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Club Penguin Island: First Impressions!

Greetings Penguins!

As many know, CPI is now available in the Australian iOS App Store and doesn’t require Beta access – meaning everyone can download it! Well, as long as you live in Australia..

Anyways, over the past day or so I’ve managed to gain access to Club Penguin Island (CPI) – through methods I will share if requested. With that, I have compiled a list of my first impressions on the new mobile game and decided to write about them here. Without further ado, let’s get started!

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Visuals – Let it snow!

Unlike original CP which looks incredibly dated with its flat 2D appearance, CPI is completely 3D, providing the team with much more flexibility in terms of interaction with the environment – a key feature of this game. The visuals within this game are very appealing, with saturated colours and plenty of detail. However, the lack of snow across the world is something that I’m not personally a fan of. CP was always designed to be a winter wonderland, CPI’s current rooms feel like a summer vacation hotspot. Visually, it doesn’t really feel like Club Penguin at all. Replace the penguins with ToonTown characters and nobody would realise the world was designed for CP penguins. Give us more snow!

Gameplay – New Yet Familiar

Much like original CP, CPI focuses on interaction with other players in a warm (literally!), welcome environment. However, that’s not all the game has to offer. Mini-games are gone and instead replaced with daily quests provided by various CP mascots. The quests are somewhat fun, if not too easy (the first few at least). They offer far more engagement than the current tasks assigned to original CP parties, that’s for sure. But Operation: Blackout style quests would be an excellent and much welcome addition.

Role-playing has also been dramatically enhanced. Players can purchase food/drinks for their penguin, a much richer clothing-customisation system, and an environment in which you can truly interact with. It destroys original CP in every way in this category – but one problem persists – Membership.

Do You Want To Build a Snowman Be a Member?

Like original CP – Membership returns. Unlike the freemium in-app purchase model which plagues the majority of apps and games within the mobile market, CP opts for the standard subscription-based model as before. The only issue is that this is not commonplace within mobile gaming. Paying $8 or so a month for a mobile game is something that I can’t imagine many parents agreeing too. Especially when considering the investment of a mobile phone to begin with (handset costs, contract costs, data costs etc!).

The model itself simply isn’t suited to mobile gaming. The smartphone app market is incredibly saturated, being unique is vital – but so is offering players a good deal. The majority of features within CPI are Members-only. From buying food to completing most quests to using certain emoji to even wearing ANY items – you must be a Member! This aggressive approach to the freemium model is somewhat understandable, but not when considering CP’s history of allowing non-members to gain access to clothing items and the majority of gameplay throughout the game’s lifespan.

Maybe this is why the team didn’t transfer old items to new accounts? Even if they did, you can bet it’d be Members only..

All in all, I feel that this game would only be truly worth player’s time if they purchased a Membership. If not, stick to the original CP until it eventually dies. Otherwise, find another game to play. There are many, many solid games on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Look at Super Mario Run, offering a one-off payment (at least for now) for the entire game. Not monthly subscriptions!

Another good example is Pokemon Go – a game that enjoyed tremendous success over the summer. It offers in-app purchases yes, but players are never forced to spend money on it to play the proper game, especially not via a subscription service.

Conclusions

All things considered, CPI is a welcome and much-needed evolution for CP. It keeps the game fresh and modern, and offers a enjoyable and quality experience should you invest in a Membership. For those of us with many other costs to consider – such as smartphone contracts, I’d recommend other games. Undoubtedly, for the die-hard CP fan this is THE go-to game. I’ll certainly pop on every now and again. But for now, the neutered non-member experience – especially considering CP’s history, makes this game a less than enjoyable experience for most. 

Are players willing to pay a subscription for a mobile game? Perhaps. But I’d imagine it’ll be significantly less than those willing to pay a subscription for a PC game. In-app purchases are admittedly an annoying approach but a tried-and-tested one nonetheless. This model works for Pokemon Go. This model works for Clash of Clans. One-off payments work for Super Mario Run. Subscriptions work for..maybe Club Penguin Island?

Who knows?

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

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Club Penguin Island: Dividing From The Very Start

Greetings Penguins!

As I’m sure many of you will know by the time you’re reading this (ha, people reading my blog?! Ha!), Club Penguin Island was officially announced as the successor to CP, codenamed by many as Project Super Secret – until now! Interested users can pre-register for the 2017 game and will receive a batch of special items for their interest.

https://www.clubpenguin-island.com

After the many troubles of actually trying to reserve a username (wow, that system really needs work), you’ll eventually be ready…to wait until next year to play the game! However, some lucky users who have pre-registered have received an e-mail, inviting them with the potential to test their games in an elusive closed-beta. And that’s where the dividing begins..

Not just mobile only, but USA/Canada only!

When Club Penguin had their beta test way back in 2005, they invited 15,000 players from Penguin Chat 3 to come over and test the game. USA? UK? South Africa? No problem!

Club Penguin Island (CPI) however have instead opted to geo-lock their closed Beta test. This means that only users in either the United States or Canada will be able to participate. Even faking your location won’t save you here, as the game itself will apparently be region locked.

The fundamental issue here is how the game is already dividing users. Mobile-only is something that was a controversial move on Disney’s part and one that left those either without a mobile device (or at least a recent one) out of luck. A true example of capitalism.

The reasoning behind this geo-lock isn’t clear. Surely if CPI is to be a quality mobile game for the masses, testing outside of North America would be logical? But I guess as long as the game works there the rest of us will be happy. Right?! This alienates users, particularly those of us who have played the game for a long time. It’s almost bad enough that our items, coins, Puffles etc won’t be transferred.

But wait! It gets even better..

An Apple A Day Keeps Android Away

CPI will use Apple’s TestFlight service to beta-test the upcoming game. The issue is that this service is limited to 2,000 testers – making the CPI Beta far more exclusive than even the CP Beta of 2005. Simply put, many many fans are going to miss out and I highly doubt they will be too happy about it.

Wait, TestFlight? Apple? Surely not..Yep! The test will also be iOS exclusive. It’s no secret that I’m a big Apple fan and own iOS devices and a MacBook. However, excluding international and/or Android users at this stage is extremely unfair. Android operates far more devices due to the plethora of mobile devices using the Google-owned OS, though admittedly the OS is far more fragmented than iOS and CP hasn’t being shy in flirting with Apple and its’ products in the past.

The First Rule Of Beta Club Is..

So, we’re aware of how exclusive this Beta test will be. But so what, right? It’s the actual game that counts and we all most of us will get to play it presuming we have a recent mobile device! I just hope there’s not too many in-app purchases..

..Nope! Well, kind of. Basically, Membership will still feature. This means that CPI will be a subscription-based game and we will be required to pay for certain features. An annoyance? Yes, but micro transactions are much, much worse.

So there it is, CPI will be the exclusive of exclusives – at first. Geo-locked Beta testing (on iOS only), mobile only and for the most part, membership only. It’ll be a fun experience regardless and I look forward to playing the game when it is eventually released.

Until next time, Waddle on!

-Jimbobson (Or whatever username I get in CPI because ‘Jimbobson’ isn’t allowed at this time..)

Merry Walrus Party – Critical Review!

Happy New Year Penguins!

2015 is officially here, and what better way to celebrate the change of a single digit than criticising CP’s efforts once more. The full 2014 review will be posted shortly, as for now though the focus is on December – the festive season that would once mean a Holiday Party would embrace the island with its’ festive mittens. 2014 however, brought something new to the board. This time, we instead had a Merry Walrus Party – an original attempt to create a multicultural holiday with unique traditions. But was this just a Christmas party with a gimmicky name, or a grand event that will excite for years to come? Let’s find out!

Plot

Focused upon the original character of Merry Walrus – a walrus whom is so heavily based on Santa Claus that even the “Ho Ho Ho!” catchphrase remains unchanged, the party hopes to celebrate a variety of traditions in order to avoid isolating any players of different religions and beliefs. Aunt Arctic (surprisingly!) discovered a book in which told the festive beasts’ tale and decided to make other penguins aware of his existence. Thus, Merry Walrus eventually comes to the island, bringing Coins for Change with him in hope to spread some festive joy around the island.

It’s by no means a complex plot, nor does it really explain where he’s been all these years. There was also no indication of why penguins chose to celebrate this event instead of Christmas/other holidays. 2014 has seemed completely distant from other years as each party, even if it shares the same name, seemed completely different to previous versions. See Music Jam for more details.

I’d love to see Herbert introduce himself like in the animated special. He didn’t feature at all which was annoying. Him and Merry Walrus could’ve had an epic face-off! Or, perhaps Herbert could’ve captured Merry Walrus and instead posed as him in order to ruin the holiday. Instead, he simply sits forgotten in his lair – wherever that may be.

Regardless, the plot was fairly weak. Did it need a complex plot? Not really, but it would’ve been nice to hear more of the origin of Merry Walrus and why he’s basically Santa in disguise. How did he obtain these magical powers? How did he find the Blue Crystal Puffles? There’s many gaps in the plot which is a little disappointing – but to be expected with the team’s recent efforts.

Quests 

Like with most modern events, the Merry Walrus Party featured a series of daily quests. Unlike those of the Halloween party which were unarguably more challenging that those of the Frozen Party – the quests were straightforward and didn’t really require much skill or thought. Sure, some were quite fun to figure out – but the fun lasted a matter of seconds rather than minutes. For each quest completed, 500 coins would be donated to Coins for Change in the player’s name. It seems a little cheap to do it this way as penguin’s are not donating by choice. Instead, they are simply trying to obtain the items and the exclusive Puffle.

One area in which the quests did shine was variety. Sure, it wasn’t PSA-standard variety but it wasn’t complete repitition like the Frozen & Pirate parties. Let’s just hope CP spends more time focusing on the quests this year – otherwise even the younger players will begin to notice that boredom replaces excitement when experiencing new parties.

Decorations

The Christmas/Holiday parties have always been nicely decorated. Whether it be the simple decorations of the original in 2005 or the sophistication of more recent versions, these parties have always had top-notch artwork. Even the PSA HQ and EPF Command Room were decorated for such parties – something in which didn’t occur at any other point within the year. This defines how significant the holiday-themed parties are and always have been.

With a new name comes new decorations – you’d be forgiven for thinking this. Though we did get plenty of new artwork – including the original Merry Walrus float – some rooms were simply recycled from previous versions (namely the Town). Fewer rooms were decorated, but this was to be expected. There was no decorated Ski Lodge, Dojo Courtyard or even Iceberg. What perhaps surprised everyone though was the absence of an evening sky. Instead, the same-old everyday sky was used. Though it doesn’t sound like a party destroying factor, it certainly removed the atmospheric elements that a change in sky has upon the island. Think of how the past Holiday parties, this years Music Jam and every Halloween since 2007 does this successfully (yes, the Music Jam did something successfully!).

Even the Forest, one of the better rooms thanks to its’ huge tree, didn’t compare to that of the Forest in 2009 in which featured a much bigger tree. There was no room in which I thought beat any previous attempt. This is especially disappointing considering that each version of a party – particularly a major annual event – should be an evolution of – not a reduction of – the previous version. It’s like Apple removing the Retina display from the next iDevice. It’s ridiculous.

Originality

Here’s a new category for y’all. Since this party is nor a takeover nor a usual Holiday party, I thought it’d be a good idea to discuss how the Merry Walrus party, a party in which hoped to be original by creating a new look on the festive season, tackled such a challenge. I always found that the Holiday parties were particularly guilty of not including enough religious variety. It seemed to simply be a Christmas party under another name. Heck, even the 2006 Christmas party had a reference to Hannukah, a Jewish holiday. CP simply renamed the party in an attempt to seem more multicultural, but the actual content was still completely Christmas-based.

The Merry Walrus party had a unique opportunity to incorporate new and unique traditions in which penguins would celebrate. It didn’t have to relate to any religion at all, but instead we once again got a Christmas party under a new name. Merry Walrus himself was basically Santa Claus – there’s no denying it. They even gave him a sleigh and reindeer in the form of Blue Crystal Puffles. In the mascot department, CP had just created a blatant Santa Claus clone whom lacks any creativity or originality. He even delivers presents in the same method.

Sure, some traditions were unique, such as throwing food around. Decorating a tree with ornaments however, is not an original idea. To say this was meant to be a new party doesn’t collaborate with the content. If a room can be recycled for a new, supposedly unrelated party, how can it be considered new? Ultimately, the Merry Walrus party was a Christmas party with very limited creativity.

Items

Items lately have seemed to also lack creativity. They all seem to be based on fashion in reality, as opposed to the zany, fun items of the past. Sure, we get numerous Puffle Costumes, but these are simply re-coloured versions of older items. And wow, do we get a lot of those nowadays. This month’s festive fashion was inspired by Merry Walrus’ own wardrobe, with all items released at the party featuring the colours blue and white. All the non-members out there got a nice treat in the form of an all-head item lineup, something that plagued the 2011-2013 years.

Puffles

Yep, another party in which featured a limited-edition rare Puffle. Obviously a Members exclusive, the Blue Crystal Puffle was one of the better ones released this year. It wasn’t a creepy Puffle Creature, but it did seem like a Blue and White Puffle’s offspring. It inherited the colour blue, with the strong ice powers of the White Puffle. Regardless, I’d say its’ my second favourite of the year – with the first being the Ghost Puffle. One area I was less happy with was how powerful and mystic this Puffles are supposed to be – yet Merry Walrus is happy giving random penguins several of them. He sure trusts us penguins!

I don’t see the Puffle epidemic slowing anytime soon. I doubt any will feature in the Star Wars takeover, but I could be wrong. With updates to Puffle Wild and possibly yet another Puffle Party this year, we can expect to see a plethora of new ones. We do know one thing about each one however – they will all be for Members.

Coins for Change

What started as an amazing charity-event that inspired players and the rest of the world alike, has since declined in popularity so much so that the goal almost wasn’t reached this time around. Old staff members such as Rsnail actually logged in to encourage users to donate – that’s how few people were actually donating by choice. Add to this the fact that each completed quest donated 500 coins to the charity, combined with how each Penguin Styles catalogue purchase went towards the total – and the event should’ve been the biggest success to date.

Instead, we struggled to make the target. Disappointing by any standards, CP noticed this before releasing the party and thus attempted to incorporate cheap and easy methods to reach each milestone. Even with this, it wasn’t enough. Sure, the goal was eventually reached – but it has never taken that long. Especially considering the 2 weeks-duration. This effectively shows how CP is declining in terms of players and indeed quality.

Verdict

Overall, the Merry Walrus party did disappoint. It lacked the decorations of the previous versions, and the influence Christmas had upon the party completely destroyed its’ attempt at being original. It wasn’t the worst party this year (we all know what party gets that award), but I’d of much preferred Rockhopper and his usual traditions instead. Sure, it was definitely time for a change, but I doubt anyone would agree that Merry Walrus was the change everyone wanted. I hope (and expect) next years to be much much bigger, and to show how the residents of Club Penguin would really celebrate the holiday season – as opposed to a poor attempt at a Christmas-clone. To conclude, a Christmas party by any other name isn’t necessarily as sweet. All in all, a disappointing end to a very disappointing year.

Random CP Fact #35: There are currently only two known walruses on Club Penguin. These are Merry Walrus and Tusk, Sensei’s childhood best friend. Interestingly, both seem to be polar opposites (no pun intended). 

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson