Tribute Review: Neopets Islandberry Crunch Cereal (2006)

Neopets Islandberry Crunch Cereal Box 2006

Today is Cerealously’s second birthday, marking 731 days to the day since I decided to share my odd Oreo O’s obsession and weird Waffle Crisp compulsion with all of you dear readers who for some reason put up with me.

But instead of filling this post with sentimental blubber (though there might be time for that after 1200 words of blubbering about Kacheeks), I instead wanted to celebrate by sharing a piece of cereal history that’s very important to me: Neopets Islandberry Crunch cereal! Remembered by few and remembered as good by far fewer, this 2006 General Mills cereal paired the virtual pet franchise with purple and maroon puffs flavored like mixed berries.

Since licensed cereals are a dime a baker’s dozen, I’ll have to do a little time traveling deep into the foreboding fathoms of my own memory to explain Islandberry Crunch’s significance. Fasten your seatbelt, friends: even Wonka’s boat ride couldn’t get this bizarre.

(If you just want to see the cereal, keep scrolling ’til you see mummified corn spheres.)

You’re the One, Neopets

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 6.05.36 PM

Neopets.com has been around since 1999, when the Internet was young and the people who had time to screw around on it were even younger. The site is a “virtual pet community,” essentially meaning it was a more complex Tamagotchi that aspired to be Pokémon. Anyone could sign up for free (if they asked their parents’ permission before going online, of course) and create their own Neopet.

As of today, there are 55 Neopet species to choose from, from moody tigers and mohawked warthogs to aliens, dinosaurs, and whatever the heck a JubJub is. Every Neopet could have its own Petpet, too (which, no joke, could have its own Petpetpet), but we won’t dive down that particular Cybunny hole.

Above you can see one of my Neopets, one of a rare species called a Poogle that I was crazy about. As you can see by my pet’s name, my younger self (whose precise age will remain ageless) has always had his snack-savvy priorities in order, further evidenced by how many Neopoints I must’ve spent to make him look like an anthropomorphized strawberry. I certainly didn’t spend them on food, since even though it was annoying to feed your pet each day, the site was generous in handing out free omelettes.

(Image via Neopets Newsletter)

(Image via Neopets Newsletter)

Oh, right: the site had its own currency called Neopoints. You could earn and spend these all over the site, which had countless activities to keep basement-dwelling young’ns like me occupied (and away from, *shudder*, sports) all Saturday long. Neopet owners could explore the fictionalized Neopia and its surprisingly extensive lore, pit their pets against any number of cartoon eldritch horrors in the Battledome, play tons of questionably programmed Flash games, and more.

To this day, I challenge anyone to go cursor-to-cursor with me in Ice Cream Machine or Feed Florg.

Neoboards

I spent many-a-screen-absorbed evening playing Neopets, even learning rudimentary HTML to crudely code my own signature for the Neopets forums. Yep, there were many discussion boards, and the conversations were about as deep as you’d expect from a horde of mostly pre-pubescent kids with minimal adult supervision. There was much talk about My Chemical Romance and precisely why parents just don’t understand.

While Neopets was ultimately a vapid affair, I will forever remember it fondly. It still stands as my favorite wholesome slice of early internet life—a high compliment from someone who worships at the altar of Homestar Runner—before the world wide web became the hyper-memetic irony graveyard it is today. I still log in sometimes to feel nostalgic pangs, and it turns out the forums are mostly populated with people my age.

They still talk about My Chemical Romance a lot.

(From the Neopets New Features Newsletter, Jan. 16th, 2006)

But back to the reason we’re here: fruity cereal. Neopets peaked in popularity around 2005, when an $160 million sale to Viacom saw the franchise expanding into everything from Playstation 2 games and McDonald’s toys to board games and even cereal. In a meta moment, Neopets Islandberry Crunch existed as both an in-universe item you could feed your Neopets and a real thing you could eat yourself, leading one Neopets wiki to charmingly explain how “It must be assumed that, as islandberries do not exist outside of Neopia, the taste-creating team used a blend of more traditional berries to achieve the desired flavor.”

11 years on, information about the cereal is hard to find, outside of a few empty boxes on eBay. But by some miracle, my good friend and Cereal Timer Gabe Fonseca managed to procure a sealed box of Neopets Islandberry Crunch and graciously decided to share it with some dumb blogger who he knows loves the stuff. This dumb blogger endlessly thanks him.

As my way of saying thanks, I’m going to open these old Islandberries, eat them, and not send Gabe my medical bills.

neopets-islandberry-crunch-cereal-box-trading-cards-2006

Quick prelude: since this cereal came from the days when cereals still had prizes inside, Islandberry Crunch came with free Neopets trading cards. I never learned to play the game, but I know many of these cards are still slumbering inside a dusty binder in my childhood basement’s darkest recesses.

Neopets Islandberry Crunch Cereal Puffs 2006

In the words of Gabe himself, “So this is what a bowl of Neopets Islandberry Crunch looks like.” The brightly colored bits don’t look a day over 4-years old, but I can’t say the same for their odor, which reminds me of drywall and spoiled wine. Somehow, their taste is even worse, and the best flavor descriptor I can think of is “thrift store loafers slathered in hot jelly.” Bitter, burning, and probably infested with martian eggs, my first mouthful of 11-year old Islandberry Crunch was quickly spit off my balcony, where I’m sure even passing bird won’t give it a second chirp.

Neopets Islandberry Crunch Cereal with Milk 2006

No, milk didn’t make it any better—just more…gelatinous. Expectedly, this is a far cry from how I remember Islandberry Crunch’s original flavor, which was unique despite its generic description. That stuff was tropical and puckering, a complex mixed berry smoothie that tasted like the crunchy lovechild of Mountain Dew Pitch Black and Ghoul-Aid that went on to be adopted by some Swedish Fish.

The closest thing we’ve ever seen in modern times is Chex Clusters, which was also tragically discontinued before it could even get its own trading cards.

So despite its current, understandable inedibility, Neopets Islandberry Crunch remains a perfect cereal in my rose-tinted eyes, so much so that I may have to respectfully bury this petrified stuff in my backyard to let it rest in peace. Islandberry Crunch exists as a perfect intersection between two of my earliest fandoms, and I feel a weirdly warm sense of closure writing about it on this now 2-year old website that has become more than I ever hoped it would be.

Thank you Neopets, thank you Gabe, and thanks so much to all of you readers. We had a great second year, from interviewing a Chex Quest developer and Cap’n Crunch’s artist to reviewing Oreo O’s from two countries and touring the Kellogg’s archives. Cerealously has become my personal “Neopets 2: Electric Crunchaloo,” and I hope you can all join me in raising a crunchy Cinnamon Toast to many more years of nostalgically obsessing together.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest6Share on Tumblr3Share on Reddit18Share on Google+0

15 responses »

  1. WOW! Is it already two years! Time flies! 😀

    CONGRATULATIONS BRO!
    Cheers to many more years to come! 🙂

    I’m btw really glad you’re still around and that you still have fun writing about cereal, ’cause i still have fun reading about cereal, while munching down a bowl myself, too. 🙂
    And I#m really glad to see that you got more and more readers and visitors! You deserved it! 🙂

    btw. i didn’t know you where THAT attached to neopets. Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve to admit neopets never got me, though i loved my tamagotchi and should’ve normally be addicted to neopets too xD
    (i think the language barrier that time was a bit too huge for the me :))

    While we are at it: Was the cereal really that good or was it just because it was neopets? Why I’m asking? ’cause sometimes, when it comes to “branded” cereal it seems to me the “hype” sometimes is just because it… e.g. Nintendo. 🙂
    I’m just curious, ’cause “Berry flavor” sounds really delicious and way better than “fruity flavor”. Combined with a corn base… i’d like to try it xD

    PS: To be honest, two years is long enough for me to not remember when i joined the journey… hm… crazy… 😀

    • Thanks so much for being a continued supporter, and even though I don’t know what’s being said on your site, I wish it the best of luck! 😉

      In all honesty, the cereal wasn’t really that good, but the Neopets imagery definitely acted like a rose-tinted placebo that made me adore it—even more so as time goes on. It definitely was unique though; not a rip off of Trix or Froot Loops or anything.

      • Thanks! As already mentioned, it’s great to have your support on this! And don’t worry, i would’ve been very surprised if you were able to read the blog xD
        And to be honest… right now there is nothing much going on. Just 2-3 News about some cereal related stuff, since i still struggle to write down my first review (though there are more than enough notes, pics and thoughts in my backlog xD). It’s just hard to come by a “review-blueprint” to use, that i’m happy with xD
        (and the blank page phenomenon is a real thing xD)

        btw: Thanks for your answer on my Neopets/Nostalgia question 🙂

  2. I started cereal snob 11/15 and Gabe started Cereal time in 2015 and you did too? The universe really wanted this to happen. I’m glad you are here loving it like the rest of us.

    • 2015 was truly a landmark year for cereal journalism! Cheers to your upcoming 2nd too, Thomas: thanks for helping keep nostalgic cereal love alive.

  3. Congratulations on two years of this blog. My son and I discovered it a few months ago, and we really enjoy your reviews. I loved reading about your fond memories of Neopet. It was very endearing to me. I laughed out loud when you bravely ate some of that old cereal for us. Your description of the taste was too funny. I hope you have many more years of interesting cereal reviews in your future. 🙂

    • Thanks a ton, Dawn! I’m so touched that you’re sharing my reading with another generation—may your son help keep cereal nostalgia alive for decades to come!

  4. Hear, hear! Congratulations on the 2 year anniversary, my internet cereal friend. I would have thought you’d learned not to try decades old cereal from watching me gag it down in the past, but I appreciate your dedication all the same. I’m sorry you had to experience that. But I’m glad you documented it (in words and pictures) and shared it with the world. Historians will one day be poring over your blog and be grateful for your thoroughness. Here’s to another 10 years of cerealously.net!!!

    • Thanks a ton for the continued support, Gabe! Vive le Cereal Time, too: may we keep cereal journalism alive until the day we die of ancient cereal poisoning.

  5. Oh Neopets, how I loved thee. A kid-version of The Sims (who am I kidding, I played that with abandon as well,) the Neopoints I racked up in my “shop” the points I racked up via exploring Neopias fine gambling rigs, and living vicariously through the feeding of my neopets through soup-fairy freebies, sea cucumbers, and basking in the mystery of the lost-world of – what was Neopias version of Atlantis called again? This was my pre-teen life and I loved it. Thank you for bringing back the memories. Now if only i could remember my damn log-in!!

    • Ahh, now you’re getting me all happy-sad too about old school Neopets! From Snowagers to Poogle Races, there were so many memorable bits.

      And by Atlantis, do you mean Maraqua?

  6. What a trooper! Great read, and I feel you about Neopets. Someone actually posted this to the Neopets Reddit, which I check up with every now and again. Now I wish I’d known about this/had this when it was on the shelves

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *