Club Penguin Full Review
By MMOHut's Erhan Altay
First released in October 24, 2005 by New Horizon Interactive, Club Penguin was bought out by Disney for a whopping $350+ million dollars. What makes Club Penguin so valuable is its decision to target a young audience and assure parents that their kids are safe while playing the game. Club Penguin wasn’t the first browser based social networking site geared towards children, Gaia Online is at least a year older but it was the first in providing a large virtual world complete with stores, minigames, and even player housing.
Your Very Own Flightless Bird!
Account creation in Club Penguin requires email verification and even goes so far as to say ‘enter your parent’s email address’ so there should be no confusion that this is a game meant to be enjoyed exclusively by children between the ages of 6 and 14. The character creation process is extremely simple, players chose a name and one of thirteen colors for their penguin. Every name must be manually accepted by moderators so new players will spend their first play session with a temporary name which is usually a string of numbers. There are dozens of channels to connect to, some of which do not allow chatting. Club Penguin has no formal tutorial but a series of menus explain the basics the first time player slog in. The game world is two dimension and runs on Adobe Flash which most people should already have installed. The graphics are cartoony with a goofy feel. The drawings lack detail which gives the game a laid back, easy to navigate feel.
There is no linear path of progression in Club Penguin. Players do not gain experience, skills or any sort of fame points. Instead, coins are earned through mini games and other activities. These coins can be used to purchase new clothes for your penguin, pet puffles, or new furniture and designs for your igloo. Navigation can be done manually by walking from one area to an adjacent one or more easily through the map found on the bottom left of the screen. There are about 14 zones to explore on Penguin Island, many with several places of interest. The town has a nightclub, giftshop, and coffee cafe while the plaza has a pizza place, pet shop, and stage. Other places of interest are the Ski Hill where penguins can race others down the slopes and the Dojo where players battle each other in a simple card game called card-jitsu. Many locations have arcade style mini games that resemble the sort found on Neopets but there is as of now no single page from which to easy access all available games.
Wobble Around and Meet Friends
The developers behind Club Penguin originally stated their intention was to build a social network for kids and the community and socialization aspects of the game still remain the main hook. There are some gameplay elements which have been added over the years and continued to be developed. These mainly include minigames, some of which are single player such as a dance dance revolution type game while others are multiplayer such as connect four which is played at the lodge in Ski Village. Other activities include reading stories where players have to type out the story to progress and can chose how the story unfolds. These activities earn players coins but there are only a few games with favorable coin to time ratios. Raising pets is another side activity but isn’t very flashed out. There is only one type of pet, fluffy creatures called puffles that come in an assortment of colors. Each color has its favorite toys and games but the activities that can be done with them is quite limited. My favorite gameplay element was the card-jitsu game where players challenge each other to short card duels and earn new belt colors. The game is pretty simple, every round, players select one of their cards which has an elemental and numerical value. The three elements are fire, ice, and water. Fire melts ice, ice freezes water, and water douses fire. If both players select a card of the same elemental type, the one with the higher numerical value wins.
While Club Penguin is free to play, the game does everything it can to entice players to pay (or rather get their parents to pay) for a full membership which costs $5.95 per month. Only paying players can customize their igloo or use their coins to purchase new clothes and accessories for their avatar. Paying members also have access to more levels in several of the mini games and can purchase all the various breeds of puffle pets while free members may only buy the blue and red breeds. Some commentators have complained that membership has created two tiers or castes of players but it is not a big issue in-game. The main appeal of Club Penguin for kids is being able to chat with their friends, everything else is icing on the cake. Estimates place the number of paying players at around 10% of the total population so it’s clear that the vast majority of players continue to enjoy the game for free. Club Penguin has been so successful that recently many rivals have sprouted up including SpineWorld and Chapatiz which offer the same kid centric virtual world experience.
Final Verdict: Good
Club Penguin was an early pioneer of the preteen virtual world/social network scene and is still one of the most developed games available in the genre. If you have children or younger siblings who are starting to delve into the internet and gaming, be sure to steer them towards Club Penguin.
Pros: +Diverse community. +Both solo and multiplayer mini games. +Built in card game, ‘card-jitsu.’ +Kid friendly and safe.
Cons: -Must subscribe to unlock most features. -Limited gameplay features; not much to do besides chat. -Small environment.