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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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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

Puffle Wild Critical Review!

Happy Holidays Penguins!

Although the Merry Walrus party is approaching its’ end, I thought I would postpone that review until the final day or so – just in case CP has something up their sleeve (though I highly doubt it). Regardless, this post will focus on the Puffle Wild app that was recently released.

Gameplay & Originality

We all know what type of game Puffle Wild is. Best described as yet another Candy Crush clone, Puffle Wild aims to take on the massive franchise by combining the gameplay with Club Penguin elements. For those of you who are a fan of these type of games, Puffle Wild should bring a lot of entertainment and will undoubtedly have you buying the in-app-purchases if you’re penguin is not already a Member.

In terms of originality, these type of games have been around for decades. I even remember playing them in the late 90s! The massive success of Candy Crush is undeniably what made CP make this app. These type of games are addicting – very addicting – which is always a good basis for a successful mobile application (think of the infamous Flappy Bird). Where the originality does shine within this app is the incorporation of Puffles and O’ Berries. Different Puffles possess different abilities known as Puffle Powers that will assist you throughout the game. Players can also unlock new Puffle creatures – and wow there’s a lot of em’ (13 to be precise). But more on this later.

The gameplay is fairly solid. Different levels require different methods to complete. Some require a particular score, whilst others require melting the snow. Regardless, the typical 3-in-a-row strategy is always present – which can sometimes cause repetition, especially as the levels progress.

In-App Purchases & Membership

Freemium. We’ve heard that name before. Freemium is the concept in which the application is free to download, but contains in-app purchases for exclusive levels or content – thus the game isn’t technically free. If there ever was a better app to define this concept, it would be Puffle Wild. Of course, you can choose not to buy the exclusive content, but in this scenario it’s recommended to obtain the full experience.

If you’re a Member, this isn’t a problem as you can play every level and unlock all the Puffles at no extra cost. Things become a little darker for non-members however, as each bonus level (that contains an unlockable Puffle) requires an individual purchase. This sounds fine, until you realise that every bonus level requires a purchase of over £1. Due to their being 13 bonus levels (and 1 Puffle per bonus level), the resulting cost would be quite expensive. Therefore it is recommended that you instead buy a 1 month membership at least.

If you are a member, you can play every level (including bonus levels) without restriction. Unlocking each Puffle and Puffle platform (to use the Puffle Powers in-game) as well as the ability to transfer all your new Puffles to the main game. Exciting!

Difficulty

With most addictive games, they provide a challenge. Candy Crush became increasingly difficult as the levels progressed, whilst Flappy Bird was an incredible challenge for pretty much everyone involved. To begin with, Puffle Wild is pretty easy as it introduces you to the game. As it progresses, you unlock Puffles and Puffle Powers to assist you through the harder levels. Personally, I found the levels in which asked you to remove all the piles of snow to complete were amongst the most difficult.

The real challenge here however, begins if you’re a non-member. Members can use the unlockable Puffles and their powers to breeze through most of the levels. Not only this, but Members also have access to more platforms, which means more Puffles. Non-Members however, have access to only the Blue and Red Puffles which, unfortunately, have a very poor ability that barely assists players at all. To make things worse, free users can only use one Puffle per level (due to the platform restriction). This provides the game with a whopping challenge – particularly if you wish to achieve 3 stars on each level. This had me personally rage-quitting several times and eventually, giving up completely.

Puffles

CP’s once favoured pets are the focus behind this app – obviously. As if it wasn’t enough that Puffles are taken advantage of nowadays due to the plethora of them being released, the team decided it would be a great idea to release 13 more in said application. Whilst we knew this was coming, it doesn’t make the situation any less ridiculous. Puffles are released far too often nowadays, and often in several colours per creature. No longer do we get original coloured Puffles with unique personalities – but instead different species that seem to lack personalities. Sure, the Ghost Puffle was actually quite a cool idea, but the sheer volume of them being released this year really voids their value.

Each Puffle specie has its’ own Power in the app, which is a nice addition. But the fact that this is the second app to be focused around these furball creatures (the first being Puffle Launch) really has players questioning whether CP can come up with anything even remotely original. Sure, Sled Racer was decent app in itself but the idea behind the game is anything but original. Plus, when was the last time any of CP’s other apps (bar the main one) was updated with new and exciting content? Sled Racer in particular could’ve had a Merry Walrus theme incorporated, dodging obstacles such as Christmas Trees and giant candy canes – but no, where’s the financial benefit of that?

One of the most worrying parts comes with what PH says when the game is fully completed. She states that there will be more levels on the way in future updates, which can only mean one thing. More Puffles! Yay, just what everybody in the community wants! They will undoubtedly introduce the same tiresome gameplay with a few new dodgy-looking Puffles to unlock for real-money unless you’re a Member. Can’t wait!

Improvements

As with any app, improvements are required. The first is less of an improvement and more of a request, and that would be for the app to be released on Android too. The main CP app took over a year to arrive on Android, so hopefully (if you’re a fan of Puffle Wild) it will be released sooner. Most developers tend to release apps on iOS first as the users are more likely to purchase either the app or the features available through in-app purchases. Android makes up for this by its’ larger userbase which was proven to be correct after the main CP app was downloaded by more Android users in the first few days than iOS in a year.

Another improvement would definitely be more varied levels with new ways to complete them, to avoid repetition which plagues almost every one of these match 3 games. New Puffles are unavoidable at this stage, so I’d like to see more original versions (or at least anything that isn’t as odd as the Unicorn Puffle). Although this is pretty much impossible nowadays, more Puffles for everyone would definitely be a welcome addition. Even many Members support this idea, as the current ratio is slightly over-the-top. However, if CP really despises that idea, better Powers for the Blue and Red Puffles would also be a nice addition.

Do I recommend it?

Obviously, everybody has their own opinion. If you’re a fan of match 3 games then you’re surely in for a Puffle-sized treat. For those who aren’t however, like myself, may want to give this one a miss. Unless of course you’re a huge Puffle fan and want to unlock 13 more of them. Also, if you’re a non-member with no intentions of purchasing a membership or the overpriced bonus levels, and have no interest in these type of games, I suggest you never approach the ‘Get’ button on the App Store. Ever. Just waddle away as fast as you can.

Ultimately, I find this app to be a rather cheap way of releasing Puffles in volume, with the overall aim of the app being financial based (as with many apps). Sure, it has some entertainment value but I cannot imagine anyone wanting to play this app to reduce boredom as opposed to simply unlocking more Puffles. For those of you without Memberships, you may enjoy the pure challenge of completing even some simpler levels with the underpowered Red and Blue Puffles.

Conclusion

So overall Puffle Wild is a mildly entertaining app for those who are a fan of the genre, but likely to be more of a chore for the rest of us. Sure, it’s programming and graphics are decent, but there’s a lack of variety and features for those free users. It’s currently a moderately successful app in its’ own respect, but expect the hype to decrease quickly. I also find it slightly annoying that this could’ve easily been a game on the island itself, but CP insisted that their financially-inspired move to mobile was more important.

Anyways, this will mark my last post before Christmas and thus Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers. It’s certainly been an eventful year on the island and here’s to next year which will hopefully be better than 2014. Regardless, expect a Merry Walrus critical review followed by the 2014 critical review within the next couple of weeks!

Random CP Fact #34: Club Penguin once held a Surprise Party in November 2007. The idea behind it was to give players 3 options to choose from. Each option was the return of a retired party – a Sports Party, a Pirate Party or a Western Party. The Western Party received the most votes. This was the only party to be decided via a poll thus far.

Until next time, Happy Holidays!

– Jimbobson