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Consumer Reports

With Internet parodies, anyone can get in the campaign game | (KRT) Even if you prefer reality TV and board games to presidential elections, this year's campaigns have something for you. Targeting the Internet-savvy, the Democratic and Republican parties are trotting out satirical online depictions of their electoral enemies. Want to laugh at John Kerry's wealth? OK! How about watch Katherine Harris take a paintball to the face? All right! Ouch, this election is funny.


Find it at:

In this interactive GOP-sponsored online satire, players can poke fun at Kerry's pocketbook as they click on a pair of virtual dice to advance around a modified Monopoly board, buying up chunks of the candidate's property along the way.

The catch? You start out with $40,000 - the 2000 census estimated the average household income at $42,000 - and a little red ticker adds up your debt.

Land on Kerry's Georgetown home, and you'll shell out $4.7 million. For the candidate's Beacon Hill residence, it's $6.9 million. But rest assured, the Republican National Committee has priced out a few bargains for you. A mere $1,000 will buy you a Kerry-style haircut, or you can plop down $5,000 for a ride on the candidate's bicycle.

Sure the prices are probably politically motivated, and it's not like President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are living on dried noodles. But give the GOP some credit - this thing is clever. We especially enjoyed the soundtrack, which changes for each square and plays the theme from "Gilligan's Island" when you arrive at the Nantucket space - with an emphasis on "the millionaire and his wife."

The game is worth about four minutes of Kerry-bashing fun. But with a few upgrades, its potential playing time could exceed 10 minutes.

For starters, this game is crying out for a Community Chest - those cards at the center of a real Monopoly game that could be adapted to read "buy a pair of flip-flops: $50."

And for enders, the GOP tech wizards ought to figure out a way to tell players whether we've won or lost - perhaps once our personal debt exceeds that of the entire nation? Suspense is good, but we can't all wait till November for the outcome.

Republican Survivor

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And for bipartisan fun ...

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We understand why the Democrats and Republicans are into this stuff - free shots across the electoral divide. But a regular video game company that sells a bipartisan election game? That's for the true believers.

In late August, Ubisoft plans to launch "The Political Machine," a computer game that puts players in the role of campaign managers - who have the luxury of choosing the amount of charisma and intelligence their candidates are blessed with.

Take out advertisements, win endorsements and create policy in this political strategy game. Overseas conflicts, job outsourcing and the war on terror are central campaign themes, but make sure to manage your media appearances carefully. Stints on "60 Seconds," "Barry King Live" and "The O'Maley Factor" have definite political repercussions in this virtual reality.

History buffs can also re-create campaigns of past presidents and current challengers, including Bush, Kerry, Ronald Reagan and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But this game looks a little too much like reality to us: It actually costs money. Pre-order the game for $29.95.

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