Hey Poptropicans—this is a guest post by Beefy Dragon, who’s bringing back our “Pop-TROPE-ica” series with her take on Poptropica’s approach to education, particularly to the trope of exhibits more commonly seen on Poptropica Worlds. Enjoy!
What’s up, PHB readers? It’s guest writer Beefy Dragon. Welcome to another installment in the Pop-TROPE-ica series. It’s been a while since the last one, so for the new readers, Pop-trope-ica posts discuss common threads that run through many Poptropica islands, a.k.a. “tropes.”
This time, we’ll be discussing education, a core feature of Poptropica, from Original to Worlds, manifested in exhibits and other fun forms.
Education has been one of Poptropica’s goals since the beginning. Heck, their About Us page even includes the word “learning.” The first island, Early Poptropica, features an art gallery, where you can talk to and learn about various painters, as well as view famous works of art. Since then, learning has been more seamlessly woven into gameplay.
On Counterfeit Island, you learn about some of the ways museums identify forgeries (and learn a few words of French, Ballon Boy’s native language). Time Tangled Island has you interacting with different points in history. Zomberry Island has you finding clues to solve a logic puzzle. Game Show Island has a quiz show teaching you about such topics as homophones, sports, famous landmarks, and pop culture.
These types of educational puzzles and games are on every Poptropica island in various forms, and they tend to be enjoyable and interesting.
That’s not even getting into the many references to books and other pieces of popular culture scattered throughout the islands. On Vampire’s Curse, for example, we encounter lots of vampire lore, stemming from the classic Dracula by Bram Stoker. Not coincidentally, the island features Count “Bram.” (Eh?) The plot of the last two episodes of Survival Island is heavily inspired by The Most Dangerous Game, a short story featured in many a high school English class. There are also islands based explicitly on more modern books, such as the two Wimpy Kid islands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Nabooti, and Red Dragon (based on the Magic Tree House series).
All of these examples are expertly incorporated into the plots of the islands. They all feel perfectly natural, and are important for completing the quest of the island. You feel like you’re doing good things by completing these games.
This brings us to Poptropica Worlds. While looking for ways to continue this pattern of learning, the Creators have taken the concept of Early Poptropica’s Pop Art Museum and applied it to every single Island on Worlds so far (we’re not counting Dr. Hare’s Revenge).
The issue for me is, the Museums on Worlds feel considerably less fun, considering there is less interaction with characters. They’ve got many plaques you can click on to learn about whatever the island’s “thing” is—so far, natural parks, Greek mythology, and carrots. Thrilling.
The museums are not requirements for completing the island, and I personally find them pretty boring. (Seriously, real-life museums are more interesting, because you get to see the artifacts and exhibits they’re referring to in 3D Ultra-HD graphics.) I imagine it’s not uncommon for players to simply skip over most of the exhibits after reading one or two.
Now, imagine if the islands had found a way to incorporate this information naturally! Instead of a few minor changes to the quests, the remastered 24 Carrot Island could have featured a mini-game where you sort carrots by color, conveying information about different types of carrots in a much more interactive way. Greek Sea Odyssey could have revealed more about the characters and myths behind them while we actually talked to them, rather than just hiding it away in a little museum in the back of the ship. You see what I mean?
Hopefully Worlds will try a different approach that has the fun of what Poptropica Original offered. Maybe while remaking old islands, the Creators will begin to see the value in interactive and fun mini-games, and future original stories will include more of them. Looking forward to many more Poptropica adventures!
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