Well, to kick off this year’s Halloween, we have Zomberry Island. Like usual, there will be spoilers. (Oh man I miss saying that)
Zomberry Island is basically a giant love letter to the “zombie apocalypse” genre. A mysterious disease breaks out in the town of Eastman, turning the people into purple zombies, and it’s a race against time to discover the source of the outbreak and cure the town. It’s pretty much a parade of cliches, but Poptropica makes it work, mainly because it doesn’t just play these tropes straight, it lampoons them. That’s a fun word. LAMPOON. Sounds like the love child of a lamprey and a harpoon.
And just like the love child of a lamprey and a harpoon, Zomberry Island basically makes fun of the conventions of the zombie apocalypse genre. Wow that was a terrible simile. Analogy? Comparison? Whatever. Poptropica really goes all out in this delightfully self-referential borderline-parody.
I mean look! They’ve even got a scientist named Dr. G Romero! That. Is. Hilarious. For those of you who don’t know, George Romero is a filmmaker famous for his zombie apocalypse movies including Night of the Living Dead! (Seriously, that film is a must-watch. Unless you’re under the age of 13, in which case do it when you’re older…is something I’m legally obliged to say).
Overall, the plot is pretty good, and there’s lots of humor to go around. It’s chock-full of classic horror movie references and Poptropica wields the cliches of the zombie apocalypse genre with the skill of a powerful ancient warrior.
Ah, but we all know that the heart and soul of a horror movie is not its plot, but its monster(s). As a rule of thumb, there are two kinds of zombies. The undead, half-decaying zombies and the mutated/mind-controlled people zombies. Personally, I prefer the undead kind (even if they are vulnerable to vultures) because….
So yeah, I was a bit disappointed when I found out the zombies weren’t the undead kind. But these googly-eyed weirdos do have their charm.
It’s a simple, silly design but they still manage to be absolutely lovable. Especially when you see the adorable little dorks dancing in the disco. Combined with their fear of light, and you have some of my favorite zombies of all time (even without dangling guts and decaying flesh).
The funniest thing is, we don’t even know what these things do to regular people. The player just runs away screaming whenever they approach. As far as we know, these things can’t zombify other people and they’re not looking for brains, so they’re essentially harmless.
I really want to know the story behind this guy. The implication is of course, that he got trapped in the crate of contaminated blueberries and gorged himself on its contents, transforming into a bloated zombie. As expected, he’s stronger, but oddly enough he’s also more aggressive than the other zombies. He’s also resistant to your flashlight’s light, and incapacitating him requires a stronger light source.
Notably, he’s not one of the zombies we cure at the end of the island. He’s last seen walking out of the crate after the player scares him off with the camera flash. Which means there’s still a giant zombie roaming around Eastman…..
Zomberry Island definitely has a creepy feel to it. The environment is dark and there are very little actual people around to communicate with. There’s an eerie feeling of loneliness, as if you’re actually facing an army of zombies all by yourself. However, it’s unfortunately offset by humour and the plot’s numerous attempts to lighten the mood. Plus the zombies themselves aren’t all that scary.
Despite that, there are definitely scary moments here and there, like the jarring encounter with Big Blue and the zombies breaking into Romero’s lab. And it’s these moments that really brings Zomberry Island up on the scariness scale.
NEXT TIME: I review a BLOOD-CURDLING island.
Also, you can now get a pet zombie monkey on the Main Street of Zomberry Island. I think that was the greatest sentence I’ve ever typed.