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|Kevin Krock, editor|
|MousePlanet at E3 Expo 2001 in Los Angeles - Part IV|
Let your imagination run wild!
Gaming is not all about Disney. In fact, Disney is still a smaller player, though they are a force in the family entertainment arena. You'll find a variety of both traditional toy manufacturers and electronic game companies compete for the family dollar. We took a look at a selection of these companies and was pleased to find a variety of offerings.
LEGO storms the scene
Probably the most fun I had at E3 came from my visit to the LEGO® exhibit. Now, to be honest, I am a fan of LEGO and their products. We have made several visits to LEGOLAND here in Southern California and I have spent literally hours looking at the miniature cities the Master Builders have created.
When I first talked with the LEGO team, I was a little puzzled. After all, their specialty are the ubiquitous building blocks nearly everyone of us has played with. I wondered how they would leverage the blocks into the software world. I was familiar with the LEGO MindStorms product line that allows you to build creations and then using specialized software program their behavior. A prime example of these capabilities was the "wall climber" on display.
After I tore myself away from watching the climber I visited the rest of LEGO's offerings. I have one warning for parents: If you have a LEGO fan at home, you will be spending a lot of money this year. There are some great new products in the works. This warning is equally applicable to adults with partners who love LEGO products.
LEGO launched the LEGO Studios line in April with the release of the LEGO & Steven Spielberg MovieMaker Set. Geared to kids ages 8-16, this set includes a LEGO PC movie camera, editing software, and over 400 LEGO building elements. Named the Toy Manufacturers of America "Toy of the Year (TOTY), the first offering is themed around the upcoming Jurassic Park III. The greatest thing about this system is that it is both entertaining and educational.
The set also includes an instruction booklet with "Tips & Tricks for Movie Making," which helps you get started in a fast, fun and easy way. Using small examples, the book shows how to use the right camera angles and special effects. There is one other benefit to buying the Studios sets. Steven Spielberg is donating all of his royalties to the Starbright and Shoah foundations.
Leveraging off the success of LEGO ISLAND, LEGO ISLAND 2, The Brickster's Revenge was released in March. Targeted at kids age six and up, it combines the thrill of 3D exploration with the excitement of a classic good / bad confrontation. The player takes on the role of Pepper, the pizza delivery boy, who zooms off by skateboard on the trail of the mischievous Brickster who has just escaped from jail.
Along with character interactions there are 18 sub- games. These include deep sea- diving for bricks, jousting with the Dark Knight, snake shooting, matching mummies in ancient Egypt, fishing for big Bertha, flying a biplane through the jungle, transporting dinosaurs by hot air-balloon, astronaut training and parachuting.
Coming in September, LEGO Racers 2 picks up where LEGO Racers ends - Rocket Racer has been beaten and has gone away to practice his racing skills. He ends up on the planet Xalax, where he meets the Ramas, small car-crazy alien creatures based on the all-new collectible LEGO Racers line of play materials.
The Ramas love to race around the planet and in the Dome - a huge racing arena. Reluctant to admit defeat, Rocket Racer issues a new challenge to find the best racer in the galaxy, summoning the greatest racers of all time to the Dome for the Galactic Racing Championship. Players must prove their driving skills in four different worlds to qualify for the ultimate race on planet Xalax.
Just as in the original title, players first must build their car and mini- figure driver using virtual LEGO elements while accidents cause cars and scenery to break into individual LEGO bricks on impact. Bricks can be regained during a pit stop, but if players lose all the bricks on their car, they'll have to make their way to the pit on foot!
LEGO® Bionicle: The Legend of Mata Nui supports LEGO's largest new product launch ever - a new line of collectible LEGO TECHNIC action heroes and foes based on its legendary story of the Bionicle. The software title is integrally linked to the Bionicle building sets, bridging the gap between the physical and virtual worlds. Players may enter special codes found on the play materials packaging to the game to gain access to secret game-enhancing features. Additionally, the first 300,000 PC games produced will ship with an exclusive and collectible Mask of Time, and players also may view and print exclusive LEGO TECHNIC Bionicle model building instructions and other unique Bionicle artwork as they play.
Harry Potter takes over
Just in case you have been hibernating, the hottest property in kids entertainment right now is Harry Potter. With the first Harry Potter movie hitting theaters later this year, the toy and software tie-ins were inevitable. We took a look at two different Harry Potter offerings, one from LEGO and one from Electronic Arts.
LEGO Creator Harry Potter marks the first time kids can construct and play with 3-D interiors in a virtual LEGO world. Players can build furniture from LEGO bricks to place in the various rooms of their virtual Hogwarts Castle and download new bricks and virtual models online. The title will also include new printer functions, including the generation of building instructions, so that kids can build their virtual models using real LEGO bricks.
A 3-D character designer allows kids to build their own mini-figure pupils and then click on the virtual Sorting Hat to place them in the appropriate houses of Hogwarts. Improved character behavior affects how Hogwarts pupils interact with one another. For example, a virtual Slytherin mini-figure may react differently to a Gryffindor pupil than he does to a Ravenclaw student. The title ties in directly with the physical building sets themed to Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone from Electronic Arts features an array of stealth-based gameplay as well as traditional encounters as players guide Harry through the halls of Hogwarts, sneaking around to avoid confrontations with nosey characters like Filch and Peeves. Many of the adventures are dynamic, leading to environments that change over time, such as moving stairs and relocating classrooms. The title also features a fast, arcade-style Quidditch game.
A classic game returns
Once upon a time there was a game that became a legend... In 1983, Dragon's Lair, featuring Dirk the Daring, made its debut in arcades all over the world. Thousands of gamers remember spending their lunch money trying to save Daphne from the clutches of the evil dragon. Even today, eighteen years later, Dragon's Lair remains one of the most popular video games ever made. It is one of only three games that has gained such recognition for its advancement of the computer entertainment industry that it is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. The original, and several sequels, are available on DVD. See Kevin Krock's review of these classics here.
In Dragon's Lair 3D, players resume the original role of Dirk the Daring, on a valiant quest to rescue the fair princess Daphne from the menacing clutches of Singe, the Dragon. To triumph, the player must fight his way through the castle of the dark wizard, and overcome over thirty new monsters that are lurking in the shadows and carefully anticipating every move.
A massive lair with 16 unique areas will feature real- time 3D modeled and textured worlds. Dirk's bungling personality features an assortment of over 150 new animations. As an added bonus, Don Bluth will design some of the new characters in Dragon's Lair 3D. Unlike the original, players will have full character control of Dirk, so that the gamers have the ability to make him run, jump, roll, sneak, climb, crouch, crawl, swing, and somersault.
What is the ultimate message of all of these offerings? That the family entertainment market is alive and well. All of the titles we talk about here appeal to both kids and adults alike, and will provide you and you family with interactive entertainment you can enjoy together.
LEGO & Steven Spielberg
LEGO ISLAND 2 - The
LEGO ISLAND 2 - The
LEGO Racers 2
LEGO Bionicle The Legend of
LEGO Creator Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the
Dragon's Lair 3D
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