Welcome to a new PHB series called Ramble Reviews! This will be a collection of thoughts and opinions from rambling Poptropicans from our PHC Discord community taking a look back at past islands. We hope these posts (and more are coming!) can be a space for fellow fans to read and discuss.
Please welcome the first writer for the series, Purple Paw.
I’ll start by saying, Twisted Thicket is one of the most important islands Poptropica has ever made. It’s not often you see environmentalism portrayed in a kid’s’ game, especially not in this setting, where the message is clear, and yet it is incredibly fun and enjoyable all the same, without being too harsh. I knew right from the start I had to talk about it!
Twisted Thicket is one of the shorter islands, although most times, it’ll take one longer to complete, due to all of the slightly more challenging puzzles hidden within. Your task appears simple at first: rid the forest of the horrible creatures that are terrorizing the town, and help Burt Diamond and his Lumberjerks destroy the magical terrain and build his casino. But the story of the forest goes deeper than that!
The first time I played this, I hoped very much that the island would not end with the forest being bulldozed and the magic destroyed. And as soon as I reached the Sacred Tree Hollow, I saw how kind and innocent these animals actually were, and that they had only acted hostile in defense of their home. What a twist, right?
Twisted Thicket is simply enchanting in every way possible, from the glowing blue mushrooms to the lit-up flowers to the tangled clusters of dark green leaves. And yes, the Tree Hollow is one of my absolute favorite places in all of Poptropica. The Creators aced the setting, characters, and plot, and I will never tire of replaying this island.
The story highlights the misunderstanding between nature and human settlements, and shines an entirely new light on how to fix it. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a solemn island; there’s the perfect amount of tension, action, beauty, and storytelling to keep you engaged and having fun the entire time.
This island is a perfect example of the Creators’ old heart and caring, an island that showed they cared about making a true story, and sending a real message (unlike the nonsensical fetch quests we’ve been seeing more recently…).
Because of this, Twisted Thicket has got true potential, a meaningful plot line, and is a real gem on the map. I don’t believe the Creators would let something like this go so easily, and if they’ve got half the heart they used to, they’d be working as hard to preserve the Twisted Thicket like we did all those years ago when we first played.
Hope you enjoyed this guest post by Purple Paw. If you did, be sure to check out the PHB’s own quickie review of Twisted Thicket by Lucky Joker! Stay tuned for more Ramble Reviews from Purple Paw, Incredible Fire, Magic Flipper, MaryannTheConqueror… and maybe more!And of course, join in on the rambling fun on the PHC Discord.
The Poptropica Help Blog welcomes interesting Poptropica insights from anyone in the Poptropica community with thoughts to share. You can find some tips and guidelines on our page on how to Write for the PHB, and share blog posts on the PHC.
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Hello, everyone! It’s been an eventful birthday month for Poptropica, and the festivities are still going strong. Now, the Pop Creators have introduced a mini contest on Instagram with a prize of 10,000 credits!
And it gets better: the subject is none other than the iconic Dr. Beev, the Mocktropica pseudo-character turned celebrity who even made a brief appearance in the game earlier this week. The challenge for the contest is to draw Dr. Beev in your style (be sure to post with the tag #drbeev).
Check out that high-res pic of the Beev straight out of the bin! You know what they say, one Creator’s trash is an entire community’s treasure.
Share your Beev tributes from now until September 30 (next next Wednesday) for a chance at those sweet credits!
September has seen a plethora of Poptropica content, from surprise fan art features to the ongoing Poptropica Month video event. Let’s take some time to highlight some of the wonderful stuff that we (and the Creators) are loving.
The fan features don’t stop on Instagram! The Creators’ Blog also shared a YouTube video by happyclonetrooper, who created a 3D model of her Popsona, Maroon Ring. Cool to see Poptropicans in the third dimension!
On the topic of YouTube, let’s take a moment to appreciate a few of the many Poptropica Month videos made so far!
Our first feature is from Theo of Dimension Bros, who posted a video on his personal channel in which he bakes a Poptropica birthday cake. Delicious, and reminiscent of Poptropica’s own 9th birthday cake! 😋
Next, here’s one from TheOrangeHe answering questions from MaryannTheConqueror‘s Poptropica Month tag. Several other creators have joined in on the tag as well, so that could be a good place to start if you’re interested in participating as a creator in Pop Month!
Finally, here’s a short and sweet animated meme by Kid Whom Has A Hat, featuring the song “Weak” by AJR amid a slight spoiler for Octavian in the Poptropica graphic novels (read the first one on our Comics page!).
We’ll leave you with one more thing to contemplate, a question that was also the subject of a recent Instagram story from the Pop Creators: How would you explain Poptropica in a single sentence to a friend?
In honor of Poptropica’s birthday month and the #ThanksKinney campaign going on, we thought we’d take a look back at past posts and interviews with some OG Poptropica Creators sharing about the process behind the making of Poptropica. In some ways, this is a bit of an open letter for Jeff Kinney and the Poptropica Creators past and present.
Turns out the words of some of these original Pop Creatorsreveal some interesting ideas worth comparing and contrasting with how the game has been going in the past few years. We’re going be taking a look at our beloved Poptropica from the eyes of earlier masterminds Jeff Kinney, Jess Brallier, James Lema, and Mitch Krpata.
Let’s see what they had to say about how they envisioned Poptropica while they were building it in its earlier years…
Jeff Kinney: no player homes; experiencing different things
In 2014, Poptropica founder Jeff Kinney did a 10-minute interview with the media company BellyFeel, where he discusses some of the thought processes behind Poptropica. Check out the interview below, or read the transcript from BellyFeel, and excerpts below the video.
My first idea for Poptropica was that you would be a person who would live in an apartment and that you could collect things and bring them back to your apartment, and we’ve seen that model in lots of games like Animal Crossing and there are many virtual worlds that follow that model but this was right around the time that kids started to carry around iPods and there was that feeling that a kid carries their content with them. So we took that central mechanic of the game, that your character doesn’t actually have a home. Your character travels and brings everything with them.
That’s very liberating because then you don’t have a geographic challenge. If you had to keep going back to your house or apartment, you would be limited in a way as far as how far you could go. The idea now is that the character just island hops…
I think that each island has its own, its own set of rules, its own universe and by not being overly thematic or by not creating one set of rules for the universe, I think it gives our kids a chance to experience all sorts of different things and that’s fun and freeing.
Some of the stories we’ve told, I can’t believe we’ve gotten away with, I think the most exotic story or esoteric story we’ve told is we have an island called Mystery Train where you’re travelling in the late 1800’s on a train from Washington DC to the Chicago Worlds Fair and you meet Nikola Tesla and Gustave Eiffel and all these luminaries from that time, and I kind of held my breath, I didn’t think kids would like it. But it’s one of our most popular islands because I think it’s authentic and rich.
Interestingly, Poptropica did end up making player homes a feature, which another Creator we’ll mention later in this post says was the most requested feature for the game. However, with the arrival of Paradise Island, Poptropica has recently been criticized by fans for trying to be too much like Animal Crossing. Can they go back to their roots?
Jess Brallier: staying around like Disney; not just another game
In 2013, the learning company Future Think filmed a video of then-president of Poptropica, Jess Brallier, talking about his vision for the game, which resurfaced in 2019 thanks to idk and Osmium. Check it out:
When we shared the video here on the PHB last year, we highlighted the following quote right from this publisher’s mouth that still resonates today with players hoping for new islands more than anything else:
“We’re not doing a virtual world to create a social networking opportunity, not to house games, not to host a virtual economy, but to tell stories… the point of Poptropica is to tell kids stories in the literacy of their choosing.“
This sentiment also echoes an interview the PHB hosted in 2015 with Mr. Brallier with questions asked by our readers. Here are a couple highlights about his dreams for Poptropica:
When asked, “Are there certain things that you think that Poptropica should achieve? What are they?” Mr. Brallier talked about expanding the franchise to different media, comparing it to the Disney empire.
Like Disney, we want to stay around for generations. We like to imagine our grandchildren smiling because of something Poptropica. We’d like to have a best-selling book series, a top ten iOS app, a record-breaking film, a wildly popular TV series, and a much-loved YouTube channel… But most of all, we hope that through our storytelling, art, animation, and programming to inspire a next generation of creators.
Since then, Poptropica has achieved that best-selling book series with the four graphic novels and briefly made it to #1 on the iOS App Store in August 2020 (while disparaging competitor Animal Jam in a victory post). Maybe more will lie ahead?
To another question, “What kind of skills do you look for when hiring Poptropica Creators?”, Mr. Brallier answered:
A love for storytelling and a desire to do what nobody else is doing. Many can illustrate or program, but do they do what they do because of a love and appreciation for storytelling. And our success is about doing what others don’t do. We’re not a book publisher, we’re not just another game, we’re not just another world with weird penguins or monsters or dolls running around in it. We seek not to copy, but to be the first to show up with something unexpected.
The five points he gives focus on being different in the following ways: 1) focusing on narrative quests; 2) simplifying the start process; 3) using 2D art; 4) pre-scripted chat; and 5) not trying to be “Facebook for kids.” You can read more in the blog post he wrote here.
Here’s a closer look at point #5, last but certainly not least:
Since the magnificent rise of Facebook, there have been numerous companies that have tried to create a social offering for kids that follows the Facebook model. Poptropica actively decided to not go down that path.
As Poptropica grows, we want to engage kids in ways they have never experienced. From that, we created Poptropica Friends – a 100 percent safe, social experience that allows the user to tell the story about themselves.
Everyday, we ask the user a question (ex. What’s your favourite sport? Have you ever tried sushi? Do you like dogs or cats?). The answer is a visual tile that becomes part of their profile. The more questions the user answers, the more visual their personality becomes. It’s a rich tapestry that tells the personality of the user in a way that has never been done.
Mitch Krpata: world-building; not a superficial experience
Okay, last one! It’s been a long post, but thanks for sticking with it this far. This last one is plentiful, but offers a lot of insight into the inner workings of Poptropica. Here’s Mitch Krpata (aka Captain Crawfish)!
In 2017, this Poptropica senior story developer did two significant interviews about his work: one directly with the PHB about his job and more, and another with a podcast called The Oddball Show. Among the many insights from the latter, here are a few excerpts worth highlighting about the design of the game experience:
Poptropica is quite inspired by Monkey Island, [with Mitch] considering it a children’s version of the older game. He goes on to describe Poptropica as a game with unique stories and puzzles, making up long-form experiences that require time and effort to experience, which players are willing to put in…
Next, the guys compare Poptropica to The Sims games by Electronic Arts, commenting on the world-building aspect of games and how there’s no age limit for wanting some of that. Mitch notes that Poptropica Worlds is a little like that, where you get to build your own house and avatar. For almost ten years, this was the most requested feature for Poptropica: a way to build their own space, which finally came as houses on Worlds. Such a feature, of having a thing that is one’s own, transcends age and gender…
Mitch talks about how his favorite books and movies as a kid all had an edge of darkness in them, recalling the classic storybook Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. This feels true of Poptropica as well, he says: it looks cartoonish, but it’s not a superficial experience – there is depth there for the kids who are paying attention to it.
You can also hear the podcast interview in the video below, or read our summary in this PHB post. It’s lengthy, but quite insightful!
It’s interesting to see how Poptropica has evolved in some ways from some of these original Creators’ imaginations, yet has stayed the same in other ways. What resonated with you? What features do you think Poptropica should keep, bring back, or do away with? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our PHC Discord server!
And #ThanksKinney for making this strange yet wonderful adventure for us all. Happy 13th birthday, Poptropica! 🎈🎉
Hey Poptropicans! Poptropica’s birthday month festivities continue to make a bang with the new 13th Birthday Flying Rocket, which gets added to your items when you log in to the Flash version of the game. (Update: It’s now on Haxe, too!)
The rocket works much like the magic carpet, gliding you through the air with pops of “13” fireworks trailing behind (in fact, you may also notice the magic carpet’s glittery gold dust accompanying your rocket). We’re not sure if the Creators will add this flying vessel to Haxe, but pro tip: you can use idk’s Format Loader to switch between Flash and Haxe.
Update: As of Thursday, Dr. Beev has left the chat game. 😢 We’ll miss you, Beev!
Joining the chorus of rockets is Poptropica music composer Jeff Heim, who recently dropped a new unreleased game track on Soundcloud called “Astro-Knights.” (Thanks for the tip, MaryannTheConqueror!) Does this mean the return of the fan favoriteAstro-Knights Island?! At once majestic and soothing, this track is a definite mood. Hear it here!
You’ll also get a free Beaver Follower! This chonky boi (who goes up to your shoulders!) can go with you most places, but not common rooms.
Another thing: You can Costumize every part of Dr. Beev’s costume, from the cute pink goggles down to the big swishy tail. Enjoy!
All this Beev fan service from the Poptropica Creators sure is a pleasant surprise! Now that’s a Mocktropica-flavored update we don’t mind. 🙂
If you’re reading this on Tuesday, September 15, it’s still Beev Day! Come join the party on the PHC with hanging out in common rooms, racing through Mocktropica Island, and going wild on the voice chat (possibly with derailed conversations about the Myron Van and El Pistachio—sorry Beev). Or watch it on TheOrangeHe’s Twitch livestream!
Let’s take another moment to appreciate how the Creators actually put the Great Dr. Beev into the game. Pretty surreal, especially for the Beev’s small but growing cult following! Happy Beev Day, Poptropicans! 🐿