Poptropica

Common Sense Media says

Island-hopping adventure is hours of safe fun, but with ads.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Kids help characters in distress, teaching lessons in empathy, as well as problem-solving skills and teamwork.

Violence & scariness

Kids encounter bad guys during missions, but they're simply mischievous, not dangerous. Some islands feature creepy critters, like a giant spider, bats, or snakes.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language

Character names and chat phrases are pre-scripted, so there's no chance of profanity.

Consumerism

Ads for things like new theatrical movies are embedded into the virtual world and though they're labeled "advertisement" they look very similar to the rest of the game world. Players who click on the ad might be brought to a video ad. Parents/kids can buy Poptropica cards at Target to redeem on the site. Users are encouraged to upgrade from free play to paid membership during some transitions between islands or after saving a game. By earning or purchasing credits, users can buy game extras like costumes or extra powers. T-shirts and other memorabilia are for sale in the site's store.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Kids choose a username and password so they can reenter the game where they left off, but other players don't see that name; instead, the site assigns each kid a preselected name like Cool Starfish or Fearless Hippo. Kids can meet up with their friends online by getting their friend's room code.

If parents buy a membership, they are able to purchase additional items for their kid's character, though they do not have automatic access to the kid's game or avatar. They must use the kids login and password to access the game itself.

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 kids can learn

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • problem solving
  • solving puzzles
  • strategy

Self-Direction

  • achieving goals
  • work to achieve goals

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

This virtual world invites kids to many enticing islands with challenging adventure missions. Along the way, kids will enjoy hanging out at the Pop Shop or Poptropica Arcade to chat or play mini-games with other visitors.

Learning Approach

On each island, kids follow a trail of clues and piece them together. Unfortunately, content doesn't relate very directly to gameplay.

Support

Goals can be tricky to reach because little feedback is provided to players and clues are often difficult to reach.

What kids can learn

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • problem solving
  • solving puzzles
  • strategy

Self-Direction

  • achieving goals
  • work to achieve goals

Kids can learn some problem-solving and reading skills in Poptropica. Each island contains a multi-step puzzle that players can solve by obtaining multiple items in mini-quests. Using trial-and-error and problem solving, kids can determine the order in which to get items and which ones to apply to different mini-puzzles. In the process, players explore islands and follow clues from other characters. Making it through also requires a bit of reading. More informative clues would mean less guesswork for kids on this puzzle-solving site.

This Learning Rating review was written by Deborah Fields

Parents say

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

Website details

Genre:Virtual Worlds
Pricing structure:Free

This review of Poptropica was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bySnakeRiverMom March 6, 2011
AGE
6
QUALITY
 

good for older kids, keep younger ones away!

the islands are too difficult, period. I am an adult and often find myself calming my kids down because they are very upset that they can not move forward in a challenge. Too much "losing" and not enough reward for hours of upset and bad nerves. Only for older kids who are game addicted.
Kid, 11 years old March 18, 2011
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Great for kids all ages

This is really good. Poptropica was great for me when I was growing up about at 8 or so... Thats because I never heard of it untill then. Poptropica is very fun and has problem solving in it. There is some violence but its only just when they are problem solving.
What other families should know
Too much consumerism
Educational value
Great messages
Parent Written byMr Wesley May 11, 2010
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Probably best for kids between 8-12.

My kids discovered this site a few months back. I made a quick check to make certain there were obvious spam attacks or inappropriate content, and I found none, so I let them play with the promise that I'd have to come back to dig a little deeper later. Once I started, I found myself sucked into the game for more than a week before I could pry myself away. Poptropica is a platformer/puzzler. The conceit behind the game is that you travel to different islands, each of which feature a different adventure. Themes include everything from history and time travel to world cultures to wacky mad scientists. Genres stretch from mystery to sci-fi and fantasy. This is mainly a single-player game. There are a few mini-games that you can play with other players, but those are easily avoided if you prefer to focus on the larger campaigns. This game is light in tone, but some of the puzzles will be at least a little challenging to adults. And one of the best parts about Poptropica is that it is currently being supported. There's a team constantly developing new islands, and they give previews to new islands through the blog. Compare that to many kid-oriented sites that the creators just seem to abandon and forget to turn out the lights. Now, some drawbacks: Yes there is sometimes advertising in the frame around the game window, and certain islands have corporate sponsorship. But from what I've seen so far, those ads are always in the background and never impact the story. And this is definitely a puzzle game first and an educational tool second. Most worlds are based around some sort of educational goal (history, culture, art), but the factoids kids might learn are incidental to the game play. Since there is absolutely no sound in the game, you do need to be a pretty secure reader in order to understand the rules and goals of each game. Otherwise, younger players will just find themselves clicking about randomly. And it is a bandwidth hog. If you're running an older machine, this game will make it slow to a crawl, which will definitely impact some of the more action-oriented puzzles. Two responses to other reviews I've seen here. I've played through all the worlds available for free at the time, and I saw nothing referring to the Christian creation story. On the other hand, Poptropica rotates in new adventures every few weeks, so that particular island may have been removed. And anyone who thinks they're not allowed to save their game hasn't seen the big blue button in the corner of the game screen that reads "SAVE." Poptropica is just a diversion, really. It's not as involved or violent as World of Warcraft or another MMO, but kids who are too advanced or not advanced enough may become bored quickly. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the game is that you can introduce some deeper discussions about the islands' various themes, to see if your child has developed an interest in them worth furthering.
What other families should know
Too much consumerism
Great messages

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