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The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this very popular virtual world and adventure game is populated by multiple players at once, who can interact, but only through pre-scripted chat or simple arcade-style gameplay. Kids can visit and play with with specific friends online by trading "room codes," though playing alone is plenty of fun. Though players encounter situations of mild mayhem (like a prison break, bank robbery, or kidnapping) with worried or upset characters, they never find anything truly scary or dangerous -- characters never fight, get hurt, or die. During one-on-one challenges, players can win or lose, but the tone of the game is kept upbeat.
What's it about?
Once in Poptropica, players choose which islands to visit. Each island has a theme with an overarching quest (a kind of puzzle) that players can choose to fulfill in order to obtain a medal. Players navigate the world by walking, jumping, and flipping in the air. In fact, most of the puzzles require extensive jumping up and around barriers in order to obtain what's needed for the quest. Many items are needed in order to solve a quest, and players clicks on game characters to read short conversations that provide hints or direct instructions on what to do. Then they move about the island, gathering the items and using them, often in a particular order, to win the medal. Players can also challenge other players to one of eight mini-games in order to boost their battle stats.
Is it any good?
Ready for some island hopping? Then head on over to POPTROPICA, a virtual world from the creators of FunBrain. Players get an avatar and name, then board the Poptropica blimp for one of many islands, including Spy, Reality Television, Super Power, and Mythology Islands. Each island holds its own adventure; players climb, jump, and collect objects in order to complete missions, which they learn about by talking to the locals. Along the way, they can stop in at destinations like the Pop Shop or Poptropica Arcade to chat or play mini-games with other visitors. After saving their game once, players can leave and come back at any time to pick up where they left off.
Poptropica is completely appropriate for kids, but its missions are challenging enough to keep older tweens entertained, too. Exploring the islands takes hours of game play, and the site develops new islands frequently (though only players with paid memberships get early access). Kids need to have solid reading skills and basic understanding of point-and-click operations in order to play (and enjoy themselves). Younger kids might find completing some missions difficult without some help, since they sometimes require maneuvering quickly or completing a series of steps in a specific order. Parents will appreciate the educational tidbits woven into the adventure -- players encounter famous historical figures and learn about ancient civilizations on Time Tangled Island, for example. Poptropica also gets points for cleverness -- the original settlers of Early Poptropica Island are rendered in 1980s-style 16-bit animation.
Online interaction: Kids can chat with other players, but only through pre-scripted chat phrases, so there is no chance of profanity, bullying, or other inappropriate behavior. When a kid says no to another player's offer to play a game, the player sometimes cries and throws a brief tantrum.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what a good amount of time is for playing online games, and draw up some guidelines for balanced use. Parents: Check out our tips for making the best out of your kids' online virtual world experience.
Talk about how advertising on websites can sometimes look like content. Why do you think sites blend the two?
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