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A Popples Christmas Adventure for the Commodore 64

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A Popples Christmas Adventure for the Commodore 64
Popples Christmas Adventure © American Greetings
A 1986 giveaway for American Greetings retailers, this advergames for the Commodore 64 introduced us to the bizarre and wild world of the retro pom-pom sporting Popples brand of merchandising as they jump though a weird series of Christmas themed non-interactive freakiness.

The Basics:

  • Titles: A Popples Christmas Adventure
  • Publisher/Developer: American Greetings
  • Platform: Commodore 64
  • Genre: Advergame
  • Release Date: 1986

History

Throughout the '80s the greeting card juggernaut American Greetings was at the top of their game. Not only did they "own" the card business but they had the top licensable characters for toys, plush, and cartoons. The company's creative think tank dubbed "Those Characters from Cleveland" had spawned Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Get-Along Gang, Holly Hobbie, and one of their weirdest creations, The Popples.

A hybrid of a teddy bear, marsupial, and prehensile tailed monkey, The Popples were bizarrely cute creatures that can tuck their bodies into a pouch on their back, turning them into a big plush ball. To leverage the pom-pom craze of the '80s (yes, there was an actual craze over those balled yarn knots) a pom-pom was located at the tip of the Popple's long tail.

While The Popples would go on to received modest success as a toy line and a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon, then the characters first released, American Greetings did everything possible to get the word out on their newest toy creation, including giving out a free Popples video game.

During the 1986 Christmas season, customers who came to major American Greetings retailers received a free commodore 64 floppy disk containing A Popples Christmas Adventure, one of the weirdest Christmas video games ever.

The Game

As an advergame giveaway, A Popples Christmas Adventure didn't have to include high quality gameplay, be engaging or even have good animation. All that was necessary was to convey the message of The Popples characters and brand, plus give the customers a neat little freebee.

By 1986 the Commodore 64 was the most popular home computer, and the idea of a free bit of software was an exciting prospect for most owners, even if it was for little kids and only 10 minutes long. Computers were still something new in most households, so any game, especially a freebee, was more than welcome.

The loose storyline of the game is that the Popples visit Santa's workshop for some holiday fun. While Santa nor his elves or reindeer make an appearance, the Popples are able to put together some winter fun anyway.

Presented more as an animated storybook, there is only one actual interactive portion of A Popples Great Adventure in the form of a simple maze where players have to use the arrow keys to find their way home for Christmas.

The other activities in the game just feature limited animation, and no gameplay, but all the trademarked Popples ball bouncing marketing friendly mischief are featured; including a sing-along and a hide and go seek. It doesn't matter of the player joins along, the animations play though just the same without the need for even touching the keyboard.

Closing Thoughts

It's hard to categorize A Popples Christmas Adventure. It doesn't really contain much in the way of gameplay, so you can't consider it a computer game, and there is no true storyline, so it's not really an interactive storybook. Even its title is misleading as the Popples never go on an Adventure.

However for a brief bit of '80s Christmas commercial weirdness, A Popples Christmas Adventure is a neat nostalgic look back at those strange retro toy fads from our youth.

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