Some Virtual Dirt Under My Fingernails

ONE OF THE decorations they sold for your Webkinz yard were vegetables. You could buy pumpkins, corn, tomatoes and cabbages and make it look as if you were growing a garden. We joked "Wouldn't it be nice if you could actually raise vegetables in your yard and feed them to your pets?"

Lo and behold, ask and ye shall receive.

About two weeks ago they introduced "seed packets" in the W Shop: cabbages, tomatoes, strawberries, corn, carrots and watermelons. When you dragged them into your yard, they were miraculously planted. They must be checked every day by clicking on one of the plots. A menu pops up and the first thing you do is inspect each plot. Most of the time it tells you the plot needs water; you then click on the water button and must tip a "watering can" over each of your plots. On some crops you also must rake them. In a prescribed number of days, you can "harvest" your crops and use them to feed your Webkinz, and the plot is replanted so the entire sequence can start again.

If you neglect your plants and they die, you must use the "dig" tool to dig up the dead plants; only then are new seeds replanted for you.

Now this is my type of gardening: no bugs, no dirt, no worms, and especially no sun giving me a migraine.

"Be Wery Quiet, I'm Hunting Clydesdales..."

NO Clydesdales yet at Love Street, Hallmark, or Planet Me, a small shop in the Smyrna Village. I did buy a few packages of cards. Mostly I seem to get Kinzcash, which is fine with me. I have also received some medieval furniture, which I put into my game room, and a Webkinz studio.

The Webkinz studio is a blast. They give you two generic actors (a boy dog and a girl cat) and a grassy background. You can buy other sets like the deck of a pirate ship, a haunted house, the surface of the moon, a fairy castle, etc. and appropriate actors to go with them, including a "Froggenstein" and a good and a bad fairy from the Tulip Trouble game. Then you pick a particular setting, a time of day, and two actors, and in fifteen scenes create a story. I've only tried one, which involved a brave knight encountering a featherheaded young miss who turned out to be Paris Hilton transported in time. :-)

Games Other People Play

NOW that I've become reasonable proficient in Mini-Golf I have been making regular forays into the Tournament Arena. You receive the money you would receive from the game, plus any winnings if you finish in the top place or places.

There are two types of games there. The first is a one-on-one game play. You can either challenge someone on your friends' list or the game will find you an opponent. Mini-Golf is of the other type. You enter a pool of so many people competing in a tournament. You play your game and leave. Later an icon pops up to show you your standing in the tournament.

Now that I've conquered that 17th hole I'm starting to come up in the money.

Most of the Tournament Arena games can also be played in the arcade. Here are the games that are unique:

♣ Trading Card Challenge
You can play the Trading Card game online with a friend or random challenger.
♣ Dogbeard's Bathtub Battles
This is Battleship with sailing ships as befits Captain Dogbeard (a pug). This game can also be purchased in the W Shop and placed in your room.
♣ Farming Frenzy
Be the first to collect the winning amount of tomatoes and sell them at market. Differently colored tomatoes' prices rise and fall as the game proceeds. This game can also be purchased in the W Shop and placed in your room.
♣ Kinz Pinz Bowling
Self-explanatory. The bowling alley is also a rare item and shows up occasionally in the Curio Shop to be purchased and put into your room, but it's expensive, W10,000.
♣ Quizzy's Whiz Kinz
Answer Quizzy trivia questions against an opponent.
♣ Rock Paper Scissors
Just what it sounds like. An old-fashioned game in a new medium.
♣ Webkinz Chef Challenge & SuperModelz
I haven't played these yet. I gather it is a competition of recipes and of clothing combinations.
♣ Zingoz Switcherooz
Have no idea. Looks like it might be a version of Othello.

The rest of the games can be purchased in the W Shop for placement in your room. You earn Kinzcash from them as well. On some of them, you can invite people on your friends' list to come into your room and compete with you.

♣ Air Hockey
♣ Billiards
♣ Jigsawz Breaking News
Jigsaw puzzles at three different levels, with increasing KinzCash rewards.
♣ Skunk Sweeper
This is a version of the arcade game that can be played in your room.
♣ Go Fish
The card game.
♣ Checkers
The board game.
♣ Link'D
Otherwise known under the trade name "Connect Four." :-)

There is one other game at Webkinz World you can play: DiceKinz. This is a virtual dice game only; a roll gives you the ability to move or bump an opponent from the course. To be honest, I don't understand the game well. You get some dice you can play with, but you can also buy additional dice in the W Shop.

Acing the Arcade! Part 2

HERE'S the rundown on the rest of the Arcade games:

• Lily Padz. Use the arrow key and the space bar to hop a frog home. As his energy runs down, you can leap up and catch bugs. A pleasant diversion.

• Dex Dangerous and the Lunar Lugbotz. Asteroids with better graphics. You, as courageous Dex, a spacefaring lion, must defeat the enemy ships trying to get your asteroid. Fast moving and fun.

• Lunch Letters. This is Webkinz' version of my favorite "Letter Invaders," the Space Invaders-like typing game that comes with Typing Tutor software. As letters fall from the sky, you must type them to get rid of them before they hit the ground. The grumpy goat janitor complains if they do.

• Operation Gumball. I have yet to understand this game. Something about gumballs and numbers. Headache time.

• Picnic. More ants looking for food. Played once or twice. Eh.

• Polar Plunge. You must jump the polar bear on the sled over various obstacles like trees, snowmen, etc. as he careens downhill. I never make it very far, but love trying.

• Pumpkin Patch Protector. You must direct the farmer's jet of water to drive off the crows raiding his pumpkin patch...but don't use up all the water! The fewer pumpkins stolen, the higher your score. An okay game.

• Quizzy's Word Challenge. Ah, my other favorite. You must form ajacent letters on a square grid into words, and achieve a certain point goal on each level. You get the most points if you use the center letter last. Usually the center letter is something like B or H. Fiendish and wonderful for logophilists.

• Stack 'Em Up Solitaire. Self-explanatory. I've never played this.

• Tile Towers. It's MahJongg with Webkinz denizens instead of bams, cracks, and other Chinese characters. Also fun.

• Tulip Trouble 2. For the very dexterous in later levels. Bad fairies have invaded the tulip patch and confined all the good fairies in the blossoms. You must click on a good fairy when it appears in a blossom to free it. If you free a bad fairy you lose time and she laughs evilly at you. Those little critters move faster, you fool!

• Wacky Zingoz. This is the Webkinz version of a Flash game that was passed around the Web at Christmastime where a penguin drops from a cliff and you as the polar bear whack him at exactly the right time to send him out the longest distance that you can. To be more animal friendly the penguin is now a funny blobby yellow masochistic critter being batted the distance by an ogre-critter, and he giggles when he's hit. (If you hit him the correct way he warbles "Zingoman!" and strikes a Superman pose, which is good for a giggle.)

• Wacky's Bullzeye Batter. Same two critters, but this time you're going for accuracy on a target, not distance. I find this one difficult.

• Where's Wacky. It's like the old game "Concentration." You flip cards over and must match two. As the levels progress, there are more characters to match. Sharpen your memory on this one.

• Zacky's Quest. Frogger with a little purple version of the yellow Zingoz in the Wacky games. Zacky must cross rivers, roads, ponds, floating logs, etc, and avoid monsters with clubs and birds who pluck him off the ground to find pieces of a treasure map. To gain more lives, he must eat the multicolor vegetables along the way. I love this one, but I was a Frogger fan from way back.

• Zingoz Bounce. Another game I haven't figured out how to work.

• Zingoz Pie Throw. They will toss pies at you...hit them with a pie first! They come faster and faster, of course, as you progress, and then start throwing them from above. Gotta move fast on this one.

• Zingoz Pop. Only tried this one a few times. You have to aim a big gun to pop the Zingoz. Wasn't very good at it.

Acing the Arcade! Part 1

WELL, not really. The only game I'm really good at is golf. I've never been quick enough at the mouse to be that good at videogames.

However, I am enjoying some of the games quite a bit, some I don't like at all, and some I keep plugging at and am plain no good.

• Cash Cow. The instructions are "Click on a group of 3 or more matching bottles to sell them. This adds money to your truck." Larger groups earn more money. More bottles come as you progress through levels. I like this game but don't do well at it.

• Cash Cow 2. "Click on two or more bottles of matching color to remove them; the larger the group, the more points you get." Again, I enjoy this one, but I usually tank on Level 3. (I know, that's pathetic.) By some miracle, a couple of times I've reached Level 5.

• Ant Mania. (Picnic 2) Your ant must avoid spiders and red ants while collecting food. Sorry. I'm not playing any games with ants in them.

• Bananza. You must guide a monkey through leaves and vines to collect bananas while avoiding falling coconuts and poisonous spiders. I still haven't figured out how to get up the vines to certain levels. Heck, I haven't left the first level without falling victim to the spiders.

• Zingoz Bounce and Burst. Zingoz are bloblike creatures of various colors that live in Webkinz land. In this one, explorer Livingston the Lion tickles blue bouncing Zingoz. They split. If a Zingoz hits Livingston, you lose a turn. I find this game...impossible.

• Candy Bash. Pancho the chihuahua bounces a big jumping bean from his sombrero, trying to break open pinatas lined up above him. You must bounce the bean in a Pong-like movement without dropping it and also collect the candy to earn points. I wasn't bad at Pong. I'm terrible at this.

• Candy Bash 2. This is one of my favorites, although I never have gotten more than 50KinzCash out of it. Pinatas drop from the sky and Pancho shoots up a jumping bean to break them. You collect the candy in his hat. You must not let the pinatas hit the ground; after three you're out. Every so often a cat flies overhead and you must shoot him to get a special treat: a chile pepper, a firecracker that pops all the pinatas on screen open, a taco. If you're down on lives what you want him to drop is a pear; the fruit gives you an extra life. See! Fruit is good for you.

• Color Storm. You need to direct different color raindrops into groups of four so that they disappear. If they touch the ground you lose. Eh.

• Go-Go Googles. Googles are little ducklike white creatures that inhabit Webkinz world. One Google must push another up into a tree to eat the googly flowers while also swatting the butterflies that the tree is allergic to. If you let too many butterflies land on the tree, it sneezes and the game is over. You have to juggle the Google to get it into the tree. Oy.

• Goober's Lab. Basically Bejeweled...absent minded scientist Goober has a rack of differently colored atoms in his lab. You use an instrument to shift the atoms so that you get three or more in a row. You must be quick at seeing the patterns or time will run out and the lab will explode. How well I do on this one depends on how awake I am.

• Hide'n'Skunk. I don't think I've ever played this. It's "Minesweeper" from Windows with a skunk instead of a mine.

• Hungry Hog. Pac-Man with a pig instead of Pac-Man and bees instead of Inky and his pals. The pig gains points when he eats junk food, but moves slower; if you eat good food, it adds more food you have to eat to clear the board. The bees can sting you unless you eat a power tablet that only lasts for a few seconds. A fun game, but then I always loved Pac and his Ms.

• Jazz Monsters. Haven't played this much. You must click on the musician of the same color as the monster attacking to vanquish him.

"Doctor, Doctor!"

NEGLECT your Webkinz and something dreadful happens!

No, they can't die. With virtual pets you are spared the sad gravesite in the back yard or the urn of ashes on the mantel. However, if you don't feed, bathe, exercise and care for them, they do get sick.

example of a sick petHowever, once in a while "real life" hits a Webkinz who's otherwise well cared for. A few weeks ago James told me he'd logged on and found Shahak "sick." When a Webkinz sickens, you find it with an icebag on its head and a green nose. You can try feeding it healthy foods, but the most reliable way of curing a sick Webkinz is a visit to Dr. Quack's office. This Scots-brogued duck will take your pet behind a a curtain and examine him. You hear him asking questions and receiving listless replies. Then the curtain parts again and Dr. Quack recommends medicine and vitamins, both which cost W25. This usually puts your Webkinz on the mend and you finish the cure with liberal doses of healthy vegetables and chicken soup and perhaps a workout on the trampoline.

Anyway, it was a surprise to walk in this afternoon and find poor McDuff with a green snout and the icebag upon his head. We payed a visit to Dr. Quack and now all is well again.

Cry Havoc!

AT the end of May GANZ announced on the site that they have released a stuffed Clydesdale. This is a really adorable horse and I'd love to have it. A friend of ours owns three horses, including a Clydesdale mare named Emily, so when I do find one, Emily will be her name.

We stopped at Love Street, but it's still on order (we'd already asked at the beginning of the month).

Despite the fact that we have only been Webkinz users for a month, I've already started to wonder what we will do when our year's membership is up and have wondered if it would be prudent to buy a Webkinz and save it, since buying another is the only way to extend your account.

Love Street had restocked their assortment, so I looked it over. I'd been toying with buying a unicorn, but only the Lil Kinz unicorn figure was left. (There are two types of Webkinz. The regular size is eight inches. There is a smaller, cheaper six inch version called a Lil Kinz.) The only problem was that I spotted the Lil Kinz chihuahua at the same time. I don't like the regular size Webkinz chihuahua at all; they have emphasized the bumps on its brow so much that it looks deformed. The Lil Kinz version, however, is quite attractive.

So I ended up purchasing both, but don't intend to "run" them until I need a renewal animal.

We also tried a little gift shop near the Vinings Kroger. They did have the two newest animals in, the husky dog and the raccoon. The husky is rather handsome and when James expressed an interest in it, I bought it for him as a late Father's Day gift (or maybe an early birthday gift, whatever). So now he has an animal to save for renewal purposes, too.

He's already named it Havoc.

What to My Wondering Eyes Do Appear...

TODAY'S Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a big article on Webkinz. It mostly concentrated on children's use of the site, but talked about parents and other adults being involved as well.

One of the big concerns has been the Clubhouse. There are actually two Clubhouses. Both have differently decorated rooms—there are gym rooms, for instance, garden rooms, reading rooms, etc.—but one has carefully chosen phrases that people can use to each other. Everyone can use this Clubhouse. The KinzPlus Clubhouse requires parental permission to use because you can type what you like, although there are forbidden words. If you type one of them, it turns red and you are not allowed to post your sentence.

I wandered into the KinzPlus gym one night to see what it was all about and some dip was wandering around saying "Do you want to make out?" Lo and behold, by next night the KinzPlus Clubhouse had been shut down.

Yes, I'm Hooked

I stopped at Love Street again to check out their collection of Webkinz. Nothing much new, but while I was there, I also bought a few packs of the trading cards. You can use these cards to play a challenge game which might be fun for games night, but also each pack of cards comes with at least one (and up to four) "Feature Code" and a "Virtual Trading Card Code." You can collect virtual cards as well and play the challenge game online. The Feature Codes get you more stuff, whether it be more Kinzcash, food, clothes for your pet (you can sell it back to the W Shop if you don't want it), or exclusive items which are not sold at the W Shop, like Webkinz card furniture, or furniture in themes which are only sold intermittently at the Curio Shop, such as the Egyptian theme, the Medieval theme, the Farm theme, the Scientist theme, etc. There are also little vehicles for the pets to ride in and strange things like disco balls and exclusive beds (including a Bookworm Bed that looks like an open book!).

Having just a few cards has whetted my appetite for more codes...I mean more cards! Cards to play the game! Each person who plays needs to have seven challenge cards at least... LOL.

The Games People Play

MINI-Golf isn't the only game I am having fun with. I have found some old favorites in the Arcade.

One is called "Lunch Letters" and is my old friend "Letter Invaders" from the software "Typing Tutor." Letters fall from the sky, faster and faster as the levels progress, and you have to type them to destroy them. "Lunch Letters" in Webkinz has the letters falling within foods or hoagie sandwiches. Below, a goat janitor sweeps up any food you miss.

"Goober's Lab" is a Bejeweled-type game taking place in absent-minded scientist Goober's (he's a dog—looks like a St. Bernard) lab. You exchange "atoms" (they look like giant gumballs) set in rows to get arrangements of at least three in a row; they then vanish and are replaced by other atoms. Apparently this is the most popular game on Webkinz World and is one of the reasons so many adults have become hooked. (Wonder if I'm the only one who's been hooked by Mini-Golf? LOL.)

"Zacky's Quest" is Frogger. Zacky is one of the Zingoz critters—they look like ambulatory teardrops with eyes; this one is purple. You have to negotiate him through a course that includes Frogger-like logs and a street to get to caves containing bits of a treasure map. There are misshapen potato-like monsters to whack Zacky if he gets too near and a bird that swoops down to take him away. I haven't gotten past Level 2 yet, but that's part of the fun.

"Dex Dangerous and the Lunar Lugbotz" is Asteroid. Dex is the courageous lion captain protecting an asteroid from meteorites and strange alien ships. When the asteroid gets too many hits, plunk down it goes. Oh, well.

"Hungry Hog" is like Pac-Man. A pig must eat all the fattening foods to increase to the next level. Vegetables make him faster but also pop up new fattening foods. Don't get stung by the bees, which send you back to the beginning, and, if you get stung too many times, sent out of the game.

I don't know another video game equivalent, but I love something called Quizzy's Word Challenge. You must make words from letters posted in a grid on the screen. You get more points using the letters in the center square and the most money by finishing your word with the letter in the center, which often turns out to be a B or an H. Since this is a kids' website, many words are forbidden even if they are not scatological or considered curse words, so an additional challenge is added. Thankfully, it does consider some Britishisms.

I'll do a complete list of the games at some point.

Portrait of a Terrier

ONE of the best ways to boost health points for your pet is to buy a pool. I'm continually amazed with what they can do with scripting in Webkinz (not sure what language it is scripted in) and also with the Flash graphics. Your pet paddles about the pool in a widdershins direction, very much looking like it is swimming. All that's missing is the splashing!

Here's McDuff taking his turn in the pool:

McDuff swims

This is a particular cute snap; the scooter is the special gift that comes with the white terrier:


Got Milk?

POOR Weenie. Even though we were having fun together playing miniature golf, I had never given up looking for the white terrier. Willow has aroused in me a liking for all things "terror." But the Hallmark shops were still understocked.

Finally I consulted the store locator feature on the Webkinz site and found out that a small shop nearby was selling them. This was Love Street, right "up the road apiece," where I had bought the firecracker outdoor ornament last year. They sell gift-type items, things for baby showers, Crocs, garden decorations, and other things of that sort.

McDuffAnd, amazingly, they did have a white terrier.

It came with a pink polka-dot bow.

Have I mentioned lately how much I despise pink? :-) I snipped the bow off the actual stuffed animal and registered HIM as McDuff, after the West Highland White Terrier in the Rosemary Wells/Susan Jeffers' children's books, which are beautifully illustrated with 1940s-type pictures.

Pretty much almost immediately he was nicknamed "Duffy" and made comfortable in his own room with a drafting table. Each Webkinz comes with a special gift and McDuff's was a neon palm tree. It flashes in his room every time you enter.

MollyHowever, I was also seduced by a pair of bovine eyes. Way back we had begun a decorating scheme in the kitchen of cows and apples and it just seemed to snowball. We have Holstein cow containers and artwork, utensil holders and napkin holder and toothpick holder and Sweet'n'Low packet holder...well, you get the idea. There's even a tiny stuffed cow that used to be on the kitchen table.

So how could I resist a Webkinz cow with a winsome face and fuzz in her eyes?

I named her Molly after Molly Preston, the mother in Kate Seredy's The Open Gate, who was afraid of cows when the family first moved to the farm, and decorated her room with cream-colored furniture, farm wallpaper, and a cow bank.

So if I cuddle my cow too much am I "Molly-cow'dling" her? :-)