What is wrong with Club Penguin?

Greetings Penguins!

Lately, many players including myself have been expressing our concerns and worries regarding the current state of the game. Whether raging over unfixed bugs or complaining about less-than-satisfactory parties, it is agreed amongst most players (veterans in particular) that the overall quality of the game has gone downhill; particularly over the last couple of years. But why is this? In this post I’ll express some of my own complaints, as if they weren’t already obvious within the monthly critical reviews.

Technology Limbo

Club Penguin is currently in what seems to be a state of confusion. Firstly there’s the desktop version of the site in which is the main focus; including all rooms and features the game has to offer. The mobile app however is still lacking in certain areas. This means that parties and quests must be suitable for both platforms – something in which is not only a difficult process, but also a time-consuming one. The team have to make two versions of pretty much everything, simply to enable both platforms to work in unison. Or rather, as close to as possible.

The solution to this of course appears to be CP Next. Or at least that’s what we think. We don’t hear much about it anymore; something of which has many pondering when we will see a release date for this new tech. Even if it’s not quite ready yet (which I’m sure it’s nowhere near), some updates by Spike Hike or other members of the team are required. Until then, expect small-scale parties with the same-old type of quests.

Bugs & Private Servers

I’m not going to focus on this section to much as its’ fairly self-explanatory.

Every game has bugs – especially with a game as big as CP. The only issue is many aren’t resolved, despite how many emails are received highlighting them. This quests whether our feedback is answered at all – but more on that later.

Private servers are, as the name suggests, servers in which are uploaded online by fans in which try to create a custom version of our beloved game – often including free membership and other perks. Using old CP .swf files, some code and a database to create such things is of course against CP’s rules.

Whilst private servers have been online for a fair few years now, they have rose in popularity recently because they ironically offer more than the game does in its’ current state. Those who want free membership, less-strict chat filters and to experience ‘Old CP’ will likely try these unofficial versions of the island and quickly make friends (due to the chat filter – again more on that later). Some private servers even allow swearing and other adult language; attracting the more mature audience.

I’ll admit I’ve tried a few during my time – but who hasn’t? Being curious of all-things Club Penguin leads one to want to experiment with other adaptations. Would I ever create one though? No, I’d prefer to create my own virtual world. Ultimately, these private servers need to either be taken down faster by Disney or else players will begin to look for something new – and what better than to play a game you already know better than your Great Aunt (but with a twist of course). Weird example, but you get the idea.

The “Did that show?” Problem

Likely the most asked question on the island ever. Where’s the new pin? Where did you find that? Wanna be friends? All popular phrases. But amongst those actually wanting to have a non-safe-chat conversation, this is a very very common question. Simply put, the chat filter is extremely strict. Of course, it has to be. During the 2005-2008 era, players found creative ways to talk inappropriate or even share their personal phone number (2005-2007 only, when numbers were allowed). This meant that more strict filters had to be put in place.

The negative side? Nothing shows. Well, not nothing – but very few things. Even common terms can find themselves unable to bypass the filter. It’s like one of those antiviruses in which blocks everything you download. Only you can’t turn it off..

For a game in which was built to enable a safe chatting environment for kids, it works well. But also not so well, as the kids cannot chat properly. It’s a broken feature in which has haunted the island for several years. Sure, the chat prediction and safe chat can be seen as a way through this, but it is extremely limiting to the social experience of the game.

What do I think should be done? Well, I’d firstly like a ‘chat filter strictness’ feature in which parents (and older players) can control to suit their needs. Standard chat and Safe chat is the same principle, only simplified. Strict would be as currently is, whilst Not-so-strict could be more like 2007. There could even be an anything-goes option, in which allows pretty much anything (except the obvious like swearing, sexual and drug related words/sentences). Sure, the island would be fairly fragmented, but each player could have an indicator on the player card showing which strictness they chose – to avoid this annoying question being asked so much.

But how do we remove this question ENTIRELY?! Simple-ish! (Simple to explain, maybe not so simple for the team). The Moderators can see what every player says – even what doesn’t bypass the filter (they see it as a faded out bubble). CP could implement something similar for players. Once something is typed and sent, said text bubble could be faded – or even include an icon like a ‘!’ indicating that said message did not bypass the filter. Simple, but effective.

Small-Scale Parties & Giant Pins

It’s no surprise that the recent subpar parties and the growth of the fortnightly hidden pins makes this list. Parties are what encourages the player to continuously log in every month, and has been the same since 2005. We know why the parties are getting smaller, as the team has too much work to do in other areas. The game has far too many features and far too many of said features are being ignored. Stamps, old room designs still existing, the EPF, mascots? All of which contribute to an uneven game in which is becoming more fragmented month by month.

The worst part is, CP has openly criticised the amount of rooms in the game. Due to the plethora of rooms, penguins are spread out over the island, rather than in a community. This not only hurts the social aspect of the game, but also the discovery of pins and items – thus why most parties take place over a few rooms, particularly the most popular ones. The only issue is, CP keeps adding MORE rooms. What?!

As for pins, they’re getting huge. Nobody wants them so huge. But they’re still huge. That’s pretty much it, and brings me to my next point.

Finance over Feedback

One thing Rsnail stated was a pivotal thought when creating the game was that feedback was necessary – designing without feedback is “dangerous” as he quotes. This is true, though was more so when he was creating said game. Still, CP prides itself by claiming that feedback is always received and listened to, i.e “passed onto the team”. For example, the Frozen Party was requested by many. Same with the Teen Beach Movie, everyone wanted that to happen, right? Wrong.

The thing is, if an idea has any financial potential – they will consider it. When a few players want a particular takeover, Spike Hike or Polo Field will openly say that “if that’s what the community wants, we’ll do it!”. Yet when mentions of a more traditional approach to the next party – such as a history event for example, neither CP iconic staff members are anywhere to be seen. Spike says that nostalgic ideas aren’t the way to go – but why not? If that’s what players want – surely they should at least consider it?

We ask for less Puffles – they give us more.

We ask for smaller pins – they get bigger.

We ask for island-wide parties – they get smaller.

We ask for parties that include a plot, and more focus on the EPF – Get neither.

Many, many veteran players want a tribute to old CP – get nothing (I don’t count the new ‘Mystery Attic’ as a tribute).

Players ask for no more takeovers – several per year.

Some players ask for a Frozen party – sure!

See a trend here? I realise CP is a business and needs money. But ignoring feedback is going to damage the game more so than a loss in profit. However, this is of course Disney we’re talking about.

What can be done?

Whilst I’m not the CEO of CP and highly doubt I ever will be; I have my own ideas and opinions. Whilst I do try to make my posts fairly objective at times – they’re still mostly subjective. Here’s the key areas I want to see fixed, not necessarily in order:

New Technology – CP Next is needed ASAP. It should also bring the desktop site and mobile app together as one, finally.

Better Chat System – Everyone agrees!

Feedback being listened to – Evidence of this would be fantastic.

Bigger Parties – Even if they happened every few months, with mini-parties filling the respective gaps.

Difficulty – Quests, Pins etc should be a little harder. Even the youngest of players can throw snowballs or click on a giant pin. It’s not difficult and takes away the “can you help me?” aspect of the game. It’s a game based around helping each other and being a community. 

So how is all this achieved? I’d personally like to see CP take a few months break. Forget major parties and Puffles and all that. Throw small-scale events whilst a second Club Penguin Improvement Project (CPIP) takes place. Maybe it takes place on the actual site or even a separate one like the original CPIP did. The team needs time to fix the game, and the “party monster” needs too much feeding according to Spike.

A plot could even be incorporated. Maybe a giant blizzard covers the island and we are forced to ‘rebuild’ from the ground up – much like the team would be behind the scenes. Okay, I’m getting carried away a bit here. Regardless, I hope the team does what needs to be done – and sooner rather than later. Here’s to the rest of 2015!

Random CP Fact #41: The Club Penguin Improvement Project (CPIP) was simply the testing of several features on a separate site to the original CP, before said features were fit for official release. It occurred in 2008 and hasn’t occurred since.

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

SoundStudio Party Critical Review!

Greetings Penguins!

When SoundStudio first came to the island last year to replace the rather dull DJ3K, many enjoyed creating and showcasing their music within the Dance Club. As with any game, interest quickly died down. With the announcement that the music-making mini-game would be having its’ own dedicated mobile app, interest had once again increased. As if that wasn’t enough, CP announced they would be throwing a SoundStudio party to celebrate the upcoming app. But, was it a platinum party or a Music Jam 2014 mark two? Let’s begin..

Content

As this was a brand new party – and not a takeover at that, few could guess exactly what the party would entail. Sure, there would be plenty of music and DJ Cadence would be the mascot in focus as expected; but other than that little else was known regarding the actual content. Upon the parties’ release, it quickly became obvious that it was not what we were expecting. Simply put, it was the Music Jam 2014 part 2. Some argue that it wasn’t as bad, whilst others claim the glitches and lack of the Penguin Band ensured the party was nothing but a poor advert for the new app. Personally, I have to go with the latter.

I admit I was excited for this party as I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be an island-wide party that has different genres of music assigned to each room like we saw in the Music Jam’s of the past? Nope. In all honesty it felt more like an oversized mini-party. Ultimately, I found it to be joint 1st for worst music-themed party thus far. Sure, it wasn’t the worst party ever – but it certainly carries on from 2014’s less-than-satisfactory standards.

Activities

Activities, or quests as they’re often dubbed, are often repetitive and so simple even the youngest of players can figure it out within seconds. The same applies here. Players must simply perform on stage by clicking a different musical instrument in a sequence that was clearly displayed on-screen. Simply put, it was very easy. I preferred the quests found during the Star Wars Rebels Takeover, so in this respect the SoundStudio party comes in last in terms of quests in 2015. Albeit there are only two contenders..

The main culprit here is of course the mobile app, which has become a giant hinderance and is forcing CP to ‘dumb-down’ their web counterpart. Can you imagine a party such as Operation: Blackout occurring on the mobile app? I think not. Something needs to be done, such as releasing the highly anticipated CP Next technology.

Items

At last! Variety! Non-members finally get items that are not simply tiny hand items. Okay, maybe 1 was. But the introduction of 2 head items and 1 face item ensured that there was at least some variety items wise. Like we all expect though, the best items are reserved for Members. I would’ve liked to see more instruments given away. Sure, there have been numerous instruments released over the years, but simply placing a “SoundStudio Party 2015″ logo somewhere on said instrument would ensure more interesting, unique items. Maybe they could even be re-coloured using colours used throughout the party? Maybe I should work for CP’s design team?

Decorations

This party had everything wrong with 2014 in terms of decorations. Lack of decorated rooms? Check. Little to no interior decorations? Check. Recycled rooms from previous parties? You get the idea. Where CP really made me laugh was the night sky. You all know what I mean, that ridiculous transition between night and day visible at the Dock. Most of the sky is daylight then suddenly goes dark…it looks insane. I would love to meet the creative genius whom came up with that. Whether it was supposed to look interesting or unique or clever or something, I’m not sure. It simply screams laziness to me. Imagine if they did this during the Halloween party?

One area of interest however was how the Coffee Shop interior was slightly decorated. I say slightly, it was nothing major, nor did it compare to how it was formerly decorated during the first few Music Jams. Regardless, it’s a nice touch. As for the neon lights CP insists on using at every music or Hollywood themed event, I’m not the biggest fan. I’ve only really liked this concept done once, during the Member’s only Dance-A-Thon back in 2009. Wait, what? That was in 2009? Oh wow, I’m old.

Mascots

What mascots? Moving on..

Okay, okay. This is the second month in a row that there have been no in-game meetable mascots at a party. Last month missed out on re-introducing Darth Herbert, whilst this party missed out on using Cadence and the Penguin Band in particular, to enhance this party. What next, this month’s Puffle Party without PH?

Bugs & Glitches

Surprisingly, despite the parties relatively small-scale structure and lack of mascots or anything overly technical, bugs and glitches haunted the party from day one. Pop-ups didn’t occur, which included the item pop-up which appears after a task is completed. A very poor attempt for a party in which is supposed to be advertising another product.

Verdict

That last sentence pretty much summed this party up. A very poor attempt for a party in which is supposed to be advertising another product. I found myself only logging in to get the items, had a look at each room which didn’t take long. Again, a party to forget more so than to remember. I will look back at this in October when (or rather, if) the next yearbook is released. Will I miss it and hope for its’ return in 2016? No. Unless the remainder of this year is so awful that this remains one of the better parties this year.

Now we look forward to the party in which begins soon – the Puffle Party 2015 of course! If there ever was a party that needed a refresh, it would be the Puffle Party. An annual event since 2009, it first began as a way to celebrate our beloved pets and to introduce a brand new colour. This year, it seems the Ski Lodge will be getting a modern re-design, whilst the Lodge Attic may be in for something even more interesting. Rumours suggest the renovation will incorporate historic relics of the island’s past. If done correctly, this could be an awesome idea. I look forward to it! (Though please CP, keep that tiny window in which is re-coloured for each party that doesn’t take place during the blue-sky-daytime).

Random CP Fact #41: Despite this years’ Puffle Party being the 7th of its’ name, it is only the third to occur in March, with the first being the 2012 version and the second being the 2013 version.

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

Pins – Does size matter?

Greetings Penguins!

Forget the SoundStudio party for a while and instead feast your mind on another popular topic within the community – pins. Collectable items released every 2 weeks in a random room situated on the island. Once a pin has lived its’ 2 week lifetime, it is retired for good and will never return again. You all know this I’m sure, as pins have been around since March 2006 and continue to be released fortnightly to this day. Despite pins serving the same purpose as they did upon their release 9 years ago, one thing about them has changed, much to the dismay of many penguins.

Big Pins come in Small Packages

Pins began as very small collectables that would be based off of a random object. The first, released in March 2006 was the Shamrock – now known as the rarest pin ever. Hidden in the Coffee Shop, it was certainly no easy task to find. The size of such meant that even the more experienced players failed to hunt it down (increasing its’ rarity even further). The challenge of finding these small, rare and highly collectable objects was ultimately enjoyable. 2 weeks is plenty of time to find even the hardest of pins, and even then penguins were encouraged to work together if they struggled to discover which room possessed the random collectable. As CP was much more basic throughout its’ youth, pins were cleverly hidden and designed in such a way that they would often blend in with their backgrounds.

In rarer cases, pins required clicking on in order to be revealed. The Surfboard Pin (released June 2007 during the Summer Kick Off Party) could be found at the Beacon. However, it was partially hidden by leaves, and thus hovering your cursor over the it would cause it to fall on the floor, enabling player’s to then pick it up. This interactivity represents what pins should be – rare and hard to find.

Supersize Me!

As 2009 progressed, pins became noticeably bigger. Coincidentally, this was also the first year when Screenhog stopped making pins – and we all know how much he loves puzzles and challenges. Previously, pins were around half the size of the player’s avatar (about the same size as a Puffle when walking). As 2009 came to a close and CP celebrated a yet another successful year, pins had actually become bigger than the penguins themselves. This is a rather large difference considering the short time period. The result of course meant that pins were much easier to find. If you entered the room in which one was hidden, it would instantly be obvious. Even those pins that were given away via other means (Scavenger hunt and party rewards etc) appeared large on the player card.

This dramatic growth increase, combined with the pins often being hidden in incredibly obvious places, means that few are happy with the current state of the island’s favourite fortnightly collectables. It’s fairly obvious that CP changed the size of the pins as players – particularly those whom are younger – found the smaller pins simply too challenging to find. The counter-argument to this would be that penguins can, and are often advised to work together in order to find them.

So, does size matter?

The size of pins will never be the reason for someone to quit the game – leave that to the lacklustre parties and dull items. It does however ruin the fun in finding them. Pin’s need to be more challenging to find otherwise their existence seems slightly pointless. When first created, they were supposed to be challenging to find and CP made a big deal about releasing them. Now they seem like a chore that has only survived thus far due to tradition. I don’t expect pins to be fully retired anytime soon, if ever.

But do we really expect the pins to change at all? Player’s feedback doesn’t seem to play a pivotal role in the game anymore, with the likes of an Old CP party, smaller pins and island-wide parties remaining firmly in the player’s minds. Nevertheless, we can always hope that the challenging aspect will someday return to the island. Harder activities, smaller pins, difficult missions. Here’s to the rest of 2015! (SoundStudio Party critical review coming soon, stay tuned!)

Random CP Fact #40: There are currently 303 pins total; including party-exclusive, unlockable and Members-only pins. 

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

Waddle Around And Meet New Friends!

Greetings Penguins!

Ah CP’s tagline. Whilst much of our beloved island has changed over the years, it has always remained the same. Until now that is. This week, the tagline was changed – something in which wasn’t mentioned officially or even acknowledged by any of the CP team. It was of course up to us players to discover this for ourselves. So, what is the new one you ask? Surely it incorporates waddling…or penguins…or even Puffles…friends? No.

Disney’s #1 Virtual World for Kids

Yes, that is genuinely the new tagline. Whilst not necessarily a game changer, it has a significant factor upon the future direction of the game. CP has always prided itself on originality – something in which has decreased somewhat in recent years. Don’t get me wrong, much of what CP does today has at least a decent amount of originality, but the incorporation of sponsored parties and characters that are blatantly heavily based off of real or fictional characters whom already exist (Merry Walrus, anyone?) doesn’t quite have the originality factor that Herbert P Bear and the PSA possessed.

Waddle around and meet new friends was something in which was unique to CP. No other virtual world could’ve had the same one due to the game being focused around penguins. Other virtual worlds had foxes, bin creatures and other animals, but none were penguins. The tagline defined the objective of the game – to explore and make friends. The new one is the exact opposite. It’s unoriginal and tells the viewer nothing about the website. It’s a simple marketing gimmick in which emphasises Disney’s greed as a company. Do they genuinely believe more players will sign up due to it being Disney’s #1 virtual world – for kids – which they didn’t create nor care about for anything other than money generating?

The problem with Disney..

Disney was formerly a great company. Walt Disney produced original and inspiring animations in which entertained generations of people – and still continues to do so today, and stands tall amongst the more visually-appealing 3D animations Pixar and Dreamworks are creating. Why? Originality. Sure, modern animations like Frozen are original and thus exceptionally popular, but Disney maintains that quality standard of storytelling which didn’t require spectacular visual effects in order to grab its’ audience.

Disney in modern day is what you’d expect of any business – to obtain as much money as possible. Thus, they buy a ridiculous amount of companies, some of which aren’t necessarily related to their past work. Disney’s purchase of Marvel still seems odd, but let’s not go too off-topic here. Disney’s purchase of Club Penguin was due to its’ incredible success during its’ youth. Disney saw an opportunity and seized it; possibly knowing other companies such as Sony were interested. Did it benefit CP? Sure, it gave them the funding they needed to survive, but the cost of working with Disney isn’t always positive. A quote from Billybob (after Disney purchased CP) stated that not much would change regarding the game, unless it was for the better. This was poor wording as it seems he was already making excuses. Nothing will change unless for the better? Translates to praise our decision and Disney regardless of the outcome. Anyway, that’s enough Disney-hating for now (not that I hate Disney of course).

The problem with CP and Disney..

With Disney owning CP, the cyber winter wonderland has the opportunity to incorporate Disney-owned characters into their game – whether a penguin-esque version or not. CP has this right. It’s safe to say they’ve taken advantage of this due to the amount of sponsored parties over the recent years. These parties generate a lot of income and website traffic for CP, so don’t expect them anytime soon. The major issue however is that many players don’t want sponsored parties – and CP knows it.

The team claim they listen to feedback, and this was certainly true as the game was still new. Recently, CP listens to whichever ideas will be most beneficial to them financially. An ‘Old CP’ style party has been wanted by so many for several years. Whether its’ based like a history museum or a virtual reality system, that doesn’t matter. Players simply want to re-visit their past and in some cases, their childhood. It would even be worth it for new players to learn about the history of the game. Instead, we see Teen Beach Movie and Shake it Up based parties finding themselves on the island. Are they honestly trying to say more fans requested a Teen Beach Movie party than an Old CP party? I think not.

Listening to feedback is crucial. It always has been and always will be. If not listened to properly, your product and/or company will suffer the consequences. CP is lucky as they have Disney to fund any issues. If CP was still owned by New Horizons Interactive, the decline in website traffic over the years would’ve surely damaged the company – badly.

The problem with the tagline..

Unoriginal. Uninspiring. Boring. Marketing gimmick. I’m sure what exactly it’s trying to prove. Disney don’t actually own any other virtual worlds, not since the death of ToonTown. There’s also the “for kids” part, they don’t own any other virtual worlds for kids, teens, adults, anything. Why state such an odd fact? It’s like me saying “Jimbobson.com, Jim’s #1 website” when it’s the only one I continuously update.

Why not incorporate something unique about CP? Is the fact that it’s owned by Disney enough reason for the tagline to include such a fact? “The #1 virtual world for kids” would’ve been much better – but of course that’s a high statement for a game in which doesn’t quite compare against how it was 7 years ago. Disney appears to be similar to a dictator. They insist on everything CP to state “Disney”. Everyone knows Disney owns CP – it’s blatantly obvious from the logo. But having to state it in the tagline again appears like a cheap marketing gimmick that is unlikely to bring that many, if any, new players.

First there was the sponsored parties, then CP staff members couldn’t reply to fans on Twitter, now the new tagline. It seems Disney is becoming much more strict with everyone’s favourite penguin world, and that certainly isn’t a good thing..

Random CP Fact #39: Despite always been a fan-made rumour, there are hints that Card Jitsu Shadow is genuine. A power card featuring a shadow Ninja exists, and even Spike Hike has hinted that it will become a reality in the future.

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

CP: Star Wars Rebels Critical Review!

Greetings Penguins!

Oh no, not this. Do I have to? Really? I never caught onto the Star Wars hype whatsoever. Never seen any of the films, only the Family Guy parody version(s). Sure I know a few characters, but my knowledge of the huge Lucasfilm franchise is something not even a snail attached to a rocket would envy. I’ll give reviewing it a shot anyway, so let’s begin.

Content

Obviously inspired by the Star Wars franchise (the Star Wars Rebels series in particular), the party has a lot that fans of the films/shows will appreciate. For those of us who aren’t fanatics however, it’s a bit dull. Sure, there’s plenty to see and experience, and we can appreciate the efforts CP has gone to in order to provide an entertaining party, but it only appeals to a certain amount of users. Remember how CP discontinued the Christmas Party to prevent those of different religions from being left out? Well they’re doing something very similar with introducing takeovers based on a certain genre of films. Same with the Marvel Superheroes – some love it, whilst some can’t stand it.

Nevertheless, the content is fairly decent. I admit out of all the parties thus far (literally ever), I was least excited for this one. I didn’t even log on until a week after it was released. Maybe I’m just getting old? I don’t know, but I won’t be disappointed to see this one go to a galaxy far far away – for good.

Quests

As per with all modern parties – we have a selection of quests to complete in order to earn some items. The typical click-and-find or throw-snowball-at-something activities return once again. This being said, there was some variety and it wasn’t nearly as tedious as that of the Frozen or Pirate Party. I particularly liked the fact that you had to throw snowballs at the enemy’s defences. It suggested that there was in fact a battle going on, and not just doing random tasks for the fun of it.

This being said, there’s still the same issue that has lingered for oh, so long. Due to CP’s obsession with bringing monthly parties to the mobile app, it means that the quests have to be suitable for such. Typically, mobile games began as tap-to-win (such as Angry Birds etc). Simply tapping the screen in a certain area wins the game. This is exactly the area CP is straying into, and a problem that was obviously caused by the virtual world’s move to mobile. Whilst not necessarily a bad thing (heck, look at Clash of Clans – that’s awesome), I’d prefer to see some Operation Blackout or old PSA-standard missions, which really got the mind working. Another issue I have with CP’s new format is the fact that pop-ups tell us where to go and what to do. Can’t we just be provided with clues and figure out what to do and where ourselves?

A major complaint I’ve seen throughout the recent parties – particularly regarding the quests – is how we cannot fail them. For example, we couldn’t lose against the Pirate Crabs (not to the extent they defeated us and took over the island) and we cannot lose against the Stormtroopers. I know they have bad aim, but wow. It takes the excitement from the game away. Imagine Skyrim without the ability to die? Nevertheless, it’s a children’s game. Still, losing should be an option.

Items

Sigh. Awful, simply awful. Members get a decent selection of somewhat inspiring items, but non-members get ridiculously small gadget-themed hand items that make the Friendship Bracelet appear groundbreaking. I was hugely disappointed with these items. So much so that I wasn’t even bothered about getting them. I only did so due to the fact I collect every non-member item/background/pin that is released. A fundamental item of the franchise is that of a Light Saber – something only Members could collect. If we are forced to endure countless hand items, surely a Saber would’ve been a better choice than those we got.

At last years’ event the items were ultimately better. Stormtrooper helmets for everyone? Yes please. Even myself, who is not particularly a fan of Star Wars, appreciates it. Much more so than random hand-items I doubt I, or many other penguins would wear by choice. Seriously, who designs these? The flag-thing was probably my favourite item from this party (for everyone), though we all know it’s a redesigned version of the Pirate Flag released during November’s Pirate Party.

Decorations

Fairly decent attempt from CP. There’s a lot of visuals from the series that have made their way into the party as one would expect. As usual, only the bottom half of the island is decorated. Regardless, it’s a decent effort from CP and I especially liked how the Space room returned, though nothing actually happened there. There was also no Death Star which is a little disappointing – even if it doesn’t appear in the show, CP still could’ve incorporated it for a little extra content.

I especially liked how the Coffee Shop had become ‘Javva the Hut’ (a pun on the slug-like alien character Javva the Hutt). The party lacks due to the sheer absence of interior decorated rooms. Sadly, this has been a feature for many parties over the past year and I cannot see it making its’ exit anytime soon, except for particular parties (such as the Anniversary and Halloween). We can only hope!

Mascot(s)

None. Moving on..

No seriously though, everybody wanted Darth Herbert. Even if Vader isn’t in the animated series, CP still should’ve included the fan favourite.

Vs. The original Star Wars Takeover

I don’t normally compare, but in this case a brief comparison seems relevant. I much preferred the original, probably because I understand the story a little more. Darth Herbert was awesome, as was the Death Star – even the cutscenes and the iconic “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away..” words in space. The party has included more CP-originality which is always a huge factor of a successful CP event. Overall, this party seems like the original takeover’s little brother. It had it’s good parts that fans will enjoy, but it didn’t compare to the original in terms of originality, mascots, items, decorations etc etc.

Verdict

Overall, the party is again something that Star Wars fans will probably enjoy. There’s a decent amount of content to get through and some interesting visuals. But for those of us who aren’t fans of the show and/or films, it was probably something we don’t want to experience for 10 minutes; nevermind 2 weeks. I realise this review is shorter than usual. The reason behind it is simply due to the fact I didn’t log in much at all during the entire event. It never interested me, it still doesn’t interest me. Give me the original any day!

Random CP Fact #38: February will host a brand new party – the SoundStudio Party. It will be a collaboration between the Music Jam and Hollywood parties and will support the release of the SoundStudio app available soon.

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

Jim’s Tech – What Do I use?

Greetings All!

This marks my first post that is not associated with CP whatsoever. Instead, I will be talking about which devices I’m currently using in certain categories. The major focus will go on the 3 main categories; smartphone, tablet and computer.

Smartphone: HTC One (M8)

I’ve always been a fan of Android ever since I first experienced it – when a relative of mine purchased the original Samsung Galaxy Note. The huge, vibrant screen was overwhelming. Up until then, I was using old phones simply for the text/call factor, not to download games and browse the web. The Note itself is what booted my love for smartphones. I’ve been obsessed with smartphones for years now, one is always on my person wherever I go. The plethora of possibility in such a portable, personal device is probably my favourite thing about them. Music? Apps? Games? Reading? Browsing? Watching videos? Taking photos? Emails? No problem!

My first Android device was a Samsung Galaxy III – a phone in which made me question how I lived my life without a smartphone in the first place. It was an amazing device for its’ time. The size of the screen was perhaps one of the most attracting factor, combined with Samsung’s famous Super AMOLED screens – praised for their saturated colours. I used this thing for everything. It came with me everywhere. Being an Android user, I eventually decided to install a custom ROM to replace Samsung’s stock TouchWiz UI (which can be a little laggy sometimes). Regardless, I ran several ROM’s including Liquidsmooth and CyanogenMOD. Both of which being great alternatives.

Since then (Late mid 2012) I’ve owned several other phones, including the Galaxy Note and the Google Nexus 4. The Note I found to be a little awkward to hold at times, whereas the Nexus 4 was fantastic due to its’ build quality and pure Android – though it did lack several features I missed from Samsung’s versions. After another relative purchased the original HTC One (M7), I was immediately curious. I hadn’t used a HTC Android phone before, but wow what a beast that thing was. Combining exceptional design, build quality, software, hardware and of course those famous front-facing speakers – the M7 rightly won the Phone of the Year award from T3. Sense, HTC’s version of Android, was particularly impressive. HTC had taken Google’s Android and included features and an interface that was beneficial for the user – and not just a bloatware marketing gimmick that TouchWiz seems to offer.

With this in mind, I got my HTC One M8 this year. Thus far, I love the device. The BoomSound features are perhaps my favourite feature. The full aluminium unibody design rivals anything Apple has brought to the table. One could say the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have been influenced by HTC’s design standards – particularly when both are compared to the M8. I use this device a lot every day. It’s always with me. I also use it for music purposes – rather than those people who instead like to carry a MP3 Player and a smartphone at the same time.

As rumours hot up regarding the M8’s successor – codenamed ‘Hima’ – I instead look forward to Android 5.0 Lollipop and HTC’s next version of Sense (Sense 7.0). Will I become increasingly jealous over the M9 as time goes on? I hope not. My bank wouldn’t appreciate buying out my contract which has over a year left!

Tablet: iPad Mini 2

I bet readers didn’t expect that. “But you love Android?” Yes. But I also enjoy iOS. There are plenty of people whom possess one or the other and therefore begin to hate on the one they don’t own. I instead prefer to own several devices in which run on different operating systems – thus getting the best of all the worlds. Android I prefer for its’ customisation, rich features and the fact that devices aren’t limited to one manufacturer. Don’t like Samsung but like Android? No problem! Go with HTC. Or LG. Or Moto. And so on.

I’ve always used iOS for tablets. I love the seamless way iOS seems to simply just work. iOS 8 is a great mobile OS that serves its’ purpose incredibly well. It’s simple and easy to use for everyone, contains a great App Store and of course updates come straight to your device direct from the manufacturer. The tablet-optimised apps are also a huge factor when selecting a tablet. Android has been guilty of having scaled-up smartphone apps on the Google Play store many times before.

After owning an old preowned iPad 1, I instantly felt the need for more power in a thinner, lighter, more attractive package. The iPad 4 then replaced my dated iPad 1 which couldn’t run many apps without force closing. The Retina Display has become the industry standard today – with several even surpassing Apple’s efforts by including a Quad-HD screen into their smartphones (LG G3 for example). Revolutionary in 2010 (2012 for tablets) perhaps, but the quality of the screen still remains great to look at even today.

I did originally intend on getting an iPad Mini. The rumours of a thinner, lighter yet smaller and more affordable iPad sounded perfect to me. Particularly the more affordable part. Of course, the first generation iPad Mini came with too many limitations for me to be convinced. A two year old A5 chip with a non-Retina screen and 512MB RAM for a not-so cheap price when compared to its’ then competition? No thanks. With that in mind, I went for the iPad 4 and never looked back..

..Until a few months ago. My friend got an iPad Mini 2. After trying it out, I was slightly jealous. I became aware of how large and heavy the iPad 4 seemed. The performance improvement and overall better design were also tempting. Of course by this point the most recent iPad Mini – the iPad Mini 3 had been released. All that changed was the addition of a new gold colour and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the home button. No A8X chip or increase in RAM like the iPad Air 2. Heck, not even a A8 chip like those found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. I was hugely disappointed with Apple’s efforts. Ignoring the Mini after the 2 was so successful? Frustrating.

The big decrease in price for the Mini 2 meant I was too tempted to resist. I ultimately sold my iPad 4 and purchased an iPad Mini 2. It’s a fantastic device that I use a lot more often than I did with my iPad 4. The added portability really does make a difference. Maybe not so much anymore with the Air series, but definitely compared to the older iPads.

Computer: MacBook Pro (Late 2011)

I’ve always been a Windows user. I enjoyed Windows. Sure it was slow after a while and viruses were much more common on the Microsoft OS, but it served its’ purpose as my everyday OS. Being familiar with several versions; XP, Vista, 7, 8 and even the Technical Preview of 10 – I was never bothered about Apple’s efforts. Why? Because Macs are expensive. Everyone knows this. Some argue you pay more for a all-round better machine, others state that you can purchase a much better spec’d Windows machine for the same price.

It was until I discovered a cheap MacBook on a selling website that I was content with Windows. Noticing that it had an Intel Core i7 processor (quad-core) rather than an i5 – even if it was an older model – I gave in. I’d never even properly used a Mac before, and there was I purchasing a still somewhat expensive couple-year old machine running an OS I had no idea how to use. Many people questioned my spontaneous, admittedly hasty decision.

Over a year later and I can say without hesitation that it is the best computer I’ve ever used. Mac OS X is a real pleasure to use. It makes the often slow, clunky OS that is Windows something that I don’t plan on using on a personal computer – unless of course Windows 10 is mind-blowing. I realise many dislike Macs due to their weaker gaming efforts, or simply because of their pricier nature. The keyboard, the trackpad, the screen, the OS, the build quality, the MagSafe charger, the speakers – everything oozes quality that I’ve yet to use on a non-Apple computer. I’m not necessarily a fanboy, I just appreciate Macs for what they are – outstanding computers. I hope, my bank depending, that I can continuously use Macs for good. This computer has served me incredibly well already; though I hope there’s many more years to come.

Reserve Computer: Samsung RV515 Laptop

My previous laptop before it was replaced by my MacBook. Now its’ used as a backup, and often an attempt to see if certain Mac-created content works on Windows. Currently it’s enjoying life running Windows 10 Technical Preview which is already a big improvement when compared to Windows 8. Its’ slowness has began to show however, thus resulting in it rarely been used for anything other than tests.

Consoles: Nintendo 3DS & Sony PS4

I’m a huge Pokemon fan as I’m sure some know. I also enjoy many other games Nintendo offers like the Super Mario Bros franchise. I’ve owned Nintendo handheld consoles since the Game Boy Colour – and will continue to do so as long as great games – particularly Pokemon – are being released.

In terms of the powerhouses, I’ve always owned the PlayStation consoles rather than Xbox. Purchasing a PS3 and indeed recently a PS4 was another one of my more easily-convinced-by-people hasty decisions. Regardless, I don’t regret either. The likes of FIFA, Skyrim and several others keeps me entertained for hours.

Conclusion

And thus wraps up the main tech I use on a regular basis. Of course, there’s other devices such as a Nintendo Wii, TV and all that jazz but I decided to instead focus on the main 4 categories. I hope you all enjoyed this first non-CP-related post and look forward to more. Of course you can also expect the Star Wars Rebels critical review within the coming week too. Stay tuned1

Until next time!

– Jimbobson

Changes Coming Soon!

Greetings Penguins!

For once, the title isn’t regarding Club Penguin. In fact, the absence of CP is the whole point of this post! Since the beginning of this website in September 2007, I’ve wanted this website to be unique in comparison to the hundreds of other CP blogs out there. Posting each and every update CP releases in a timely fashion has become the solid foundation when creating a successful blog. Add a custom theme, header, some fancy graphics, a custom domain and you should be on for a winner.

Here at Club Penguin Frontier however, I’ve always wanted something original. For the first several years I did post every update CP released – but so was everyone else. It was hard to become noticed when compared to other fan-sites that were ultimately better designed and written in a more timely fashion. Originality is something that, unfortunately, is lacking within the CP blogging community as so few feel the need to stray away from the norm – why make the website original when all the popular ones simply post about whatever CP updates?

With this in mind, I created my moderately successful Critical Reviews. These reviews, unlike many at the time, were not afraid to criticise CP’s latest efforts at creating a party. Sure, some disagreed with my points but many praised the well written (if I do say so myself!) essay-style structure and upmost honesty when making my points. I enjoy writing the reviews, and will continue to do so for quite some time. The whole point of blogging is that you enjoy it and it shouldn’t be a chore – hence why I stopped blogging about every update released. It became far to tiresome along with schoolwork. I looked forward to new CP content, but despised the idea that I’d have to spend hours posting images, guides and several other bits of content to keep up with the other bloggers.

What is the point in this post?

What is the point in this blog post? Firstly, to provide some history on why I blog certain things and not others. Secondly, it is to introduce something brand new to the site. As some may know, I’m a huge technology enthusiast. Enjoying consoles, smartphones, tablets and laptops alike – technology is a huge part of my life, as I’m sure it is to many readers. Combine my passion for technology with this blog (and ultimately my passion for making reviews and lengthy, wordy blog posts) and what do you get? Blog posts about technology, of course!

I know this may sound odd, a CP blog that posts about technology? What? That’s never been done before! Every so often I shall post reviews of certain pieces of technology. It certainly won’t be something that consumes the site but rather enhances it. As many CP users are also fans of technology, I feel the two can be combined in such a way that makes the blog both interesting to read and unique when compared to the others.

Club Penguin Frontier will not be about CP – what?!

Here’s the fun thing – the CP content won’t stop either. I will continue to post critical reviews of each party as usual – but I will also post certain tech reviews too. It’s a fairly strange concept I admit. It will also hopefully reach out to readers that aren’t even CP players – imagine that? A CP-based website that is read by people who have never created a penguin! It’s an exciting thought. Of course, we won’t become as big as the likes of iMore or Android Central, but will certainly attract readers of different interests.

The writing will remain similar – the correct grammar and of course some sarcastic jokes here and there. I like to think of this website as ‘Jimbobson’s Frontier’ – a place where I, Jimbobson, can post about a plethora of topics without being limited to one in particular (such as CP). Many CP-based websites have attempted to focus on multiple virtual worlds at once, but typically stop once they realise the effort going into such a task. Regardless, I hope this may even inspire some users to incorporate their own different topics to their CP blogs.

But I hate anything that isn’t CP!

No problem! If you notice a post that you’re not interested in simply don’t read it. I don’t expect every reader to be interested in everything I say. If you’re just here for the CP content – like everyone at this time – simply read the CP content and ignore the rest. It’s all completely fine with me!

Why do this?

I like been original. This isn’t the first blog to cover technology related content and by no means will it be the last. But it is the first of its’ kind to be initially CP-based, then evolve into a site that covers multiple topics. ‘Jimbobson’ isn’t just a penguin created in May 2007. It is a unique screen name that isn’t restricted to CP. I like to think of Jimbobson in a similar context as Screenhog or Rocketsnail. Both began on CP then evolved and became associated with far more than just the small snow-covered island we know and love.

I also love reading other people’s opinions on certain pieces of technology that I enjoy. I’ve also always wanted to write reviews and have my opinions heard, so this is the perfect chance.

What about the Club Penguin random facts?

They will still happen, but only on the CP-related posts. It makes no sense to end a tablet computer review with a Club Penguin random fact.

Will the site keep its’ name?

Likewise with the point above. The background/header will remain the same for now. I’ve always loved the CPF name and was surprised to know that it hadn’t been taken already, what with some blogs sounding a bit farfetched in comparison. Regardless, the name will likely be changed to Jimbobson’s Frontier – a name that will also suit the domain.

Target Audience?

Everyone! There will be no swearing or anything like that, therefore the site will appeal to the same audience as it currently does. Possibly expect some bigger words as I attempt to sound more academic though..

When can we expect the first non-CP related post?

Very soon! With the Star Wars Rebels party happening soon, and how I tend to wait until the final days or the conclusion of the party, expect one before my CP critical review.

Can we suggest things to review?

Sure! I’m open to suggestions. Of course, I will have to of had experience of said suggestion otherwise it wouldn’t be a very legit review.

And thus explains what will be happening to the site within the next month. Things won’t change drastically, if anything more posts will be written to fill the monthly gap between critical reviews. On paper, it sounds like it will benefit pretty much every viewer. Stay tuned!

Random CP Fact #37: CP have officially confirmed that February will be a Music-themed month, including a Music-themed party that seems unrelated to anything we’ve seen before.

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

2014 in CP – Critical Review!

Greetings Penguins!

There’s much debate about which year has been the best year (ever) in CP. Some prefer the simplicity of the 2006/7 days whilst others appreciate the rich content and gameplay of the 2009-2011 years. Whichever your preference, there’s little debate about which year has been the worst (or at least the most unsuccessful) year on the snow covered island. That year is of course 2014.

Content

2014 has been interesting. We’ve had the usual 12 months of main parties, including new mini-events inspired by the game in its’ youth. Not only this, but CP gave us a plethora of Puffles, pins, items and quests to enjoy – not to mention a stop-motion animated TV show and a couple of mobile applications. On paper, this would sound like a very fruitful and successful year. How can the release of so much content result in a disappointing year when the likes of 2005-7 brought nothing special outside of the game itself?

The fundamental issue is not the content itself, but rather the quality of said content. Sure, we got a lot of new stuff this year, but little of it was actually worth the player’s time. More on this later however. The point here is that this year was disappointing. Maybe not to new players or when compared to other virtual worlds, but definitely a major let-down in terms of Club Penguin’s famous standards.

Parties

The major issue throughout the year was the parties. These events are one of the major selling points of the game as each unique party – whether sponsored by another franchise or not – are original due to the fact that they take place on an island inhabited primarily by penguins. Parties aim to attract players, both old and new, to log in and experience the event and hopefully purchase a membership for all those nifty extra features. This has always worked for CP due to their ability to completely re-design many of their virtual rooms in a rich, contextually aware setting. For example, a Pirate Party is likely to contain many pirate ships and pirates.

The issues don’t lay within this business model. Instead, they lay with the context of the party, as well as the decorations, gameplay and sometimes items available. In the old days, the team would simply design most of the rooms available with small but contextually-relevant decorations. One Christmas tree at the Forest was enough to make their point and it worked well. After Disney purchased the game, parties became more advanced. The small “free item” stands were replaced by challenges and quests in order to earn the exclusive item(s). Decorated rooms were plentiful and incredibly well thought out. The artwork is something we appreciated back then, and certainly do even more so today.

Coins for Change became an instant controversy after many speculated that the grand total of coins donated had been altered in the company’s favour. A total of 26 billion coins were apparently donated; despite the charity not really being advertised as much as other parties. Add to this the fact that fewer penguins logged in when compared to 2013’s version and how we struggled to even reach the goal and it all seems a little Fluffy the Fishy.

Lack of effort from the team due to the mobile app, parties have seriously declined this year. We’ve had the old favourites such as the Halloween party, Music Jam and the Holiday party under a new name. However, none compared (with the possible exception of the Halloween Party which certainly wasn’t the worst to date) to past versions. The Music Jam failed miserably, sparking many to complain and dub it as the worst party ever – if not easily the worst of 2014. The Merry Walrus event fell flat and caused the #SaveTheClubPenguin trend on Twitter. This was the year penguins hit breaking point. Sure, 2013 wasn’t the best year either; but it certainly topped 2014.

Puffles

Penguin’s favourite pets are of course Puffles. These furry, fluffball creatures have been fan favourites since their debut in 2005 (and adoptability in 2006). Typically, one Puffle per year was the norm. Each version came in a new colour and had its’ own personality that hoped to match some of the target audience. Because of their annual release, a new Puffle was an exciting event. Those old enough to remember the first appearance of the Yellow, White and Orange Puffles in particular will know what I mean. CP never released them instantly for adoption. Instead, they would have them appear in certain places on the island at certain types – usually during a party or event. The release of a Puffle then resulted in furniture matching the new colour and real-life merchandise.

2013 introduced multiple Puffles. 2014 however, saw a huge increase in our fluffy friends. We’ve also seen the introduction of Puffle Creatures – Puffles inspired by real-life animals such as dogs, cats and mythical creatures such as the unicorn (and whilst never adoptable – the dragon). I personally was never a fan of Puffle Creatures as they seemed too odd-looking and not exactly very creative. The release of a Puffle was once a celebrated event. Now however, it seems to annoy more than it does please. With one seeming to appear ever other party as a selling-point (rare Puffles for Members – buy now!), many are sick and tired of them being released almost every month. Either they need to be released less-often, or they need to possess much more unique abilities and personalities. Either way, I can’t see the Puffle-apocolypse ending in 2015.

Quests & Tasks

“Come back tomorrow for another item!”. The phrase that haunts many. A cheap way of getting players to log in every day; CP has adopted this formula for a few years now – but none worse than in 2014. Sure, not every party possessed this horrific message, but those that did had extremely slow, repetitive, boring and easy to complete quests that would take the average player much less than a minute to complete. If you are to have players clicking on obvious, gigantic-sized snowflakes to earn an item (Frozen Party), why not just allow them to claim it instantly instead? Oh yes, to make them stay online longer and hopefully send their money Disney’s way in return for an exclusive item.

The Pirate Party had us sword-fighting other penguins in an effort to save the island from pirate crabs, and of course earn items whilst doing it. This was all players had to do throughout the entire party. Sharing the gameplay with that of the Star Wars Party, Rock Paper Scissors and Card Jitsu, this has become incredibly tiresome already. Having players do it for an entire week (the time it took to complete all the tasks) and boredom is bound to rise due to the same-old repetition. At least involve some strategy like Card Jitsu did!

Items

Items were often the main reason one would log in during a party. An item that could someday become rare was incredibly popular back in the early dates. Each party had only a few items and almost all were available for everyone. Almost all the items were also memorable. The Inflatable Duck (both Green and Yellow variants) and the Anniversary Party Hats are all incredibly memorable items. Ask me in 2009 which items were given away at which party and I could’ve written you an essay. These days however, we get a selection of uninspired items that are often re-coloured versions of those released previous years.

Non-Members are unfortunate in the respect that they get either hand or head items. This limits players in ways that it never did back in the early years. Body, feet, neck and face items seem to be a Members-only privilege at parties which is incredibly annoying. Would fewer players not purchase a Membership because everyone got a free hoodie at a party? I think not. The main point here is that the majority of items are lacking in creativity and functionality. The Hard Hat/Mining Hat series were effective for role-playing as a construction worker – complete with a special dance animation. Likewise with the Inflatable Ducks and Water Wings – players could pretend they were swimming.

Much fewer animations are added for items too. Special dances were once a very common addition to an exclusive item at a party. Now, when these do actually get released which is a rarity in itself, they’re reserved for Members. Heck, even the newer Puffles lack a unique dancing animation that was once guaranteed with a new Puffle. I’d happily take much fewer items if they were more memorable, quality in terms of creativity and design and of course possessed some special animations. Will we ever get that? I doubt it. I really doubt it.

Apps

With CP’s move to mobile well underway, we have seen a few spin-off apps released. Sled Racer was a decent Temple Run-style game complete with appealing 3D graphics and relatively fun if not repetitive gameplay. However, the app has not since received any updates to make me want to open it again. Puffle Wild, a Candy Crush-clone, is simply an attempt to release a huge amount of Puffles exclusive to Members. If you’re not a member, have fun with the incredibly repetitive and frustrating game. I’m damn sure I did(n’t).

The main CP app had its’ very own moment this year as it was finally released for (some) Android devices. Although it took about a year, it is a decent port that’s almost the same in every way to the iOS version. However, I still never actually use this app as its’ still incredibly slow and clunky, requiring plenty of 3D rendering which can cause even the faster devices to lag when in popular rooms. Sure, the graphics are nice and the 3D models and animations are great – but it needs some performance upgrades before it becomes my default way of logging on the island.

Another issue with the main app is that its’ restricting the desktop version. The features of each party must work on both devices to ensure the experience is equal on all platforms. This is the fundamental reason behind the disappointing parties this year. Something must be done about this – the app is supposed to assist the desktop version – not limit its’ features. I’d happily take the quality of other years over a half-working mobile app any day.

Merchandise

2008 was a revolutionary year for CP due to the major release in merchandise. Plush toys, figurines, Card Jitsu cards, playsets etc you name it were available worldwide and were instant successes. The first series of the plush toys – especially a Rockhopper plush – were exceptionally popular. So much so that they had sold out in the US before they reached other countries. The exclusive code in which unlocked items online was the likely reason behind this.

CP now seems to only sell Membership cards. I’ve not seen any CP-related toys in any toy store for a long time as production of these items has now ended. I’d of liked to see the introduction of some items this year. Perhaps some Puffle-themed toys to go with those released in-game. Perhaps CP doesn’t feel the demand for such items is strong enough anymore? Or maybe they cannot think of any more items for the Treasure Book?

Broken Promises

Broken promises? What now? You may remember Spike Hike mentioning the likes of CPNext and Server Jumping, as well as Project Super Secret (PSS) – all of which are to change the game in a massive way. With CPNext being initially announced in 2013 and PSS in 2014, we haven’t heard much since. The most optimistic of us may argue that 2014 was lacking in many areas due to the team’s hard work on all these new features. Whether this is true or not doesn’t change the fact that 2015 must be a better year. We need to see these features sooner rather than later otherwise the company will suffer financially.

Overall

To conclude, 2014 was a year that oozed disappointment. There were hyped-up events that many, including myself were looking forward to. The Music Jam, Future Party, Pirate Party and Merry Walrus Party all seemed exciting when initially announced – but it quickly became obvious that they all followed the same recycled pattern – easy, boring and repetitive quests, few decorated rooms, little to no storyline and forgettable items. Takeovers are still ongoing as is proven by this month’s Star Wars Rebels party. Lets just hope that there’s no Yoda Puffles lurking in a galaxy far far away.

Not all was bad however, we did have some original and slightly memorable parties such as The Penguin Cup and all those mini-parties. Some Puffles such as the Ghost and Blue Crystal weren’t exactly bad ideas, and the Sasquatch mystery is certainly something that’s still interesting today. 2015 needs to be better however, a lot better. Otherwise more and more penguins will become tired and eventually leave the game for good.

Random CP Fact #36: Despite the speculation, 2014’s Coins for Change grand total of 26 billion coins is approximately 1 billion more than 2013’s total – and an incredible 24 billion more than that of the first Coins for Change in 2007.

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

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

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