressive and slightly evil Symbiote-powered suit.

The 15 levels of action are supported by beautiful three-dimensional computer-generated imagery, sound effects and Danny Elfman’s tense musical score. After each victory, the player can watch the entire fight sequence.

Next, and more impressive, the Ultimate Challenge finds the player in control of Spider-Man in a life-and-death struggle against the aggressively insane Venom.

After the hero’s abilities, including a flip kick and web shield, are assigned to a computer’s number keys, the player enters a warehouse arena to practice against the dark-suited, long-of-tongue foe. The side-scrolling fight has the hero jump between two levels of the building and unleash a torrent of webbing and attacks.

Those looking for more of a challenge can then battle live online opponents through the game’s interface, which enables players to pair up easily by clicking on icons in a web that contains hundreds of eager participants.

After the games, younger Spider-Man fans will want to find the link from the main Web site to the Spider-Man 3 Movie Zone (www.spiderman3 moviezone.com) for a simpler look at all of the movies in addition to a few interactive exercises.

Besides comic-book layouts that use photo illustrations to explain the story of the latest film and its characters, Web-heads will find a memory match challenge and a slick puzzle that tasks the player with putting together video-enhanced jigsaw pieces to create a larger video segment.

Finally, for information on all three of the films, surfers can stop by the official site for Spider-Man movie fans (https://spiderman.sonypictures.com).

The site is an encyclopedic look at 16 of Spider-Man’s most feared villains, each colorfully illustrated complete with detailed biographies and their first appearance in comics.

Next, an interactive map offers a satellite image of New York City with location points relevant to the Spider-Man story. When clicked, they reveal a selection of mixed media that includes photographs, audio and video clips.

Because the Sony sites offer only a bit of history about the character’s comic-book roots, I suggest a stop by the Marvel Comics Web site to find some online digital comics of the hero to read (www.marvel.com/digital comics) as well as the history of Spidey’s mysterious black suit (www.marvel.com/news/comic stories.687), prominently featured in the new film.

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 to [email protected] washingtontimes.com). Mr. Szadkowski 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/familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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