James Cameron’s new movie, “Avatar,” attacks theaters this week, and for select members of the family that means play opportunities, both real and virtual, based on the sci-fi epic.
Now, there’s an exhaustive line of 3 3/4-inch action figures and in-scale creatures and vehicles based on the Avatar universe that deliver a magical, high-tech upgrade for those with a computer, webcam and broadband Internet connection.
Junior first must make purchasing decisions based on a wide assortment of characters from the PG-13-rated movie. The figures have limited articulation and the occasional accessory, such as Pandorian Tsu’Tey with his double bow or human Col. Mile Quaritch, who packs a pistol.
Parents may find themselves involved in the assembly process for the vehicles and creatures, including building the AMP Suit, six-legged Thanator and butterfly-winged Leonopteryx. (That exercise might lead to some unavoidable loose joints and frustrated offspring. At least there are no stickers to apply.)
Following some real playtime, children will want to visit the Avatar i-Tag Web site (www.avataritag.com). After downloading and installing the Total Immersion D’Fusion Web plug-in, they now can match a plaque (which is included with all toys and doubles as a display base for the figures) with one of 40 on-screen entries.
Once a Web page showing live visuals from the user’s webcam is online, a user takes the corresponding plaque and holds it in front of the camera. A three-dimensional, animated representation of the figure will appear above the plaque on the screen.
As the owner shifts the base or moves it farther from the camera, the size and perspective of the virtual entity also changes.
Adding to the experience, when a child covers one of the icons printed on the plaque, more information is revealed, or the elaborate onscreen creation is set in motion. For example, the Thanator rears back and then jumps forward with a ferocious growl and owners learn in a pop-up fact card that the creature has a massive, distensible armored jaw.
The character figures offer 3-D imagery such as maps of Pandora or a C-21 Dragon Assualt Ship or an irritable Viperwolf.
The great news is the concept is amazing, works every time and requires no lengthy registration or computer-befuddling installations. The not so good news is it’s a one-trick pony. There is no way to get multiple plaques to interact, no way to download vital information to use in some type of online multiplayer fighting game (take a look at Mattel’s Xtractaurs) and they must exit the program and choose another toy icon for the second toy to appear.
Maybe some of these possibilities will be incorporated into the next licensed property, but for the time being, it still is an impressive visual that extends the fun for a youngster playing with a traditional action figure.