Friday, August 28, 2009

On the Biggest Mistakes DC has made in recent history

If I had to simplify my issues with DC over the years, they could be summarized as "putting positive characters who have no place in a depressing or serious story straight damn in the middle of one" and "Editorial revamps with no sense of respect for the fans of what has come before, or of the history of the characters".

At a panel, when I used the word "positive", Dan Didio challenged me to define it. I define it in this context as lighthearted, fun, more smile-inducing than sadness, and generally a character than I prefer to entertain me, rather then emotionally move me.

In no particular order...

Ted Kord - Just for SO many reasons... More than any, Ted's BOOM! Headshot was representative that has happened at DC too often - taking a basically fun, positive(*) character and placing him in a far too Grim-n-Gritty situation. Ted could easily be used in dramatic and emotional moments, as his appearances in BoP showed.

The fact that he's kept making more appearances AFTER his death than before shows (to me, anyway) that DC knew they'd pooped the bed on this one, and kept teasing him to show up again to appeal/take advantage of the Ted fans. The Blue and Gold issues of Booster Gold are a delight, with Ted being back to the way he was, and should be, but I just knew he wasn't back for good.

The Trials of Shazam! is another example of this concept. Captain Marvel is as "positive" a character as there can be in the DCU. What they have done to the character and the Marvel mythos in Trials is just anathema to me. There is simply no NEED to grit-up Captain Marvel. The fact that the events with Mary Marvel wildly diverge from the events and explanations in Trials is VERY promising to me. Especially if the SHAZAM movie moves forward, I am very hopeful that all of the events in Trials will eventually be explained away. It sort of started getting undone in JSA recently, but that got kiboshed fast. Freddy Freeman is appearing in JLA Cry For Justice, and I believe will be appearing in James Robinson's JLA title. That's great, but I don't see how getting rid of Shazam and promotong Billy made that possible.

As many have said, "Everybody is SOMEBODY'S favorite character."

The idea of making you care about a character and then killing them is far from new, and does not just appear in comics. But the issue is, once you kill them, any chance to use that character again for MORE good stories ends. (well, okay, no, but you get my point)

The argument I make is that death is not the only way to further a story, and should not be used as often as it's being used at DC right now.

Consider - Beetle's role in Countdown to IC was to discover the plans of Max Lord and alert his fellow heroes. How did killing Ted make that job go better?

Suppose he'd only been captured and incarcerated. Or actually shot in the head, but survived. Sasha sends the goggles to Batman. It's still proof that Beetle is in dire straits(Joy Division, even...), MAYBE dead. The heroes mobilize, all the same things occur. But at the end, they find Ted (on life support maybe) and save him.

And if you claim that it would be a cheat to not really kill Ted, how is more of a cheat then how they didn't really kill Ollie Queen in the GA/BC wedding special? I could rattle off a LONG list of people who supposedly died in a movie, only to be fine and dandy at the end (Here's two - Centuri in Last Starfighter and Duke in GI Joe the Movie). Why did nobody call those cheats? Hell, why did no one complain when Booster wasn't really dead?

Simple - because people WANTED THOSE CHARACTERS TO SURVIVE. David's Law says it best: If the readers wants a certain event to happen or a certain character to survive, they will forgive ANY damn fool way you do it, because you gave them what they wanted.

As far as I'm concerned, what they did to Booster they could have (and should have, and may yet be) done with Ted. They made Booster interesting and relevant again. They breathed life (literally) into a character that was a footnote and a joke. And now he's got one of the better-selling books DC has, or at least better selling than more well-known characters. It was, in short, a waste.

Ted got bitch-slapped. He got fired one day before his retirement and lost his pension. He waited in line to meet Clayton Moore just as he grew too tired to sign any more autographs. He got HOSED.

And as much as I love the new Beetle, as much as I enjoy the other books DC has done since and will do in the future, that is a move that I respectfully choose to refuse to accept. They dropped the ball, they traded the cow for beans, they had a gold medal and got it bronzed.

Kyle Rayner - The vitriol for today's editorial changes for the sake of change PALES before the acid spewed by comics fans over the out-of-nowhere embaddifying of Hal and handing the Power Ring to a random guy on the street named Kyle Rayner.

Really the first of the slash-and-burn, "we don't care what it affects, we'll worry about it later" moves DC had done in the modern age of comics, the move pretty much disenfranchised an entire generation of readers who were told their character was out, and this new guy was in. Heck, not only was Hal gone, the entire Green Lantern Corps was gone - the Guardians, all of that history, done.

And try as I might, I just couldn't get interested in this new guy. Yes, years later he's grown into a more complete character I could read about, but it wasn't until Hal (and Guy) and the Corps of old was back could I really appreciate a Green Lantern title again.

Sue Dibny - I get it. Adult story - they wanted to show a really repulsive act. And I must admit, it was a great story, and had a lot of effects in the DCU moving forward.

I just wish it hadn't been Sue.

I've said it a lot in the past; I've always had a sort of special affinity to Ralph & Sue, because their witty banter Nick-n-Nora relationship matches my wife's and my relationship (with the exception that she is not wealthy, and I am neither ductile nor a detective), so I always had a soft spot in my heart for them.

As far as I'm concerned, the story also pretty much ruined Dr. Light for me as well. Because to take a page from JoeQ's playbook, the act he did in Identity Crisis is far too "real world" for me, (not for any personal reason, blessedly) and put a level of true repulsiveness on the character for me. Much in the same way when they made Toyman a child-murderer in the 90's (a move blessedly undone by Geoff Johns last year), a move that could easily have made this list. If either were to have shown up in Blue Beetle now, for example, I'd be massively skeeved out.

The Legion of Super-Heroes - Possibly the best object lesson to the cliche "if it's ain't broke, don't fix it". Legion was DC's franchise, neck-and-neck with Teen Titans. They were the first two baxter-format titles.

And then Byrne came along and said there was no Superboy.

Now bear in mind, I LOVED the Byrne re-vamp, and everything that has come from it. He gave the perfect retcon for the issue - The Legion didn't start because of Superboy, they started bacause of the LEGEND of Superman, and all that he did. The past issues didn't vanish out of people's comic-boxes; any time they needed to be referenced in the current book, use Mon-El in his place instead.

But that wasn't ENOUGH for the folks at DC. They felt the need to explain it in continuity. It's like when you accidentally bang a hammer through the wall as you're hanging a picture. First you have to make the hole a bit bigger for the plaster patch to set right, then you have to paint over the spot, then you realize the paint doesn't match the rest of the wall quite right, so you paint the whole wall, and before you know it, you're buying a new house. So it was with Legion. They tried to re-tell those stories, then they insisted on re-vamping Mon-El to make him a bigger character, then they had to fix even MORE stuff, then it got so confusing they made a NEW set of legionnaires they could re-tell the stories with, they they rebooted all over, then they jumped five years into the future and changed everybody so much it might as well have BEEN a reboot, then they DID reboot again, and...well, you see what I mean.

DC had a hide-bound, fiecely loyal readership. But being shackled to continuity was more important than just telling good stories moving forward, and that readership slowly ebbed away, and the stories being presented just weren't as good as what had come before, so new readers didn't return.

Whatever will be done next by Geoff Johns will be viewed as Not Enough by some Legion fans, who have grown so bitter and despondent over the decade and a half-long reaming they've gotten that literally nothing will please them. For them it is too late.

Not following up on Crises - This is a harder point to explain. After CoIE, there was to be one earth, period. We started seeing alternate Earths (under the guise of "parallel dimensions") in under a year in Justice League.

Zero Hour was supposed to fix all the Time-Travel problems (not that anyone noticed any to speak of) in the DCU by severly restricting access to time-travel stories and setting strict rules as to how it would work. They were presented in Time Masters (a person can only use a particular type of Time Travel ONCE, so literally you'd have to use one method to travel one way in time, and another to come back) and were then soundly ignored as soon as someone had a good story to tell.

Day of Vengeance was quite close to a Crisis for magic - it got rid of all the rules on how magic worked in the DCU and would try to set rules for how it would work in the future. The rules are now being set up by each person as they go, with no sense of rhyme or reason. Zatanna'a powers have not changed one jot or tittle, yet according the Trials of Shazam, there are now a completely different set of gods that Freddy Freeman get his powers from. In short, no rules, no sense, nothing. DoV was a good story, don't get me wrong, but it ultimately achieved none of the goals it set out for. Reign in Hell was supposed to be yet another "crisis" for Magic in the DCU, but it sort of stopped being that almost immediately. All of nothing has changed as a result of the book.

I don't see any reason to restrict anyone's storytelling by saying that you can't have Thisguy do that because Thatwoman did that a couple months ago, but if you're going to keep a tight continuity, at least keep track of those discontinuitues, and address them internally. There's such a diverse universe out there that I have no problem believing in a countless number of different schools of magic or endless parallel worlds or variant technologies to allow anything a writer wants to happen. The mindset should not be, "You can't do that because" but, "let's see how you can do that if".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On how it's never too early to look ahead to 2010

Everyone (well, everyone that matters) is enjoying the current DC Event, Blackest Night. But fans are already thinking about not only how it will end, but what sort of event will occur in 2010. And why should I be any different?

The current rumors are that Geoff Johns and James Robinson will spearhead the 2010 event. Based on the books they write, it's safe to guess it will heavily feature Superman (Dan D. has said 2010 will be the year of Superman as 2009 is the year of Green Lantern) and the JLA, something corroborated in part by some of Dwayne McDuffie's comments.

So what do we think it's going to be about? There's a lot of time being spent on Blackest Night at the moment, but considering the long game that Johns plays, odds are we're seeing the groundwork getting laid for 2010 as we speak, and just don't know it.

I'm not 100% sure it's going to be the "Earth vs. New Krypton" plot that everyone is guessing, or at least, not the simplistic "Panic in the Sky" type of big-ass fight that people expect. They've been going out of their way to show New Krypton as a planet that DOESN'T want to attack Earth, even making Zod damn near a good guy. If a war were to start, it would be the fault of Gen. Lane and his project 7734, who has been fomenting fear and hatred against NK. Played the right way, Krypton might be placed in a sort of defensive posture, and in that scenario, I could see Superman siding WITH them.

However, such a story doesn't have a logical "in" for the JLA, aside from being part of whatever front Earth puts up against Krypton, and that's not a big enough role. So I think it's going to be something else.

We don't know anything about what James has planned for JLA, so we can't look at that as a clue. We do know that he's working on the Mon-El plotline, something he has said he thinks people "may be surprised where I'm taking this", that will culminate in Superman 700. That sounds like a logical place to kick off an event. So let's make a guess that that's where Event 2010 will begin. Let's consider a bit of timing. Superman #700 comes out in ten months and Blackest Night will end in six (abarring delays in both cases). So there's about a four-month respite in between the two events. I'm betting we won't see the current Marvel method (of one event pouring directly into the next) used here - I think they'll be fairly discrete. BN centers on Green Lantern, and we're assuming Event 2010 will center on Superman and the JLA.

The Legion are still an active player in the Superman books, so there's a very strong chance they'll have a hand in the story as well. Tellus is here in the 20th Century, appearing in both Superman and Adventure, as is (apparently) Element Lad for unknown reasons, and Starman (Thom Kallor) is still here. Superboy-Prime is coming back for BN, that doesn't necessarily mean he won't play a role in Event 2010, but it's up in the air. Rather depends on what happens in BN, I imagine.

Let's spin it around - who AREN'T we seeing right now?

The Cyborg Superman has been conspicuously absent from the solicits and plot of Blackest Night. I find that odd. He became a Green Lantern villain mainly by Geoff Johns' hand, but he's more logically a Superman villain. And considering he also is part Kryptonian, he can easily be linked to the New Krypton story. Johns said at SDCC that "You'll see a lot more Cyborg Superman and Manhunters in 2010", but didn't say it would be in Blackest Night, or even if they'd be seen together.

Lex Luthor has been in Superman, but in a positively submissive role. That can't last. Similarly, they've been using a hybrid of Brainiac and native Sunstone technology to rebuild New Krypton - that CAN'T be 100% safe. Either of those could result in Earth and Krypton teaming up against a common enemy, which would go against expectations in a neat way.

The Marvel Family has been out of sight for a while as well, at least the classic version we know and love. In a fight with a lot of (perhaps) Kryptonians, a guy with magic-based powers would be quite an asset.

Also, by 2010, the New Gods will have been off the table for almost two years. That might be long enough to bring them back, a little closer to a more DC-ish version, as opposed to the Morrisonian creations they became. That's just a guess, and there's no suggestion of that in any plotlines. Just thought I'd toss it in.

Here's a wild idea. The one common thread between Blackest Night and what's going on in the Superman books is the planet Daxam. I've been saying for quite some time now that a fight between yellow-sun-powered Daxamites and New Kryptonians seems a slam-dunk. Perhaps it's Daxam that becomes the bad guy in Event 2010, using their newfound powers to rid the galaxy of the aliens that have desecrated their home.

Who knows?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the use of brightly colored plastic objects to attract comics fans

I think it's safe to say that of all the books DC is doing right now, the one experiencing the most hype and success is Green Lantern. Riding a wave of growing popularity since the Rebirth mini-series, kicked into overdrive by the Sinestro Corps War, it's now cashing in all that geek capital with the DC event Blackest Night.

The concept in a nutshell is that as opposed to the Green energy used by the GLs, there are seven OTHER color-coded corps out there, powered by seven other emotions, that have been collecting for as long as there has been sentient thought. Some have been hidden for a long time, some have only just started getting used recently, mainly as a reaction to the other corps appearing. Not an eighth corps has appeared, powered by death itself, which is bringing heroes and loved ones of heroes back to life, and generally spreading chaos everywhere.

This is a storyline which Geoff Johns started laying the base for in the second issue of the Rebirth mini series, almost five years ago now. Geoff Johns plays a VERY long game in his books. He'll set up threads so subtle you won't even notice them, until he pulls on one and they all collect into a big bow.

Now, to be fair, this emotional corps thing is something brand new, and does make some percieved changes in the history of the Corps. It was long assumed that the power that the GL Corps used was just some ambient cosmic energy that the Guardians collected and stored in the central battery, and Willpower was needed to USE and shape the energy. now, it's more that the energy is pure willpower itself, or the energy createdwhen will is used or felt. It's a subtle change, but it's such a good idea that it works. Sure it's gotten its share of jokes - a google image search will reveal any number of photoshopped care bears with Lantern costumes on, but any idea will have its detractors.

Comic crossover events have gone through a great number of transformations since the days of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Back then, damn near EVERY title had a tie in issue or two, and in a lot of cases about the only thing that actually seemed to tie in was in one panel someone would notice that the sky was all red as if there were some major event happenes far FAR away from the place we were reading about. Indeed, the term "Red Sky Crossover" survives today, to refer to a book that is marketed as tying into a major event but in fact has almost nine at all.

For a while they tried the "Annuals plus Bookend" model - a book would come out setting up the plot of the event, the story would run through all the Annuals of the regular titles, ending in a final issue tying it all together. I rather liked that format, as it allowed all the titles to get a piece of the event pie, but by putting it in the annual, didn't result in them having to bollix up any storylines they had runing in the books. Armageddon 2001 was done this was, as was Marvel's Atlantis Attacks, if memory serves.

In recent years, they've started the idea of an event made up of several mini series. Civil War had the Front Line mini running parallel to it, as did WWHulk. It allows them to tell stories with their main characters, but again, not requiring them be shoehorned into the regular run.

Blackest Night is picking from a number of trees for its layout. It's an eight-issue main series, with two sets of three three-issue mini-series running parallel to issues 2-4 and 5-8 of the main series. The minis deal with the actions of specific heroes and teams who are fighting this menace. There's also a number of one shots peppered throughout the run as well. The sum effect is that assuming everything stays on schedule, there's not a week that passes where you won't be able to pick up at least one chapter of the ongoing storyline. That's brilliant scheduling - like trinity and 52 (and like was supposed to happen with countdown) the goal is to create a reason to hit the comic shop EVERY week, not just the weeks your regular titles come out.

As is of course true, no one's requiring anyone to buy every single issue of everything, but comics fans being what they are, many complain all the books they "have" to buy now. It's always fun at conventions when DC's Dan Didio assures fans they don't have to buy every book, and VP of Direct Sales Bob Wayne moans and gets a look on his face like Dan just told Bob's wife where he stashes his porn.

Blackest Night has been underway for two months now, and the latest round of solicitations for November reveal what the back four months of the eight-issue mini will kick off with. First off, the Big Bad of the series has been revealed - Nekron, Lord of the Unliving, EXACTLY who I (and a large number of old-school GL fans) guessed it would be from square one. Also, they've announced a number of tie-in issues to the book. Black Lanterns will show up in such titles as Booster Gold, R.E.B.E.L.S. and Adventure Comics. They're all quite logical connection to the series, and all sound interesting to me.

The news that really has fans vibrating is the news that to help push the tie-ins, DC will release replica rings for EACH of the corps, to go with the Black Lantern Ring they released last month with Blackest Night #1.

Like the growing number of variant covers that are returning to comics shop shelves, the rings will be tied to purchases of the seven tie-in issues - for every twenty-five copies of each they buy, they'll be allowed to buy a bag of fifty rings of whatever color is connected to that issue.

That's not too unreasonable a demand. Considering how well Blackest Night is doing, it's more than reasonable to assume that sales of these tie-in issues will rise, so overpurchasing them is not as risky a move as it might seem. Personally, I think it's a much neater idea than variant covers are. I talked about them in a past post, but basically people who buy multiple covers are paying full price for a cover, something I find bewildering.

The big thing being talked about already is the assorted ways stores will distribute the rings. Some believe they'll be charged for, some think you'll be "forced" to buy the comic, and all sorts of other theories.

DC isn't making ANY requirements, other than tying the right to buy the rings to how many copies of the books you buy. If they didn't, I'm sure there would be speculators buying them in massive numbers for ebay-ification. What the stores do with them is entirely up to them. Some will make them free, period, some will tie it to any purchase, or any BN book, or each with the BN book it was connected to. Some won't bother getting them at all. These will be the same stores who don't participate in Free Comic Book Day either, the type who think owning a Comic Book Shop would be great if it wasn't for all the friggin' customers. The short-sighted store will sell the rings for five bucks a throw, put the rest on ebay, and think they did well. Until next month.

Here's the question - how did your local comic shop handle the Black Rings that came with BN#1? Odds are that's exactly how they'll handle these rings. Great mystery solved.

They are promotional items, designed for DC to get more talk going about their event (mission accomplished) and for the LCS to get more (and maybe even new) customers. How they do that is entirely up to them.

In the last couple year or so, comic shops have had more opportunities for new customers to come through their doors than they've had in many years previous. The death of Captain America, the Obama/Spider-Man issue, events that had MASSIVE mainstream PR attention. Some stores just saw immediate dollar signs, jacked up the prices, and in some cases set up special registers so the new people wouldn't even have to enter the store. Some did everything they could to make the new customers feel welcome, make sure they see the other things that are available, and maybe made a coupon for x% off your next visit. Some stores had a good day, and some are having better sales ever since. As Brian Hibbs and many other store owners will tell you, the key to the success of a promotion is not how many people come into your store the day of the event, but how many come BACK another time and buy something else.

Assuming a store takes full advantage of what they could buy, they'll end up with twice as many rings as they have tie-in issues. Now that sounds like opportunity to me. A lot of ways to make those hunks of plastic work for you.

Yes, you could make up sets of rings and sell them.

You could also, I dunno, donate them to the local children's hospital, along with the stuff clogging up your quarter boxes, and get yourself a nice plug in the local paper as well as a nice tax write-off.

You could do a fundraiser for the Hero Initiative - put together a big care package of books, a set of the rings, and see if a creator or two will donate some original art or signed books. (Almost everybody is available on facebook or twitter - it costs nothing to ask) Raffle it all off and send the proceeds to the Initiative.

I was amazed to hear people DREADING the new customers coming through their doors for the Obama comics. These are the same people who complain when they hear Marvel plans to expand its digital comics business, or that DC will sell more trade paperbacks in mainstream book stores than they will in comic shops. No desire to do any marketing for themselves, no desire to deal with competition.

Well, here you go. A thing you won't be able to download from a link on 4chan, something you won't be able to get at Barnes and Noble. Here's the ball. Run with it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the return of the Convention Wars

Chicago, like Philadelphia, is a city that can easily support a good comic con. Indeed, Chicago used to be a tentpole convention before Wizard got ahold of it - it was the first show the entire Image team appeared at, resulting in the legendary Image Tent. But Wizard has, for a couple of years now, scheduled them so badly that they're both nearly dead. Philly went up against, and lost to, Heroes Con two years running (tho it looks like they're gotten a different weekend in 2010), and now Chicago is barely two weeks after San Diego. And even if some of the companies wanted to come, they couldn't, becasue their booths got shipped to wherever they're filming the new Simon Pegg and Nick Frost movie to stand in for SDCC.

Reed Exhibitions (the folks behind the staggeringly successful New York Comic Con) is making their move into Chicago next year, a full season away from Wizard, far enough apart for both to coexist amicably. But Gareb has chosen to fire back, setting a show in Anaheim the same weekend as the Chicago show, likely to draw away media guests who'd rather travel a few miles than a couple time zones. It's a scorched earth tactic that will only serve to leave both combatants damaged.

Gareb/Wizard is taking the tactic Fred Greenberg used in NYC in the 90's - allow no other show to thrive, cooperate with no one, be the only game in town. You'll notice Fred isn't doing shows anymore. His place was taken by Mike Carbonaro, a very nice guy who's been running Big Apple Conventions for years now. He runs the same kind of shows Fred used to run, in most of the same venues - shows on the "large size of small", a nice assortment of artists and dealers, a good local comic con. Recently, through no fault of his, his shows have grown a tad overcrowded for their confines. That's not going to be an issue anymore, as Gareb Shamus bought his company and is using it to compete directly with Reed and the NYCC.

Wizard's New York show is set for this October, in the same timeframe that Reed's NYCC will be in NEXT year. I see this as an unveiled attempt to mislead the casual fan into believing that Wizard's show IS the NYCC, at least once. As of this moment there are exactly TWO comics guests listed for that show - Jim Lee and Joe Quesada. NO exhibitors listed, and only three media guests - not even the same handful of mid-range celebrities that travel from con to con like Greatful Dead fans following the band in their VW MicroBus. I'm actively worried.

On the other hand, the Baltimore Comicon, one week previous to Wizard's NY show, is putting up a STAGGERING guest list. Baltimore is a GREAT little show, and has really made a strong regional convention of itself. There's been no announcement of plans for next year, but since they're the same time as next year's NYCC, I'm hoping they can move far enough away from it that it won't be squeezed out. I'm actually willing to believe that Reed would work with them to make sure that didn't happen (purely conjecture, I hasten to clarify).

I'm in the Lehigh Valley (PA), have been driving down to Baltimore (about a 3-hour run) for four years now, and have been overjoyed with the show every time. I'm hoping it can stay clear of the heavy lumbering feet of both Reed and Wizard, and keep providing a great show for the Mid-Atlantic area.

The comics market is growing again, and considering the major players are only doing two or three shows a year, it seems to me there's MORE than enough room for them to happily co-exist. New York can easily support two major conventions, as can Chicago, provided they're scheduled far enough apart. With only a modicum of courtesy and maybe just a little bit of cooperation, there's a chance to keep a steady stream of shows available for fans across the country, but not so many as to exhaust the publishers and the fans alike. I fear that won't happen, however.

Monday, August 3, 2009

On the need to stop playing videogames to play videogames better

As a rule, playing a videogame, like flying a Colonial Viper, is done from the seated position. The Nintendo Wii has done a lot towards getting the sedentary gamer up and moving, but still remain within the range and arc of the wiimote sensor bar. Aspyr's new game Treasure World actually requires you to leave the house if you want to get anywhere.

It's primarily a puzzle and building game - with an assortment of bits of art and items you can build little pictures and bits of art. Most of the items also make noise or play music, so you can also design little musical ditties, about the length of an old-school ringtone. These creations can be uploaded to the Club Treasure World website where they can be downloaded or duplicated by others.

There are THOUSANDS of these little building blocks, from flowers that sound like musical instruments to sound effects, and a bunch of costumes for your on-screen character. How do you collect these items? By setting the game to scan, closing the DS, putting it into your bag or pocket, and going out for a walk. The game scans the ether for wi-fi connections, and based on god knows what sets of parameters, unlocks various prizes and "treasures" in the game. The networks don't need to be "open", merely recognizable - the game doesn't actually try to connect to them, just uses the public connection info it finds to unlock more items in-game. Connecting to the games website does require a nintendo-accessible wifi connection, and upon linkup, will upload your data to the site, including your discoveries and creations to date. Much like games like Spore and Rollercoaster Tycoon, it's a place where an impressive amount creativity is on display, especially considering the relatively small canvas available to you.

Turning the game on in my office alone, it found three wireless networks, a two block walk to the bank and local deli grabbed another eight, and the drive home and walk through the local mall got over sixty. And each connection unlocked more items, puzzle pieces, and mysterious "keys" which will open treasure chests at some point in the future, provided I keep visiting the website to check in.

Each wifi network will only generate one prize, so to get more prizes you need to take your DS to more and more places. While this may prove infuriating to folks who can't get to very many places on their own, the challenge of finding more connections is engaging. A walk through any shopping center or bookstore will likely find you another few, and as time passes you'll be amazed at the number of prizes you've collected. I'll bet more than a few industrious kids will ask mom or dad to take the game with them to work in the city, with heaven only knows how many wifi networks available.

I'm reminded of the Monster Hunter franchise that generated monsters for you to raise based on what music CD (and with later versions, DVDs) you popped in the Playstation. Players would generate massive databases of what CDs would generate what monsters, and I spent more than one night popping discs in to see if I could get something other than another damn Mochi.

The "Game" part of the package is more of a little art tool than any thing else, but it gets quite engrossing, trying to combine the best sounds to get a recognizable song in the limited number of notes available.

I'm on the site here - I may have gotten a couple of songs composed by the time you find a copy of the game.