A few weeks ago I got an invite to an ultra-secretive presentation by Google and Disney being staged at Google’s office in Venice, CA. There were no details, other than a time, date, location, and the vague promise that we’d all be seeing something amazing, which always tends to make something feel important by virtue of mystery. As the date approached it became clear that whatever it was, it was going to be related to Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful. But what did Google have to do with it? Intrigued I powered through the hour and ten minutes of traffic it takes to get my handsome ass to Venice, to be greeted with — a short web browser game. Why the big mystery for a web browser game? Well, admittedly, I wouldn’t have shown up otherwise. So there’s that answer I suppose. And now here we are.

Despite my mild vexation with having been duped, the game – “Find Your Way to Oz” – is sufficiently amusing as a way to kill a few minutes of your time while you’re bored at your computer. And small children may in fact find it fun. The whole “experience” lasts just a few minutes, unless you dally. I will admit I enjoyed the station that allows you to alter the game’s score. That’s a cute idea (gave me Mario Paint flashbacks). Though the Google Chrome team was particularly excited about the tech advances the game represented…

Chrome Experiments like “Find Your Way to Oz” would have been impossible a few years ago. Since that time, the web has evolved and allowed developers and designers to create immersive beautiful experiences. For “Find Your Way to Oz” the 3D environment was built entirely with new technologies such as WebGL and CSS3. It’s enhanced by rich audio effects thanks to the Web Audio Application Programming Interface (API). The photo booth and zoetrope were built using the getUserMedia feature of WebRTC, which grants webpages access to your computer’s camera and microphone (with your permission). If you want to learn more, or run away and join the developer circus, you can get an explanation of the technologies used on the Chromium blog or in Google’s technical case study. Start your journey towards the yellow brick road at www.findyourwaytooz.com.

Don’t get too excited (not that I believe you’ve gotten super excited). You can tell me you just figured out a way to bake a cake in half the time, but if it still looks and tastes the same, I’m only going to be so impressed by your break-thru. “Find Your Way to Oz” has a fairly impressive looking tornado in it for this kind of menu-based web game, but other than that it will remind you of pretty much any other movie tie-in game like this that you’ve ever played, or decided not to bother playing. You also need Chrome to get it to work properly. But, hey, if you already use Chrome you might as well check it out. A diversion is a diversion.