Frogger Review

Frogger is an enjoyable title.

Konami. Sega. Parker Brothers. They've all had something to do with the '80s video game classic, Frogger. But it took the latter (through its newly dubbed moniker Hasbro Interactive) to do a modern update to the title. Similar to the result of Midway taking Robotron and turning it into Robotron X for the PlayStation back in '96, people seem divided on how they feel about the game.

Though still retaining his top-down perspective on the world, Frogger has been given a mission, 3D polygonal graphics, and a variety of new environments to explore in his return to the present. It seems that during his video-gaming sabbatical, over a hundred baby frogs tried to fill in his place (The Replacement Froggers, if you will). They're now trapped over nine different stages (five per level, one to five levels per stage) and are sorely in need of rescuing.

The first stage comprises five levels styled after the original title. You must navigate through several lanes of traffic and over logs and turtles across a stream, though with the aforementioned polygonal graphics in place and an ever-present clock counting down the time. Extremely fun, this Retro Stage is almost worth the price of the game, even though it remains little more than an upgraded take on its ancestor. In the retrospective, however, nearly every level has a different environment (though themes seem to pervade through each specific stage), the frogs are almost never again all neatly grouped together, and there is quite a variety of enemies and play mechanics. For instance, Canopy Capers places you in a forest where you must avoid squirrels, sneak onto the backs of birds, and hop from collapsing branch to collapsing branch. In the factory-like Scorching Switches, you must leap on lots of moving machine parts and flip switches to reach the frogs. And in suburban nightmare Mower Mania, speedy lawn mowers bar your way, or, more precisely, run over you.

Though you can choose what stage you want to try, later levels must be unlocked first, and not every stage is available at the game's outset. The final areas can be opened up by finding hidden golden frogs (there is one per stage). Get a few, and you can take on the Cloud Stage, where Frogger takes a walk in the clouds in several levels very likely inspired by Frogger II: Threedeep!, the ultraobscure sequel to the first Frogger game. Grab a few more, and you can play the Toxic Stage (where you'll hop on exploding barrels and slippery pipes), the Desert Stage (avoid snakes, beetles, and bouncing boulders), and the Jungle Stage (ride hippos and watch out for monkeys and killer plants).

While the controls are still simple, the developers added several new abilities, such as the Power Croak, Heat-Seeking Tongue, and Super Jump. Different levels require different skills. For instance, you'll need the Super Jump in Boulder Alley to leap over beetles; the Power Croak will help light your way and communicate with the baby frogs in Dark, Dark Cavern; and the Heat-Seeking Tongue is useful to snag extra lives and time-extending Fly Power-Ups in Frogger Goes Skiing. Also, since Frogger can't move as quickly as you can hammer out commands into the controller, it's sometimes possible to accidentally overshoot a lane of traffic or hop over a cliff. But since the character's timing is easy enough to recognize, all that's necessary is to be careful about how many steps you input during time-clock panicked play.

Some people really dislike this game, but it all depends on how you approach it. Once the later Retro levels are accomplished, you will have a feel for the extremely fast timing of the game. Trying out the other stages - where the pace is the same, but you must figure out where you're going on top of that - can be a little disconcerting at first, but therein lies a lot of the title's fun. Each level requires you to very quickly determine the timing of its inhabitants and the whereabouts of the five frogs. It's kind of like puzzle solving at gunpoint. It may take some time, but since the lives are the characters' to burn and not your own, it's pretty enjoyable. Be warned: If you dive into the other levels without finishing the Retro Stage, you'll probably not be properly acclimatized to the game speed and could get frustrated. Likewise, the multiplayer rounds are extremely hard if you're not used to the later stages of the game, though it's clear the Retro two-player arena would be much better if it used a horizontal split-screen perspective instead of a vertical one. Oddly enough, much more of the screen can be seen in this stage when three or four players are competing via the PlayStation Multi-Tap.

The other very noticeable problem is that the Lily Pad Stage shouldn't have been put in immediately after the Retro levels. The goals of this stage's first level, Lily Islands, are about the most difficult to fathom in the entire game, and it's sure to throw off new players. Otherwise, Frogger is an enjoyable title. Its 3D graphics look like polygonal origami, its soundtrack is extremely catchy, and it contains many hours of super fun puzzle/arcade-style play.

The Good

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The Bad

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