Ye Olde Tourist Trappe
MERIDELL - If I were to go on a holiday in Neopia, there are many places I’d
choose to go. I might travel to the Lost Desert (where I could sunbathe until
I turned beat red) or Krawk Island (where I could lose Bilge Dice until I turned
beat red), or anywhere else where I could turn beat red from some cause. But
for some reason, people aren’t interested in any of these places. Instead, there’s
a steady stream of visitors... to Meridell.
Now, I don’t quite get this. When I think of Meridell, the first thing that
jumps to mind isn’t ‘Beautiful Vacation Spot.’ It’s ‘Did they get invaded AGAIN?’
Why is it that people choose to go to Meridell over all these other spots? I
didn’t know, but I decided to find out. So, placing myself at the personal risk
of being forced to accept a Neopian Times trophy, I packed my bag and ventured
across the land, in search of adventure and a cheap lunch. Too bad I only found
This sandwich stinks.
I can honestly say that if you are not looking for a non-enjoyable trip, then
the last place you should never go is not ever Meridell. (That means it’s bad.
I think. Wow. I'm confused.) Seriously, after that visit, I have to ask myself
how can Meridell survive?
Take Meri Acres Farm, for example. This is a delightfully fun and exciting
place if you are allergic to everything in the universe but vegetables. Because
that’s all you’ll find here. Vegetables. I, personally, have never found vegetables
that exhilarating. Fruits are intriguing, especially around Gadgadsbogen, but
vegetables? Gee. That's rough.
Still, there are many interesting things to do down on the farm. You can count
potatoes at Potato Counter. Or you can be daring and try EXTREME! Potato Counter,
where the potatoes fly around like they’re possessed by tiny Buzzes. You could
swing over and guess the weight of the marrow, a large vegetable with no discernible
purpose. (Hint: your guess will always be wrong. Unless it's right. In which
case your guess will be right.) And now, for a limited time only, you can check
out the newest feature at Meri Acres Farm: the Rubbish Dump! This exciting attraction
is exactly like the Money Tree, but there’s less of the ‘free-gift’ part and
more of the ‘walk-around-on-heaps-of-garbage-and-rotting-vegetables’ part. I
think that the farmer who set up the Rubbish Dump just wanted people to walk
over his compost and stir it up, thousands of times a day. And you know what?
IT WORKS! People actually believe they’ll find treasure in the trash heap. I
have no clue why Meri Acres Farm has any tourism at all.
The rest of Meridell isn’t much better. The most notable attraction is the
Turmaculus, a large... thing... who will, without cost or delay, eat your petpet
for you. (But only during his non-sleeping hours.) But this isn’t the only game.
No, there are more, like ones where you can be blasted by exploding Mortogs,
or roll a cheese wheel down a hill and into a bramble thicket, or where you
can watch Turdles race. (Slow and steady doesn't just win the race here; it's
the only option.)
And then there’s Illusen’s Glade. I was a happy-go-lucky quester for Illusen,
until one day I realized something. If there are two faeries who will give me
item quests, and one is an uber powerful dark sorceress who can reshape reality
and lives on a floating cloud, and the other is a smiling tree hugger with cute
lil’ freckles wholives in a big treehouse, and I can only do quests for ONE
of them each day...well, it’s not much of a contest, you know. Yay for Jhudora.
You want to shop around Meridell? Why, there are many fine bargain basements.
You can pick up a lunch for yourself at Merifoods (Motto: The food may be pricey,
but the plague is free!) or pick up a lunch for the Turmaculus at Ye Olde Petpets.
But the petpet shop is always sold out. I blame the newbies who think you have
to feed Turmy a Meridell petpet before he gives you his ava-- oops, I mean,
there's no secret avatar. That's why it's a secret.
Incidentally, not much planning went into the construction of Meridell. Imagine
the Turmaculus awakes from his slumber and looks around and sees there’s no
one there to throw Snorkles down his gullet. Now, he’s kinda hungry, and...
hey! Look! A petpet shop RIGHT NEXT DOOR! This is not good.
Life gets a little better at 10,000 feet, though, where Lord Darigan refuses
to leave in his Floating Citadel of Doom. But not much. You can have your Petpet’s
head bashed in slowly at his Petpet Battle Arena, or you can visit Darigan’s
Evil Pet Gallery. What’s that? You want to paint one of your pets with a Darigan
Paint Brush? Ha! Everyone, check out this weirdo who thought you could get a
Darigan Paint Brush at Darigan’s Citadel! Why would you get a Darigan
Paint Brush in the Darigan Citadel? That's totally stupid! It's in Faerieland,
stupid. Pfft. Everyone knows that. In the Hidden Tower. (Motto: Hidden Tower?
What Hidden Tower?)
The most strange thing is that Darigan is plotting in his chambers to take
over the land of Meridell once again (he claims he's at a truce, but who here
honestly trusts him?). You’d think that Skarl would realize this and send someone...
anyone ...to stop Darigan BEFORE he recruits another 5 million giant Spyders
from Bob’s Rent-A-Spyder!
But apparently Skarl’s too busy to fight the spread of evil. Specifically,
he’s too busy listening to wave after wave of stupid jesters amuse him by telling
him jokes. He gives these wanna-be jester lists of words to use in the jokes,
presumably because these are the only words he understands. He tempts everyone
with another pair of avatars, but he never gives them out. He just dangles them
above our heads so we’ll jump through hoops for him. Why is this Skeith still
in control of Meridell? If I lived under his rule, I’d be thinking secession
about now. This leads us to the final stop on our tour of Meridell: the Castle.
Other than a Grumpy Old King, you can find the castle treasurer (who gambles
away the Meridell budget) and a potion-hawking Zafara (who is selling all of
Skarl’s family heirloom potions). The centerpiece of the castle is a game where
the sole object is to ESCAPE from Meridell. Sounds like a good idea.
And now that we’re all safely out of the medieval land and have gotten the
compost off our clothes and the Mortog slime out of our hair, we can ask ourselves
that original question again: How does Meridell survive? They have no real worthwhile
attractions and also have a tendency to get invaded a lot. An awful lot. Add
this to the fact that their treasury is at risk 24/7, their king has never moved
from his throne, the evil floating fortress that refuses to leave, and their
food, which is just so... rancid. So how is Meridell staying alive and booming
in the tourism industry?
It hit me like a sack of dung that was precisely launched from a catapult.
The main export product of Meridell is... avatars. Think about it. You have
your Illusen avatar, your Ultimate Bullseye avatar, your Turmaculus avatar,
two from Skarl, one from Jeran, one from Darigan, your Meridell Knight / Darigan
Darkling avatars, one with a giant Spyder, your Escape from Meridell Castle
avatar, one from Lord Kass, one that for some reason features a Darigan Peophin...
there’s even an avatar for Extreme Potato Counter! Yes, people are flocking
in record numbers to Meridell, hoping to win some of these avatars, or if that
doesn’t work, steal them. And I’m forced to agree with them. Being an amateur
avatar collector, and currently in possession of less than six of the above
avatars, I am willing to return to Meridell... even after I wrote this article
about how uninteresting and unexciting it is. I am that addicted to avatars.
So I’ve discovered the reason why Meridell is the unofficial tourist hot spot
of Neopia. It may be poorly ruled, poorly planned out by the castle architects,
and smell like compost, but Meridell is the place to be. Now, let me go visit
the Turmaculus, who I’m hoping didn’t read my description of him as a lazy old
creature and doesn’t want to eat me before this article is fini --