Hello! I’m Slanted Fish, and I’ve been playing Poptropica and writing about it on this Poptropica Help Blog since the summer of 2008. In this game review, I’ll be evaluating my experiences and (hopefully unbiased) thoughts so that you can decide whether you’d like to invest your time (and if you want, your money) into it.
- Name of the game: Poptropica
- Platform: Computer (browser-based; no download required)
- Website: Poptropica.com
- Publisher: Family Education Network, a part of Pearson Education, Inc.
- Age rating: Recommended for 6 to 15 years old (both genders seem to enjoy it!)
- Date of release: September 2007
- Requirements: Adobe Flash Player and a working computer with an internet connection, the ability to read, and using the latest version of your internet browser is recommended
When you first sign up, you can pick your character’s gender and are assigned a name (usually a silly-sounding but completely safe one like “Scary Tomato”). Jump into the blimp, which can take you to any of the vast number of islands that Poptropica consists of. Each island has its own separate story and problems to solve. If you decide you don’t want to, you don’t have to save your character just yet.
The main goal is to save each of the islands from whatever ails them. Along the way, you’ll interact with NPCs (non-player characters), watch cutscenes to move along in the story, collect new items to find a use for later, play mini-games (there are some puzzles), and discover new places.
For example: In Super Power Island, a giant meteor (actually a meteorite) has landed in the county prison and all of the prisoners have absconded with superpowers. Your task is to round up each of the escaped convicts back to jail, and you’ll even get the “flying” super power to take down the last villain!
The controls are very simple. Point your cursor in the direction you want your character to move, then click and hold and watch as your character goes there. Point a little (or a lot) upward and your character will jump. Point downwards to duck. Occasionally, you may need to use the spacebar in certain cases, such as swinging a sword.
Interaction & Friends
For the most part, especially in the island-solving scene, Poptropica is single-player, with the player interacting with NPCs. However, you can also enter “common rooms,” where you’ll find other players online at the same time hanging out. You can battle them (playing games such as Balloons), ask them a pre-scripted question (they are then given three pre-scripted answers to respond back), or add them as a friend. Though limited, it’s rather safe and there’s no chance of bullying or rude communication.
Everyone also has a Friends profile, where you can supply basic information about yourself such as which country you’re from or how many “medallions” you have (i.e. how many islands you’ve completed). Every time you log in, you can answer a “Pop Quiz” question about yourself, such as “What kind of super power would you like to have?” This goes on your profile for people who add you as a friend to see, and you can change your answer on your profile if you wish.
Sound & Graphics
There is generally very little sound in Poptropica. Usually, you won’t hear anything as you’re playing through the islands. However, there may be occasional sound – such as playing the violin on Ghost Story Island or the pitter-patter of rainfall accompanied by thunderclaps in the outdoors of Vampire’s Curse Island. Perhaps a little jukebox of Poptropica music would be nice to have in the background, but at the same time, the sounds that are there complement the game nicely.
The graphics in Poptropica are generally the same crisp and attractive cartoon imagery, which I personally think looks quite nice. However, there are a few islands with a different drawing style, in order to emulate what they’re themed after – such as the Peanuts-styled drawings of Great Pumpkin Island, which is based on It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Also, the animations of cutscenes are rather smooth, though maybe a bit slow for faster readers. (Tip: In regular dialogue, you can press “S” to skip.)
Difficulty, Appeal, & Replay value
The island quests do require some thinking, which is good because it puts up a challenge. Sometimes it is more straightforward; sometimes it is not. Early Poptropica Island is considered easy, for example, but Astro-Knights Island can be a bit tough especially for younger children, as it involves some complex puzzles and games. Overall, Poptropica does offer some fun challenges, and if you are ever stuck, there are plenty of help walkthroughs available on the Island Help pages of this website.
With its kiddie graphics and problem-solving quests, the game does appeal to both young boys and girls of the targeted 6-15 age range for the audience. However, the older ones may find themselves enjoying this too, since not all the answers are obvious!
Another aspect of the game that may be appealing is being able to dress up your character – you can use the Costumizer tool (the green shirt button) to copy another character’s clothes, earn wearable items in your adventures, or buy from the Poptropica Store.
Once you’ve beaten all the islands (and that will take a while), there’s still plenty of other ways to entertain yourself on Poptropica! You can play head-to-head games with others, log in daily for a new profile quiz question and sneak peeks, restart the islands and play them all over again, and more.
From this online game, there’s a lot to be enjoyed, but not everything is free. Let’s take a look.
While exploring the game, you may come across some advertisements, which come in a few forms. The most popular is an “advertisement building,” which consists of a mini-game themed around whatever is being advertised (always something aimed for children, such as a movie or TV show). If you win the game, you win a prize for your character (for example, a Captain Hook or Tinkerbell costume for a Peter Pan ad). Quite creative, actually!
Other forms of advertising include sidebar banners (annoying if you accidentally click on them; okay if you can ignore them), a video you can watch for a reward at the end, or an item added to your “inventory,” usually a video trailer that you can easily ignore if you’re not interested.
Poptropica is created by a renowned education company (Pearson), but while education isn’t shoved in your face (which is a good thing; this is not a flashcard-type game!), there are still elements of academic learning within the game. Time Tangled Island is one example – in this adventure, you visit historical figures such as Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci, see environments of the past like the Graff House (1776) and Aztec Empire (1519), and attempt to repair all time by retrieving historical items such as the Declaration of Independence and Phonograph.
In addition, getting through the islands means reading, analyzing, and problem-solving. Players can expand their vocabulary without even realizing it! Poptropica also cleverly includes lots of interesting trivia to be gleaned from in its various islands – in Zomberry Island, the missing investigator Dr. Romero is named after George Romero, the American filmmaker who began the zombie film genre. Perhaps as you visit the Pop Art Museum of Early Poptropica, you’ll even find yourself wanting to talk to Vincent van Gogh’s character – and he’ll tell you about the time he chopped his ear off after a quarrel with another painter named Gaughin. Could it be? Bam! Learning is taking place!
Merchandise & Membership
In an effort to expand the Poptropica franchise, Poptropica has also released lots of merchandise, including action figures, shirts, and books. They’re mostly aimed at younger kids and buying them is of course optional, but if you’re interested, there you go. Some of them even come with in-game bonus prizes if you redeem the code from your purchase.
Poptropica also offers a premium subscription service, better known as membership. It costs about US$3.50 for a month depending on your plan. Paying members get extra perks such as early island access, unlimited Store access, a costume closet, and all album photos – all nice pluses to have, but are not necessary to enjoy the game.
After a while a new island becomes available to everyone, and players can still buy Store items using credits (150 credits are earned for every island completed, regardless of membership). I would say that if you really love Poptropica and have the money, go for it, but if not, it will not hinder you. Unlike some other kids’ gaming websites where not having membership means barely being able to play, Poptropica has found a good balance in what they offer for free and what they offer at a price. Seriously.
Final Verdict: Awesome!
After playing Poptropica for years and watching it grow, I’d give it a rating of A for Awesome. 😀
- PROS: entertaining, engaging, easy controls, safe, educational, presents fun challenges, cool graphics, everything is child-appropriate (any violence is mild), browser-based (no downloads)
- CONS: limited in interaction with other players (but for safety’s sake), membership (but not a huge deal), some obtrusive advertising (not much and not all), limited sound
With more islands on the way, a great community of players even right here on this website, and lots of challenges awaiting on every island, players can continue to have fun as they explore, collect, and compete their way through the extraordinary world of Poptropica.