Belated season’s greetings, Poptropicans! Though the major winter holidays have passed, we thought it would be “cool” to gift you all a review of Poptropica’s holiday-themed side quest: “The Grapple-Gift.”
This side quest is set during a fictional holiday called Grapple-Pap, which is Poptropica’s version of Christmas. The holiday is named after a Krampus-like figure who delivers gifts and takes away people who don’t spread cheer. Much like other fictional holidays such as Merry Walrus or Life Day, Grapple-Pap gives us a look at some of Poptropica’s history and traditions. It’s a nice touch and makes me want to see more Poptropican holidays.
The story is very simple, but it has a strong hook: you help an old man deliver a small wooden horse to his sister Clareta. However, Clareta hasn’t been seen in years, and the villagers believe that Grapple-Pap took her away because she became “mean.” Now, you have to travel the frigid Cold Cliff Pass and find out what happened to Clareta.
When you travel up the pass and enter a rundown cottage, you are greeted by Clareta (now a mean old hag) frantically shouting at you to get out. How did she become so mean and reclusive? What caused the rift between her and her brother? What will it take to show her the true spirit of Grapple-Pap?
To answer your questions: we don’t know, we don’t know, and destroy her cottage with a giant Grapple-Pap statue. …Yup.
The story started so well but ended way too quickly. It’s ironic that a side-quest with the tagline “solve the mystery” left some of its biggest questions unanswered. It feels like the quest didn’t have enough time to explore all of its ideas, possibly due to being rushed in time for the holidays. We know very little about Clareta and her unnamed brother aside from small clues in her cottage. Also, there’s some evidence that Grapple-Pap himself could have had some role to play in the story other than as a holiday mascot.
All of the Grapple-Pap iconography in the locales, the large hoofprints on Clareta’s roof, and his silhouette on the start screen may have been foreshadowing his appearance in the game, but he was cut for whatever reason. But what if he did appear? Imagine an alternate ending in which the real Grapple-Pap kidnapped Clareta and you had to save her and show her the true spirit of the holiday. That would have had a much better payoff than scaring her with a statue.
I feel bad for ragging on the ending, so let’s spread some cheer by talking about the presentation. This side quest is like hot cocoa and sugar cookies for the eyes and ears! The locations are beautifully designed and expansive, the NPCs look festive in their traditional Grapple-Pap attire (or rags in Clareta’s case), new NPC animations add more life to the scenes, and Jeff Heim’s music never fails to immerse the player in their adventure.
I give “The Grapple-Gift” a solid 3.5/5 Grapple-Pops. It’s a fun holiday side quest with an intriguing plotline, even if the ending left some people out in the cold. Make sure to play this quest before Grapple-Pap takes it away for one whole year. What did you guys think of this little holiday special? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Happy Grapple-Pap and New Year to all!
—Gentle Dolphin 🐬