Welcome to another Ramble Review! This guest post comes from MaryannTheConqueror, who will be rambling about Astro-Knights Island.
It’s no secret that I love Astro-Knights Island, and from what I’ve seen, many others feel the same. There is an abundance of fanart of all its major characters, and even some minor ones! Despite this, it is strangely ignored by the Creators, a trend I’ve noticed over the past few years.
Again, Astro-Knights was a big deal during its heyday. It was so difficult that it was the first and only island to have a built-in official guide. The villain (who I shall get to) won the Villain Showdown hosted by the Creators’ Blog back in 2011, against the likes of Zeus and Dr. Hare.
And yet, hardly any content related to it gets released anymore. Most ads for Poptropica featuring many classic villains leave Mordred/Binary Bard out of them, and we’re lucky to see any Astro-Knights references at all, despite its continuing popularity, even after it was among the many classic islands removed then brought back but locked behind the membership paywall.
The story of this Island had potential. Serious potential. I’m saying right here, right now, that it could have easily been turned into a book series, game series, or even a TV series that expanded on it, and with the right writers, it could have been one of the most unique ideas in decades. This isn’t just my inner fangirl speaking (though I can’t deny that my 14-year old self is influencing the writing of this article) — this is from what I’ve observed in the creative world.
Astro-Knights is a clever blend of historical medieval fantasy and futuristic technology (sometimes referred to as “clock punk”). There’s space travel, epic boss fights, a lore connected to one of the most famous Western legends, the legends of King Arthur. Of course, now I’m just stepping around what I consider to be the best character not just from the island, but from the entire game, and one of my greatest examples of Poptropica’s squandered potential.
But first, let me give you a little bit of, as TV Tropes calls it, “fridge horror.” A couple times during Astro-Knights, it is mentioned that Mordred made his near-fatal ascent into space twenty years ago. Meaning he was trapped in space for that long, without any human contact that we know of. Imagine going through quarantine but for two decades, with no contact from family members or friends of any kind.
Binary Bard is what is known as a tragic villain, similar to Azula (from Avatar: The Last Airbender) or Sweeney Todd (from the Sondheim musical). He’s a character who, through a mix of his own bad decisions and circumstances beyond his control, was sent down a path with little hope of him ever turning back, except maybe through a very carefully written redemption arc (I might talk about my mixed feelings with a certain sequel island another time).
I was very disappointed that the Astro-Knights book (anyone remember those?) did little to expand on him or the lore of this island. These are the characters and stories that can go very far if allowed to do so, and I am sad to say that, just like its villain, the fate of Astro-Knights is tragic.
Hope you enjoyed this guest post by MaryannTheConqueror. If you did, be sure to check out the first Ramble Review on Twisted Thicket Island, and stay tuned for more! And of course, join in on the fun on the PHC Discord.
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