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Review by: David Laprad
Published: January 28, 1998
I recently glanced at the top 20 best-selling PC entertainment software titles for the month of December, and was not at all surprised to see Hasboro Interactive’s Frogger in the number seven position, ahead of Tomb Raider 2 and Jedi Knight. The original game is an arcade classic in the grand tradition, and the update, complete with 3D graphics, stereo sound effects, and catchy theme music was bound to sell well. What would surprise me, however, is to see this title end up on anyone’s list of top 20 favorite games. Why? It is an intensely frustrating experience that proves there are game developers who simply do not understand the core concepts of arcade gameplay.
I desperately wanted to enjoy this title. I mean, how could I possibly give one of gaming’s legendary characters a thumbs down? The slick opening animation actually prepared me for an evening of charming fun. After an eternity of wandering the two-dimensional wasteland of traffic hazards, turtles and floating logs, our verdant hero makes a daring leap into a new, more dangerous world. With giddy enthusiasm, the cinematic draws a hyper-fast sequence of breathtaking escapes and spectacular flights of adventure, enticingly setting the stage for a rollicking experience.
It is immediately apparent that this is a Frogger for the nineties, though while the keen animation and catchy music are fun, the developers forgot to flesh out the gameplay in a manner that pays appropriate homage to the time-honored classic. One of the remarkable qualities of the original title (and classic arcade gameplay in general) is that players were eased into the experience; the game offered a satisfying measure of success before bludgeoning players with the full force of adversity. The update, however, is completely unforgiving, and thrusts unwary gamers into the most insane concoction of deadly hazards, impractical jumping sequences, and twitch-oriented gameplay I have ever encountered.
Like a garish pop-up book sprung to life, the game brings new graphical proportions to the Frogger saga, adding cliffs, raised platforms, bridges, and polygonal characters to the traditional mix. However, fleshier graphics and enhanced mechanics are only the beginning; players must now collect an assortment of power-ups and rescue five baby frogs per level, all in an effort to advance to new areas and increase the score. If it sounds easy, be forewarned that the relatively uncomplicated world of the original title has been infused with a savage assortment of deadly perils, as well as switches and other mild forms of interactivity.
To execute his new duties, our little friend is armed with a fresh set of moves, including a power jump that hurdles him over enemies, a power croak for calling baby frogs, and a heat-seeking tongue for capturing power-ups and bonus items. He has quite an appetite for such a diminutive creature, and the game offers plenty of variety to satiate his cravings. There are power-ups that increase the amount of time the player has to complete a level, increase the player’s speed, increase the size of the frog’s tongue (for grabbing those hard-to-reach power-ups), and grant extra lives. There are also power-downs to keep gamers on their toes. Some of these bitter pills reduce the score, or increase the speed at which the timer counts down. The power-ups and downs serve to increase the challenge, and enhance the gameplay by injecting a dose of ingenuity into the nearly obstinate level design.
The object in the single-player game is to advance through the levels by collecting baby frogs before time runs out. There are nine different zones, and a total of 35 levels. Each world is brimming with new graphics, hazards, and enemies, but the goal remains the same — hop till you drop. The best area is the first, called Retro. It is a 3D version of the arcade classic, and comes the closest to reviving the glory of the original game. It, of course, involves guiding the frog in a mad dash through rapidly moving traffic, then across a lethal river, filled with snakes, alligators, and devious turtles to reach the top of the screen.
Unfortunately, it ends all too soon, and players are thrust into an entirely new, and completely exasperating experience. There is Lily Islands, which expands the Retro concept to include a larger, non-linear field of play, Honeybee Hollow, Scorching Switches, which requires the player to make achingly precise jumps from one rapidly rotating gear to another, Dark Dark Cavern, which requires the frog to capture a glow-in-the-dark power-up to light the way, Loony Balloons (take to the skies and help the frog earn his wings), Bang Bang Barrel, Cactus Point (trust me, you will get the point), and Tropical Trouble.
When players complete a level, the next area in the zone is made
permanently available. Most, but not all, of the zones are available at the
start of the game; however, certain worlds must be completed before access
to more difficult levels is granted. However, if you want to increase your
score or number of lives, you can replay earlier, simpler levels. A good
zone to replay is Retro, which has simpler gameplay and fewer hazards than
later areas. This is one of the rare, forgiving touches in the game, and
provides highly welcome relief.
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