Poptropica Revisited: A Nostalgic Graveyard


Payton Jens graphic

Poptropica, or as the cool kids pronounce it [pop-A-trop-I-ca], is an “online educational role-playing game” created by the Jeff Kinney. This is the same guy who wrote the equally nostalgic book series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” which is currently at 16 books with number 17 just released today (what immaculate timing). Keep on milking the series, Jeff; Greg will always be young.

Back to the game. In Poptropica, the player flies a blimp to different islands and help solve a problem that is currently affecting said island. Each island is different in difficulty, and the problems and puzzles reflect this difficulty.

To get one thing straight: Poptropica was never designed to be easy, for kids to have fun or know what they are doing. It was made by malicious developers with malicious intent all funded by parents who like to see their kids struggle and get migraines. Every encounter with this game, past and present, only promotes the burning feeling of stress and confusion. In the past, middle schoolers did not have online guides or progression bars to help aid if one got stuck on one of the islands. Kids just avoided the island until they moved up a grade or until the one advanced child figured it out. 

Upon revisiting Poptropica, I was met with a shell of its former glory. The character customization is gone and now left to pre-designed characters that reflect my feeling to the game now: two-dimensional. I proceeded to choose the character that most looked like a sound cloud rapper, then appropriately made my username SoundCloudRap69. From here things only became more disappointing and utterly dreadful. 

Like a deranged Baby Boomer that escaped the nursing home, I found myself chanting the phrase “Back in my day” over and over. Back in my day, Poptropica had 54 unique islands to play and explore. 

 My personal choice was Shark Tooth Island, where we had to save the fisherman trapped on an island by a large shark. The order and progression of the island was etched into my skull: information never to be lost. The list of nostalgic islands is a large one for me; this list included (but was not limited to) Spy Island, Early Poptropica, Night Watch, Nabooti, Shrink Ray, 24-Carrot, Wild West and Big Nate Island. 

With the shutdown of Flash in 2021 the game had to be reworked, meaning the wonderful pick of 54 islands got downsized to a pitiful, abysmal, appalling, atrocious, shocking, distressing 16 islands with 3 of them requiring membership to play. From the islands mentioned before, the only one from my nostalgic list in the game is 24-Carrot. For all that’s holy, CARROT TOPS!

After an existential crisis and a cold shower, I decided to play 24-Carrot for the nostalgia, and it was the exact same island I played back in middle school. However, there was something wrong. There was a progression bar and hints. Back in my day we had no such thing! Kids nowadays get spoon fed and given the easy way in life. If I were any more belligerent about the state of the game, I would be writing about how 2022 Poptropica accurately represents the current state of our nation and what the grim future looks like: we are boned. 

With the lack of character customization and island variety topped with the railroaded game play, Poptropica is a husk of its former self. It seems it will not be returning in any spectacular fashion. 

Truth is, I have grown out of the targeted demographic and so have those who experienced the same game back in a simpler time. Revisiting the game was my attempt to grasp a time where responsibility and student debt did not concern me. I was looking for the warm embrace this game gave me when I sat down for computer-lab back in kindergarten. I love Poptropica, and I miss it. 

10/10 from the year 2008