Video Game Offers Fun Way to Support a Good Cause

When the philanthropic urge is upon us, we know that we can join a walk-a-thon, or a charitable race or bike ride.

But now, with the introduction of "The Tuttles Madcap Misadventures," we can play video games for charity as well.

When families purchase "The Tuttles Madcap Misadventures," at least half of the proceeds go to the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation, a charity that helps chronically ill children and their families.

If you purchase the boxed version, 50 percent of the cost goes to the charity. With the downloadable version (www.tuttlesfamilygame.com), the charitable amount rises to 75 percent.

The game takes players on a 40-level romp with the vacationing Tuttles family as they make their way to the Alamo. Geeky dad Barry has customized the family van so that it can fly and has an onboard talking computer (with an attitude, of course).

Superorganized mom Barbara has a bottomless handbag that stores everything they need, including tents. Daughter Jess is a brilliant, cell-phone-addicted teen who "would rather die than be seen out in public with her parents," while easygoing son Zach loves life and video games and thinks getting lost is cool.

As this extraordinary family flies in their minivan, the adventure takes them through the air to a desert, ocean, jungle, tropical island and the mountains. While families explore the levels of the game, they alternate playing as each of the four members of the Tuttles family.

The "Tuttles" is an old-fashioned, side-scrolling game, reminiscent of classic "Mario" games from Nintendo, where players collect items, jump from platform to platform to navigate a level and stun baddies by leaping on their heads.

For example, while in the desert looking for more gas for the van, you must avoid scorpions, cobras and prickly cacti. As the desert levels get harder, you also encounter walking mummies and wriggling green vipers.

While the game-play isn't anything new, the platform puzzle play is solid. It is fun for the whole family because it can be played on three levels of difficulty. Kids playing on the easiest level will never get frustrated because there is always a red arrow pointing where to go next. The 40 levels are fairly short, thus allowing the game to be played in short bursts -- as a reward for finishing a homework assignment or as a break from the stresses of everyday work.

What makes this game fun is the story. This family gets into wacky situations, including bargaining with a group of nomad desert people who deliver a "Monty Python"-type performance. The hilarious script is a product of Dave Thomas and his Emmy Award-winning comedy team at Animax Entertainment, and it plays out in comic-book style, cut scenes that appear between levels. Through all its silliness, the game delivers a strong message about the importance of family bonding.

Another reason this game is special is it has world-class voice talent coming from Bob Saget, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ashley Tisdale, Dominic Scott Kay, Dave Coulier and William Shatner. Couple this with catchy background music and graphics that are bold and bright, and you have a game worth playing.

By buying this game, you can have fun with your family on your computer, while your contribution helps chronically ill children and their families. This is a win-win situation.

RATING: 4 stars (out of 5) Best for ages 6-up From Legacy Interactive, www.tuttlesfamilygame.com, $20, Win/Mac.

Jinny Gudmundsen is the kid-tech columnist for the Gannett News Service and USA Today.com, and is also the editor of Computing with Kids Ezine (www.ComputingWithKids.com ).

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