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21st January 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
even I was skeptical that Frogger 3D would turn out to be a positive turn-around for the somewhat troubled franchise. In truth, the developers have done their best to push Frogger into new territory and focus less on rehashing. And although it took a while for me to realize it, it wouldn't be fair to dismiss Frogger 3D entirely.
Before you can even get to the Main Menu, the game starts you off with a round of the original Frogger on an arcade machine. This occurs every single time you boot up the game for no real reason, but thankfully you can skip this by pressing the A Button. Once you actually step into the pool, you'll notice that Frogger 3D has a much more urban feel to it. Some may see this as tad unexpected, but it does work given the franchise's origins and how it all started out. The somewhat childish dynamic seen in certain stages and some avenues of the presentation serve as points of contrast against the difficult stages seen later on. In so doing, Frogger 3D has this conflicting aesthetic that tries to draw out older fans with a look that fluctuates between modern and yesterday's news. At the same time, the game also tries to appeal to new players who have limited familiarity with the series by adopting a frog-meets-world perspective and isolating fantasy to one or two concentrated areas. You can kind of tell just how conflicted the development team was in trying to cater to the right target market with this release.
During gameplay, the only buttons you'll ever make use of are the four arrow keys on the +Control Pad, making Frogger 3D a comfortable game to play. Moving past the controls, the screen layout is laid out in a pretty logical fashion. The top screen displays all the action with a time bar along the bottom and a life indicator, while the Touch Screen hosts a simplified map that gives you a general idea of where things are. The camera doesn't allow for an overview of an entire level, so having this can make you feel a little more comfortable about going into a level for the first time.
At the very bottom of the upper screen lies another horizontal bar that displays any achievements you earn mid-level. Many of them are pretty standard, tasking you with reaching the Goal portals with all your lives intact or stepping in a specific area. Others like "Metal-Dear-Solid", "Indiana frog", and "DanceMaster"are a little more fun. Arguably, the things they have you doing -- falling off the stage, purposely suffering a hit from a particular enemy, or just narrowly avoiding a death -- are more pointless, and had it not been for their comical nature, the whole system would be seen as a worthless inclusion. At any rate, there are 227 you can strive for in all and the motivation is there in a mild sense.
The objective in each level is to locate the Goal portal -- which may not necessarily be at the uppermost edge -- and lead Frogger there on foot. Once you do that, a second Goal will open up in a different spot, requiring you to change your strategy slightly. In some stages, you'll find two portals right off the bat, with one of them being an Alternate Goal that will lead you to a different path on the Stage Select menu. Under normal circumstances, though, getting to the third Goal will officially mean you clear the stage.
With each new Goal that you make it to, new stage elements may be added, enemy patterns will change in speed or number, and a batch of Coins that weren't originally present will then appear. Coins add extra challenge and convenience, allowing you to unlock levels that would otherwise require you to complete the level before it (or two levels in the case of a branching path). In most cases, these actually make the game more fun. The amount of lives you finish with will determine the Frog Medal you earn at the end. Gold Medals are kind of hard to come by initially, but once you get a handle on things works, it's just a matter of being extra careful not to slip up on subsequent attempts.
With each passing level, the groupings of obstacles you come face-to-face with will change. For example, in the Home Town world, a heavy duty truck makes surprise appearances in multiple levels to throw you off. Recurring elements you'll see across the board are climbable objects that feature green symbols of webbed feet. Standing at the top of an object like a crate or any other platform may present Superjump opportunities that launch Frogger forward. Since this action takes place in slow motion, I suppose this would make him seem more hip to younger audiences.
Beyond the usual cars and taxis, common enemies seen on a regular basis come in the form of quick-moving rats. With the way they gnaw at Frogger's "carcass", I can only assume they're close friends with Slippy Toad. Other enemies include golden yellow snakes, toy tanks, cool-coloured dragons, and lobsters. Commonalities aside, having world-specific obstacles like spinning cards in a casino isn't a foreign feature by any means, and it works exactly how you would imagine it to.
Along the way, Frogger will team up with friends from his new posse -- 'cause he clearly wasn't always this popular -- and ride on their backs to get where he needs to go. Big Frog can knock down walls and other thin structures; Luminous Frog can activate solar panels on trucks and light the way in dark areas; Iron Frog can grant near-invincibility for a short period of time; and finally, Vore Frog can do homing jumps towards tomatoes in its direct path. As a group, they're not going to make you fall in love with the game more -- at least beyond the variety they add to the gameplay. Plus, the fact that some of these frogs sound like they had a run-in with a wizard (mooing and meowing) makes them hard to like. However, I did appreciate how the level designs would often make these allies feel less of an afterthought and more of a concept that they were legitimately trying to explore.
In considering Frogger 3D's level design, there really is a load of assertions one could make about the sort of approach the development team took. You start off in the Home Town and New York City worlds, filled with busy highways and top-down confrontations with traffic (as per the norm). I expected the majority of these street levels to be repetitive, but there were some surprisingly interesting levels. At one point, you'll be walking along a skyscraper as metal bars fall from the sky. There's also a junkyard level that has more of a puzzle feel to it where you need to jump across crates and avoid holes in between as you essentially follow a zigzag-like path en route to the goals. Moving further away from the tried-and-true theme is more of an exploratory approach in the Casino world. Here you'll be crawling across slot machines, walking along stacks of poker chips, or even getting across automatic card dispensers. Not that they're badly-designed, but there were a few levels here that kind of made me forget about the fun I was starting to have early on. On the whole, though, the designs themselves are usually attention-grabbing.
In contrast, Military Island had some of the weakest levels of all the worlds. The factory and battlefield settings don't feel as fleshed out as the levels seen in earlier and later levels. The only really interesting level was situated on a wing of a jet fighter, and the only level I actually had fun with was a dark environment where spotlights hunted you down.
Far East made up for all that, featuring levels that were timing-based and much more engaging. In one level, players will climb up rocks pitched up against a wall with rushing water pouring down overhead. Meanwhile, you'll also have to be wary of fish that flap their tails to swim against the grain so they can dart at you and make you their lunchtime snack. Another interesting layout was situated in what seemed like a Zen room, where you need to hop to the rhythm of the teetering bamboo sticks. All in all, there's quite a bit of fun to be had in this world.
The "final" world, Pseudo Dimension, contains some of the most challenging levels in the game, centering on visual trickery, unrealistic circumstances and bold changes in platforms. Between passing throw rows of traffic on a large cylinder, playing a game of probability to get across a path, knocking over cardboard cut-outs of vehicles to get across lava, and weaving through limos both on and off the ground, you can definitely say there are some crazy levels here. In a general sense, I enjoyed the somewhat unpredictable nature of some of the later levels, but since surprise factor is something that's explored multiple times throughout the experience, it would be wise for me not to go into greater detail about this.
At the end of each world, you'll come up against a boss -- something that's not at all common for most Frogger players. Many of them start out simple, like using pylons to pop the tires of a giant truck, but before you know it you'll be running away from a large monster along a strip of rock and lava or trying to eat all the cherries on a giant roulette. Overall, bosses are a very mixed bag. Some are fun, but others are just so irritating that you won't want to go back to them again.
While I wouldn't use the term "unputdownable" to describe the levels in this game (yeah, interesting word choice Konami...), Frogger 3D can get addicting even when coming up against a difficult hurdle. In a broad sense, level designs introduce a much stronger dynamic centered on planning, timing and the occasional puzzle-solving which expands upon the simple-natured premise of the original into something more entertaining. This is coming from someone who has never been too excited about the franchise to begin with, so your thoughts may very well vary from mine depending on your attachment to Frogger. But it's this vast range of ideas that they've explored that makes the slightly repetitive nature of the original (and even subsequent releases) fade into the background. Naturally, because you need to clear stages thrice, the repetition still exists, but it is controlled.
In all honesty, there are some levels that are laid out in such a dubious fashion that your feelings toward them will go beyond mere annoyance. One level in the Casino, for example, seemed extremely narrow with what players had to do for the third Goal. Justifiable frustration does arise on a number of occasions, and sometimes you just need a break from the game to get beyond what's troubling you. There was a point when I was stuck on like five different stages, and I had to step away from the game for a few hours. When I returned, I breathed a sigh of relief as I successfully completed some of these bothersome stages.
A few buggers aside, I don't feel that levels ask too much from players. Sure, some will definitely require more patience than others, but with perseverance, you can certainly clear all stages in this game. I was more annoyed that some levels seemed to have unnecessary gimmicks. In many of the stages found in New York City, there's a hawk that swoops in to attack you if you linger around for too long. It felt totally thrown in just for the sake of making things difficult, and it's these kinds of instances that reflect a reduction in quality with the design. For the most part, more than half of the whole lot are executed well, I'd say.
Does 3D play a role at all in engaging players or having them see things from a different perspective? Well, I should say right now that you could easily do without the 3D activated at all. At certain angles, it looks like there's double of everything, and seeing Frogger crash into the screen when squished by a car or a train doesn't give off the greatest vibe. But in other areas, when taken from an aerial perspective, 3D can make an entire level seem more alluring in a subtle manner.
Unfortunately, the slowdown in framerate conflicts with any smoothness the 3D tries to achieve. This is something that first becomes a bother in World 3 and it just gets worse from there. Sad to say, the framerate is very inconsistent throughout, and this is something you need to be prepared for if you decide to give the game a go.
More on presentation, the music in this game feels very uninspired, and the overall soundtrack lacks cohesion. While I did take a liking to one of the menu tunes and thought there was a good feeling of tension in the boss music, I wasn't as big a fan of the stage music. It felt like the persons responsible for the in-game audio were confused and couldn't decide on a recurring thread to hold everything together. One song sounds like it's better suited to a rock concert, while another sounds like a battle theme for an RPG. I also could've done without the continuous squeaky sound effects every time Frogger takes a step, but that's something I eventually got used to.
Once I defeated the final boss in World 6, I figured the single-player mode was complete. But as it turns out, the game has you starting back in Home Town again with the only change being the speed. Originally I questioned this and considered whether this really made levels worth plowing through a second time -- an understandable thought because for a good while, I was just breezing through levels since I had been exposed to their layouts once before. But later on, I realized this added challenge factor actually does create some worthwhile replay value. Sure, it does so at the risk of making the first six worlds seem slower, and playing some of the frustrating stages again will definitely put players off. But I do think having the gameplay sped up for a second go-round is a mostly positive thing.
Aside from Single Mode, you also have a multiplayer component where you can compete with up to three other players in an assortment of stages. Coins earned in multiplayer are added to your bank in single-player mode, so there is some incentive there to play. I personally wasn't able to test this out, though. Then you have the endless Forever Crossing mode, an addition I imagine will please the arcade fans. I personally, however, see no point in going back to it. StreetPass is tied to this mode where the ghost for your best run will be sent to people you exchange data with. And finally, just to round out the unlockables, there's also a Challenge Mode, 3D-enabled concept artwork, as well as Free and Timed Modes available for a large sum of Coins.
I don't think $30 is that big of an asking price for the amount of content here, but I can see why some would still hesitate to jump into it. Especially considering the variety and occasional creativity in the level designs, this isn't a game you should discount solely because of the price. In preparation for this review, I played Frogger 3D extensively. It took me about ten hours just to get to World 7, and that's without having completed every single stage along the way. Also keep in mind that this isn't after sitting through the game over the span of a week, because realistically, Frogger 3D is meant to be taken in chunks. In total, though, I've played the game close to 20 hours, and with there still being more for me to accomplish, I can rightly say there's a lot to get out of this game if you're involved.
Ultimately, if you're looking for a game that will do more than just sit in your collection months later, Frogger 3D is the kind of game you'll be playing for quite some time. There is a need to keep an open mind from the get-go since the amount of enjoyment you derive depends on how much you put into it. But with pleasantly surprising variety in its level design, replayable gameplay, and worthwhile bonus features, it's not hard to see how Frogger 3D can grow on a person.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Good design with some puzzle elements, some levels have unnecessary gimmicks, alternating Goal setup, allies, superjumps, mixed bosses
Presentation 6/10 - Inconsistent framerate, 3D can play a minor role in enhancing visual appearance, music lacks cohesion, interesting urban aesthetic
Enjoyment 3/5 - Has its moments, can be legitimately frustrating, levels hold your attention, variety helps with the overall mood, mildly motivating
Extra Content 5/5 - Speed increase in World 7 and up, decent Achievements, Coins and Medals add replay value, Challenge Mode, four-player multiplayer
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System