Operation: Crustacean Critical Review!
It’s been two years since the EPF last had something major to do. Operation: Puffle of 2013 was by no means as big as Operation: Blackout of 2012 (arguably the biggest and best event CP has ever had), but it still gave the EPF agents something to partake in and defeat the evil polar bear and his crab sidekick once again.
2015’s Operation, known as Operation: Crustacean (who’d have guessed!), was a pretty confusing affair, and one that barely seemed to distinguish itself from regular, non-EPF-related parties. It also brought some new Puffles to adopt, something that has become more controversial over the years. Regardless, let’s look at what this mission offered and question whether it is worthy to use the ‘Operation’ name.
Flawless foreshadowing from CP got many players – including myself – very excited for this event. For a brief synopsis, penguins were mysteriously being abducted throughout the island two weeks before the party kicked off. Once abducted, player’s were taken aboard a UFO spaceship and gifted with a Tin Foil hat for their troubles. A week before the party kicked off, a ‘Extreme Paint Festival’ mini-event occurred at the Dock as a decoy; hiding the Area 501 (a blatant pun on the conspiracy-ridden American landmark) rooms.
This was a mysterious affair. Obviously, aliens were involved somehow. But why were they abducting penguins? Surely the EPF was preparing an investigation..
When the party began, it became obvious that Herbert was somehow included. Claiming Klutzy had escaped onto the UFO, players were tricked into heading onto the UFO – only for Herbert to find Klutzy before stealing the UFO’s power supply (a purple meteor). Once he and Klutzy had fled, it was the player’s job to restore power to the giant spaceship.
Activities / Quests
Restoring the power of a humongous spacecraft sounds like a difficult job for an electrician. Luckily, it only involved entering several maze-puzzle rooms, finding 3 keys per room and ultimately restoring the power.
Whilst mazes can sometimes be fun, they’re a personal preference and differ between players. These weren’t exactly challenging, but rather more frustrating. The small beam of light around the player’s penguin meant that player’s had to waddle around and avoid the maze walls and find the keys – which were lit up and visible throughout. I would’ve enjoyed more variety here and not simply four maze rooms which were ultimately all very similar. Operation: Blackout had a variety of tasks and unique rooms to complete each task in. This felt more like repeating the same thing multiple times. Again, frustrating.
Ultimately, the quests here were pretty dull – something that especially damages a party of this sort. The original PSA missions were challenging and incorporated a solid storyline which makes the Operations (since Blackout) seem almost laughable by comparison. I have yet to see why the EPF was favoured over the PSA – and this is coming over 5 years after the PSA’s closure.
Okay so, surely the items were well designed, unique and witty? Well, no, not at all. 4 of the 5 items (for everyone) were backgrounds, and mediocre backgrounds at that. They’re basically slightly recoloured versions of each other. But the other item was pretty great right? Again, not very. The EPF Space Helmet (it sounds way better than it actually is) is basically a glorified space helmet in neon-blue colours to look futuristic and hi-tech. Great! Members also received the accompanying Space Suit to go with it.
A new Puffle was also discovered during the party – and I bet you can’t guess what kind it was! Technically, it’s a new Puffle Creature, or rather, several of them. Alien Puffles were discovered to be onboard the UFO (so these were responsible for abducting penguins?!).
The Puffles came in 4 different colours; Green, Orange, Yellow & Purple. Surprisingly, the Green Alien Puffle was adoptable for everyone, whereas the other 3 were Members only. Many non-members had issues adopting one though, as the maximum number of Puffles they can own is still capped at 2 (which as an annoying inconvenience for player’s like me – who have several different Puffles from my time as a Member).
Whilst new Puffles – especially Puffle creatures – have brought very little to the table other than a unique design, the Alien Puffles have at least a hint of originality to them. Sure, they don’t do any unique dances and can’t be interacted with on the same basis as original Puffles (simply due to CP’s sheer laziness), but they look pretty cute. At least until they open their mouthes..
Everyone’s favourite amateur agent was the mascot of choice for this event. Whilst Jet Pack Guy, Herbert and Klutzy featured as animated sprites, this section is purely for ‘actual’ mascots. I would’ve liked to see Jet Pack Guy become an actual mascot here, but after his annoyingly arrogant dialogue, I’m pretty glad we didn’t (more on that later).
Personally, I find Rookie quite annoying. I used to like him when he was first introduced, but has since become overly-idiotic and slapstick. The same has unfortunately happened to many mascots – their personality traits have become over-exaggerated to the extent that most are plain annoying.
It was evident as soon as the Extreme Paint Festival kicked off that this would take place in party-exclusive rooms. This also ensures that the remainder of the island is undecorated. The party-exclusive rooms consisted of Area 501, the UFO Hub, the UFO Observatory, the Engine Rooms and 4 of the maze rooms (and their respective entry rooms which are all basically the same).
Whilst none of the rooms were particularly badly decorated, none seemed to really stand out – other than the UFO Observatory which I believe could’ve been utilised a little more effectively. The UFO Hub wasn’t too bad either, it even housed a pool! It would’ve been nice if – after the UFO had its’ power restored, the UFO would travel the island and player’s could observe from the Observatory (obviously!).
An area I very rarely focus on is the music – as it very rarely has any major effect on the overall verdict of the event. In the case of Crustacean, I found it to be pleasant and contextually effective. The Observatory especially had a very calming and satisfying soundtrack which would be at home in a game like Super Mario Galaxy.
The Engine Room had a electronic upbeat feel that pumps just enough adrenaline to prepare the agents for the relatively easy and disappointing ‘challenges’ ahead.
Even the sound effects were great! Certainly a high point of this party.
Overall, I thought this operation had good intensions, but was pretty poorly executed. The storyline lacked in many areas, a shame considering the excellent foreshadowing before the party began. I think CP need to question themselves what exactly they want to do with the EPF. I personally see two options in terms of Operations; either have one major one a year (like Blackout) or a few minor ones per year (like Crustacean). The EPF-inspired events are enjoyed by many, unlike sponsored takeovers which apply to a select audience.
I hope this isn’t the end of Herbert and the EPF until next November (or even worse, November 2017!). I have a feeling we will be seeing more of this UFO, perhaps during the Holiday Party?
Speaking of the Holiday Party – it returns this year! Last year we had the fun of CP’s first ever Merry Walrus Party – an effort to prevent the exclusion of a particular religion or faith. It proved to be unpopular due to its’ minimalist decorations, pretty poor activities and a mascot that was so blatantly Santa Claus the party might has well of been called a Christmas Party (like all the Holiday parties..).
Let’s hope this year’s adaptation of the second-biggest annual event (after Halloween of course) proves to be a present worth remembering and not something more comparable to those uncomfortable wool socks with a ridiculous cliché sewn into them. You all know what I mean..
Random CP Fact #52: The Christmas Party 2008 was the last of its’ name (the first being the Christmas Party 2005). Since then, it has been named The Holiday Party (other than the Merry Walrus Party in 2014) in an effort to apply to a wider audience. Despite this, the parties still consisted of Christmas decorations and items – including Santa Hats and beards.
Until next time, Waddle on!