New Club Penguin is letting gen Zers relive the glory days of in-browser gaming – Screen Shot
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New Club Penguin is letting gen Zers relive the glory days of in-browser gaming

I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of time during the mid 2000s playing games on the internet. I’m not talking about downloading games or dodgy programs either, there was no Counter-Strike 1.6 or Roblox for me. I was limited solely to the in-browser experience, thanks to my only access to a computer being my dad’s old iMac, a machine that wasn’t exactly known for its graphical processing prowess.

Instead of being outside wreaking havoc on my neighbourhood with the other kids, I was indoors straining my eyes on the internet and living on a diet of Pepsi Max and Monster Munch crisps. There were a number of flash games and text adventures, to name a few. But if I had to pick one, I’d say that most of my time as a pre-teen was spent playing Disney’s browser-based, gen Z nostalgia dream, Club Penguin. There, I spent evenings fondly roleplaying as a catty waiter in the cafe, or trying to overturn the infamous iceberg with other similarly determined players.

Fans of the classic kid-friendly online game will be happy to hear that it’s been revived by a team of dedicated developers, who have brought back the nostalgic title for all ages to enjoy. SCREENSHOT spoke to several people about the New Club Penguin project to learn a bit more about the heartwarming revival.

And it’s not just the penguin world that’s seeing a rebirth either, there’s plenty of ingenious resurrections popping up on the internet, all in tribute to games the chronically-online were obsessed with back in the day.

What is Club Penguin?

Just in case you’re not familiar with Disney’s infamous virtual world, Club Penguin was a social game where players created their own penguin, and could partake in various mini games and activities while hanging out and dressing up their Arctic avatar. There were events players could partake in, as well as various characters and storylines involving pirates and secret agents.

But wait, it’s Disney we’re talking about here, so you can expect how important monetisation was to the original game. A tremendous amount of features were locked behind a paywall in the form of a membership, like the ability to dress up your character in complete outfits for example. I feel so bad for the parents who had to endure their children begging for a membership—unfortunately, I was one of those kids.

What happened to Club Penguin?

Nothing from our childhood is sacred and, to the dismay of zoomer babies everywhere, the original Club Penguin shut its doors on 30 March 2017. The end of the 2D world ushered in Disney’s 3D sequel, Club Penguin Island. Unfortunately, this iteration would be short-lived, as this too closed up shop just over a year later on 20 December 2018.

Kotaku reported in 2018 that a leaked Disney memo revealed that global competition and a declining player base were the main symptoms for the sunsetting of Club Penguin and its ill-fated successor. As the game’s original player base grew up and moved on, Disney clearly struggled to keep the attention of kids in a market dominated by short-form video content.

Let’s also not forget the predatory capitalist membership models that sought to spur on sales through intense FOMO for children.

Many other beloved online games began shutting their doors in the late 2010s too. Moshi Monsters ended support on 13 December 2019 as a result of the death of the Adobe Flash Player, with Bin Weevils following in similar fashion in 2021. The online virtual world aimed at children can’t keep up with the growing popularity of titles like Genshin Impact, and Valorant—even in spite of the dangers that these games present to young people.

What is New Club Penguin?

Is there a Club Penguin-shaped hole in your heart? Don’t worry, the wonderful team behind New Club Penguin are working tirelessly to bring back the game, in all its waddling glory. The fan package builds upon the foundation of the original game, while implementing and updating the world as they see fit. My favourite part of the revival is the fact that all players get access to a membership. Hooray for social equality!

If you’re in doubt about the longevity or success of New Club Penguin, the team announced in February that they’d hit two million registered users. Stellar numbers for a passionate endeavour like this.

I spoke to a few players from the game’s official Discord, who like me, were chasing fleeting childhood memories. User Melinix told me that she first played the game when she was nine, and now that she’s in her 20s she finds the revamped version “sort of comforting.” She continued, telling me that the game was helping her “disconnect from the real world.”

A developer for New Club Penguin who’s online handle is iContinux explained that he had been a fan of the game’s original release, and was initially attracted to the project “just for a bit of fun.” After a brief hiatus, he realised how attached he’d become to the work they were doing, motivated by the positive reaction the team were receiving from the games’ younger audience. “Of course, I appreciate all the ages that play, but we make it for the 6 to 13-year-old range and seeing their reaction in-game, on emails etc, is always so heartwarming.”

New Club Penguin tries to approach the development of their iteration with all ages in mind. iContinux told me that their goal is to make content that’s “hard enough so the older audience can enjoy it, but simple and clear enough that the younger ones can do it without getting frustrated.”

I was surprised to hear that New Club Penguin was reaching its main audience, and wasn’t fueled solely by the flames of nostalgia. If you or your siblings are interested in taking a stroll down memory lane, head to their website and join the Discord to get started.

When asked about other virtual revivals, iContinux vouched for Moshi Monsters Rewritten, saying that the team was having a lot of fun playing it together. It’s not just Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin either, there’s a revival of Disney’s 2003 MMO ToonTown and even one for the insect utopia of Bin Weevils.

Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and it’s nice to see so many of the games we grew up with being championed by their communities. Particularly when the projects are so often neglected and forgotten by the original creators once the cash stops pouring in.

Catch them Zzzs with Pikachu: Pokémon Sleep will let you play while snoozing

On Monday 27 February 2023, also known as ‘Pokémon Day’ as it was the date that Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green debuted in Japan in 1996, Nintendo gave Pokémon fans a smörgåsbord of announcements.

Alongside a nostalgic new set of Pokémon cards and initial details about downloadable content (DLC) for the most recent mainline games—Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet—the long-anticipated Pokémon Sleep was finally given a release window. There was also news of a new and original television show, Pokémon Concierge, a stop-motion animated series in development with Netflix, which looks incredibly sweet.

What is ‘Pokémon Sleep’?

Pokémon Sleep has been in the works for years. Nintendo regularly schedules live news broadcasts, named Nintendo Direct, and each time, the mobile game has been anticipated but never formally announced. Until now.

It was first announced back in 2019, when the president and CEO of The Pokémon Company, Tsunekazu Ishihara, explained: “The concept of this game is for players to look forward to waking up every morning.”

Effectively, it’s a sleep-tracking app that incorporates various Pokémon into the software. The mascot is obviously Snorlax, a rare first-generation Pokémon famous for its capacity to sleep. Each night, placing your phone by your pillow will track the length and quality of your sleep—as is expected from such sleep-tracking apps, which have been popular for years now.

With Pokémon Sleep though, the longer you sleep, the higher your score will be come morning. And a higher score means more Pokémon will gather around your Snorlax avatar. Each night, your sleeping pattern will be classified as dozing, snoozing, or slumbering—different sleep styles attract different Pokémon.

Compatibility with other apps and devices (Pokémon GO, for example) has yet to be explained. Will you be able to battle with these new friends, or simply snooze alongside them?

Certain Pokémon have specific and unique sleeping types—whatever that might mean—and over time, you can collect them. Gotta catch ‘em all, right? The game (if that’s even the right word for this slightly dystopian perspective) takes place on an as-yet-unnamed island, where the player is called on to help Professor Neroli carry out research into how Pokémon sleep.

It’s a confusing and convoluted premise, sure, but then again, Pokémon is a global phenomenon and has never aspired to logic or sense.

Is the aim to get children sleeping more, and having lie-ins, or to achieve a higher quality of sleep? It’s hard to tell at this stage. And, no doubt, keen (adult) gamers will be hacking and finding ways to cheat the system within weeks. Pokémon GO, which was partly intended to encourage children to spend more time outside and get exercise—quickly saw workarounds and unintended, sometimes disastrous, accidents. Although it’s unlikely anything similar could happen with a sleep app… I hope.

Nintendo also announced a new and wholly unnecessary piece of hardware, confusingly named  Pokémon GO Plus +, that uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to link to the app on your phone and offers more accurate sleep tracking.

It also provides the option of having Pikachu give you “cute prompts” when it’s time to wake up, or sing you lullabies. That sounds either frightening or absolutely adorable, I can’t quite decide.

Pokémon Sleep will be available on iOS and Android, with a worldwide release expected this summer. A specific date is yet to be confirmed. Pokémon GO Plus + releases on 21 July.