There's Nothing More Boring than people getting all misty-eyed and wittering on about the great old games of the past, back in the days when gameplay was all and 'Captain Bubo's Bulbous Buttock Boat' (or whatever) ruled supreme on the Spectrum. Especially when, thanks to the wonders of the six million emulators now around, you finally see the games they're getting all tearful about. But even though it pains me as much as it's going to pain you to read it, I'm going to have to go into misty-eyed mode for a minute. The first games I ever played - on one of those old mono IBMs - were the rather wonderful Dig-Dug (a ground-breaking 3D, first-person viewed version of PacMan) and Frogger. All three were so addictive the plug had to be ripped from the wall to stop me playing. When 286s came out. all three had to be abandoned because they ran too quickly. But who gives a toss? (Er, that wasn't very misty-eyed - Ed)
Frogger's back. But whereas most manufacturers cashing in on the retro trend are content with just rehashing 'arcade perfect' versions of the original, Millennium, the developers of Frogger, have actually put some thought into things. In fact, they've made it into a kind of platform game. And like every other platform game that takes itself remotely seriously, it's gone 3D on us. You probably don't find this news particularly surprising. What you may find surprising is that it looks like it might be an absolute hoot.
What they've done is to combine the old game's basic principle - which, in case you don't know, involved hopping across treacherous roads and rivers, avoiding traffic, alligators and snakes and jumping on female frogs on the other side - with a platform game approach that makes use of a number of inventive 3D game area layouts. A mix of the old and the new.
So, for example, although you get the original 'classic' level with the roads, river, traffic, crocs, etc, you also get a number of other, increasingly bizarre but extremely imaginative levels to make your way around. The nice thing about it all is that they seem to have managed to retain the flavour of the original in doing so. Shall I give you an example?
Oh, go on then, but be quick
Well, there's a desert level in which you have to avoid scarab beetles, diving buzzards and rolling boulders. It's one of many levels that are split over two heights. You can jump on seagulls' backs to hitch a ride down to the lower levels. Another has you dashing about in the woods, avoiding killer bees, which you can either attempt to outrun (or out-hop) or hide from.
One distinctly Mario 64-like level, Looney Balloons, has you hopping from cloud to cloud, high in the sky. Party balloons sink when you jump on them, helium balloons rise, there are more birds to ride about on, and so on. An underground one has you eating glow-worms to see where you're going, as you tentatively navigate your way through the dark. And so on.
And the point is...?
The point is, as you'd expect if you've been following, to seek out and 'save' every frog who's dotted about the levels (none of that dirty stuff that used to go on in the original). Once you've saved them all on the 40-odd levels, you'll be able to free the Princess who's been captured and shoved behind a temple gate. First though, you'll have to get through a final level which, as Culture once said, is harder than the rest. There are secret levels chucked in H there somewhere, too. To help you in your task you'll have your heat-seeking tongue (I think most of us already have one of those), which plucks useful - and no doubt very tasty - insects from the air at the press of a button. There's also a super-jump, which will sometimes help you avoid things a normal jump wouldn't, and a number of power-ups. (I told you it was like a platform game, but did you believe me?) One really nice touch is your ability to croak - not because it sounds good, but because an answering croak will come from the direction in which the nearest frog is waiting to be saved. Obviously, stereo speakers help. Littered around the levels are objects that will make life easier, such as a radioactive waste barrel that explodes as you land on it.
launching you across wide gaps (we'll ignore the subsequent decimation to the local eco-system). But there are also things that will make life harder, such as slimy poles that you can't stop moving up and down on once you're on them. I'm sure you can make your own joke up here.
There are also network and split-screen multi-player modes for up to four people at once, which break down into two different games: either you'll have to race each other around a level to find a flag, or you'll have a traditional frog-saving level to complete before everyone else. A nice touch is that you can jump on the backs of competitor frogs, immobilising them until you decide to move - useful for leaving them helpless beneath the tyres of a 16-wheeler truck. That's about it, really. It's Frogger, Jim - but not as we know it.
You Can Hardly Go Down The Pub these days without people going all mistyeyed and starting to bang on about the old days, when games were games because they had playability, even though they had all the visual appeal of Robin Cook lap-dancing. But one thing they always forget is that most of them, being made either by insane Japanese programmers or socially inept Western programmers who never go out, had huge failings in logic when applied to the real world.
Frogger is a prime example. You jump from one lane of traffic to another, avoiding cars, trucks, bulldozers and what have you. If one of them hits you, you suffer a severe case of ingrown toenails. And ingrown ribs, arms, legs and head. That's okay so far - all fairly logical. Then you leap onto rapidly moving floating logs to make your way across the river. We won't dwell on the fact that some logs are flowing in opposite directions to the others, at enormous speed. This is illogical, but it's nothing compared to the central oddity, which is that if you miss a log, you fall in and drown. You die. Despite the fact that you're supposed to be a frog. An amphibian who can swim. That's why you have large paddles sellotaped to the end of your legs. If you were a frog and, on your way to do a bit of froggie-style 'a-courting', you jumped into a river and drowned, you'd be more than a little disappointed that the process of evolution had let you down so badly. You'd probably ask for your money back. Especially if you'd missed out on a shag in the process.
Talking of disappointments
And talking of disappointments (he says, linking seamlessly), I was rather disappointed with this. When I wrote the Blueprint for it, I really thought it was going to be pretty good. Instead of just re-hashing the original to cash in on the retro trend, they've actually put some thought into it, keeping the hopping-about-against-a-time-limit element, but adding other factors and producing what amounts to a 3D platform game. But let's go back a step and tell you what you get.
What you get
As well as the original, 'classic' level with roads, river, traffic, crocs, snakes and so on, you also get many other variations. For example, there's a series of small islands that you navigate around by hopping on and off a series of moving logs that seem to have been based on the elevated railway in Sydney - they travel about in circles, but they don't actually go anywhere. In another level, you have to hop your way through the inside of what appears to be a giant sanitary-towel burning plant. Fall off the rapidly revolving platforms into the smouldering murk at your peril. There's a split-level desert sequence in which you have to hitch a ride on seagulls' backs and an underground zone in which you eat glow-worms to see what you're doing. There's even one that's been 'heavily influenced' by Super Mario 64, providing a trip through the clouds, hopping onto balloons which either plummet like they're being piloted by Richard Branson, or rise like male patients' sheets in Carry On Nurse. And so on, and so on.
There are some nice ideas, too. As in the original game, the plan is to jump on top of female frogs and 'save' them (in much the same way that most males would be keen to 'save' Claudia Schiffer). To find out where they are on the level, you croak, and the nearest frog chickster croaks back, in a demonstration of the elaborate mating rituals usually only seen on wildlife documentaries and outside nightclubs on the Old Kent Road. Off you head, depending on which direction the croak comes from. (Obviously, it helps to have your speakers wired up the right way round, or you may find yourself trying to shag a scarab beetle. And if you've seen size of their pincers, you won't fancy trying that unless you're into Operation Spanner-type activities.) The other nice idea is that you have a tongue of real life, you'd be beating 'bords' away with a baseball bat. You use this to eat flies. There's another joke in there somewhere. But back to the disappointments.
The problem lies not with the levels, but with the way the game works. One niggle lies with the view. Considering the size and complexity of some levels, the view's slightly too close to the action - yes, there's a map; yes, you can revolve the angle at which you observe proceedings (although this can create more problems than it's worth when you try to do so at speed and combine it with movement); and yes, it zooms in and out automatically at certain points. But even with all this, you generally still feel you need a much wider field of view.
But the main problem with Frogger is 'Intermittent I've-Been-Robbed Syndrome'. There's nothing worse in a platform game than being absolutely convinced that you landed on a particular platform, only to see yourself plunge to your doom. This happened on a couple of the levels - and I know it's not just me, because I played the game in super-slo-mo to check. I did this by playing it on a P166 without a 3Dfx card - it was like watching a tortoise taking a nap. And there was froggie, leaping onto the platform, dead centre - and next frame there he was, dead, with the platform further on. The scrolling's a bit crap, basically, even on a P90 3Dfx-equipped machine. I know we're all supposed to have 3D accelerated P233s these days, but most of us haven't and upgrading is a lot of expense to go to for a platform game. And even if you do have the gear, there are still the other little problems to contend with. Ah, well.
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
2018-12-18 Frogger game added.
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