Frogger is back…and that’s too bad. A few redeeming features doesn’t save this classic from the remake trash heap.
Frogger has a somewhat special place in my heart because when I think hard enough I believe it is the first video game I ever played. My aunt and uncle lived out in the country and while they had a lot of land to run around on, there wasn’t much else to do. I was too young to appreciate all the space they had for me to run around so when I was bored I complained and that ultimately led to being put in front of the television. Of course, out in the boonies reception was less than great (this was pre-cable) so even a favorite TV show was fuzzy at best, but thankfully there was an Atari hooked up to their set.
Hop into the time machine
This was well before Nintendo had shown its face in America and long before I was allowed to wander the arcades alone, so when I was handed a joystick it was something entirely new. However, it didn’t take long for me to get the idea. Move the stick and the square on the screen moves. Pretty simple. But what wasn’t simple was Frogger, although I’m guessing I didn’t have any idea how to play the game or knew what was going on. I remember the screen well to the point that I’m now sure it was Frogger that I was playing, but that’s about it. Nonetheless, that is my earliest video game memory and Frogger was part of it but I don’t think it made much impact. I didn’t go home and cry to mom that I wanted an Atari. I probably just saw it as another toy and forgot about it once I returned home to my GI Joes and Hot Wheels. Video games didn’t really bite me until the NES came around and changed the world forever…but that’s another story for another time.
Despite Frogger being one of the first games I ever played, I’m not a big Frogger fan. I acknowledge its place in video game history and can appreciate the skill involved in navigating five lanes of traffic and then hopping from log to log, but Frogger never quite stuck. Even now after I’ve gone back to play and love many of these classic arcade games, Frogger is at the bottom of the list. As such, I hadn’t paid much attention to franchise to know how it had evolved over the years but a quick look shows that Frogger has tried to “be cool again” no less than a dozen times since 1997 with countless ports for just about everyone platform on the planet. The most recent of which is on the Xbox Live Arcade and PS3 with the Frogger Hyper Arcade Edition.
Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition
This latest re-imagining of Frogger includes an original form of the game but comes with a lot of new modes for single player and multiplayer. What hooked me right away was actually a new multiplayer mode that challenges players to claim as many squares with their color as possible over the course of an otherwise normal Frogger game. Frogger definitely changes when you have more than one person trying to scramble across the freeway, but you just can’t dodge traffic, hop over alligators and win. Since you earn points by coloring squares, you have to find a balance between the time you spend claiming territory and the time you spend trying to get to the top of screen, because when you get there you lock in all your squares making it impossible for other players to undo your squares. There’s a 5-minute time limit on the entire session so you do have to be speedy about things. I only played this mode with one other person so I imagine playing with three or four players would be even crazier and a lot more fun. There are a couple more multiplayer modes but none of them are as fun as this mode…and the nice part is this mode is available in the demo, so you don’t even have to drop the $10 to have some fun.
Speaking of price, it’s unfortunate the price tag is so high for this iteration of Frogger because while on the surface it looks like you get a lot for your money, the fun just isn’t there. Beyond the multiplayer modes there are several new single player modes that ask you to do things like “paint” a picture while dodging traffic and controlling two frogs at once but they all kind of fall flat and don’t keep you interested. There is, of course, classic Frogger which is what it is but we all know Frogger isn’t worth $10 in any form. As if the extra modes weren’t tempting enough, they’ve also thrown in several themes that can be applied to any mode. You can select from a total retro 8-bit style to modern 3D rendered art and even a Tron-like style with glowing neon. Konami also thought they’d be clever and add themes that take graphics from some of their other classic franchises like Contra and Castlevania but in the end these are actually the worst themes you can use. They make gameplay completely frustrating and add nothing to the game otherwise. Sure, it’s cute and nostalgic but it doesn’t makes you feel better for dropping $10 on the title.
Not worth the leap
I’m going to sound like a broken record when I say that some games just don’t need to be reinvented and Frogger is one of them. Any new version of Frogger isn’t going to appeal to anyone outside of the classic arcade fans and that crowd (me) isn’t too interested in having new modes or graphics to try and dress things up. Frogger was already available as a console download but for the classic game itself, the $5 price was too high. So wait…I know what you’re saying…so $10 is too much for the new Frogger and $5 is too high for the old Frogger. I know what that sounds like but here’s what needed to happen…just release the Frogger Hyper Arcade Edition as a $5 download. It would have been much more bang for the buck but even then you’re getting little more than the classic game anyway. Bottomline, get the new Frogger demo and play with some friends and be done. If you want the old Frogger, just MAME it or play online. It’s not hard to find.