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Frogger 3D (3DS) artwork

Frogger 3D (3DS) review


"There are situations where youíll find yourself playing through something fiendishly clever and youíll realize that itís a perfect extension of the classic gameplay. Of particular note are the stages that finish up each of the worlds. To complete the first world, youíll have to flatten the tires of a huge truck (the same one that elsewhere has been squishing frogs, I like to think) by pushing a spike strip into its path. The second world concludes with a harrowing ride atop several trucks as you avoid low-hanging signs, eagles and holes."



My earliest memories of Frogger revolve around the summer day when I took a stroll along the gravel road to the neighbor kidís house. He had an Atari 2600 (or was it a 5200?), and even though I owned an NES that featured all sorts of cool games with mind-blowing graphics, I was quite willing to sample software on systems that werenít as cutting-edge as what I had at home. That was especially true when my schoolmate pulled out Konamiís classic game about a frog trying to cross the road and a nasty swamp. I found the whole experience mesmerizing. Some of that dayís wonder remains with me even now, waiting to be revived each time I hear the familiar jingle or see the lettering on the side of an old arcade cabinet in a dimly-lit pizzeria.

Frogger 3D, the latest installment in the classic franchise that I once enjoyed so much, appears to have been designed specifically for people like me. Iíve played games long enough and often enough that now it sometimes feels like thereís nothing new to see thatíll ever stack up to the stuff I was playing two decades ago. Increasingly, I find myself getting the most enjoyment out of games that are updates to the digital conquests of my youth. Like so many other gamers my age who just never gave up the habit, I am always ready to abandon todayís flash and flair in favor of something basic and fun. Itís probably not a good sign, then, that Frogger 3D didnít utterly captivate me.

Frogger 3D asset


Perhaps the change in setting is part of the problem. Although Frogger 3D eventually covers all of the same ground as its predecessors--and much more on top of that--the early stages only capture that content in pieces. The first few levels in the single-player campaign are devoted almost entirely to crossing crammed city streets and climbing around crates, for instance. Cars race back and forth across the screen, or up and down if the road is pointed in a different direction, and you have to time your movements so that you can negotiate the gauntlet without winding up a monstrous stain on someoneís windshield or grill. The goal is positioned somewhere in the middle of all of that mayhem, a glowing beacon that no sane frog could possibly resist.

As in classic Frogger, though, simply reaching the goal isnít enough to win or even improve upon the day. When you arrive at your initial destination, you are taken back to the start of the level and a second target area is provided. This one is more difficult to reach than the last one was, thanks to less convenient placement (kind of like in the old game where it was easy to get to the two middle bases but the ones on the left and right required much more careful timing and a bit of luck). There also are now coins that you can grab along the way and those allow you to unlock later stages--which can also be unlocked by completing the preceding challenges--and an extra game mode. Coins are mostly lying about to increase the risks youíre willing to take as you try to reach that second goal and then find that thereís a third one waiting in the wings.

While itís easy to appreciate that the developers were holding true to the classic convention, itís easier still to appreciate the fact that they donít require you to reach the once-standard four goals in order to clear a stage. Three goals amount to enough tedium, especially in some of the less engaging or more convoluted stages. For example, there are a number of particularly offensive levels in World 3. In one case, you must ascend a slot machine while avoiding dropping coins. Then you have to stomp on three buttons to stop the slots at just the right time and win a jackpot so that the goal will appear and you can tag it. If you mess up too often, you run out of time. If you run out of time or get hit by coins or whatever else, you might have to restart the stage and that means patiently engineering another few jackpot wins. It doesnít feel quite fair.

Frogger 3D asset


There are other moments that feel less than fair, as well. Itís always been the case with Frogger games that venturing too close to the edge of the screen puts you at greater risk because you have less time to react if something enters suddenly from the side, but in Frogger 3D you also have to worry about late arrivals along the top and bottom of the screen. In some areas, that can get downright cheap. Youíll be in the middle of a lane of traffic with no room to dart to the side and suddenly a huge semi rolls along the road, flattening everything in its path. A smart player will time his rushes for the moments following that semiís appearance, but a player who is fresh to the stage might not even realize that the truck will be coming.

Fortunately, thereís also plenty of good news to go around. The example I provided with the slot machine shows how things went wrong in cases where the developers got too imaginative, but there are also plenty of situations where youíll find yourself playing through something fiendishly clever and youíll realize that itís a perfect extension of the classic gameplay. Of particular note are the stages that finish up each of the worlds. To complete the first world, youíll have to flatten the tires of a huge truck (the same one that elsewhere has been squishing frogs, I like to think) by pushing a spike strip into its path. The second world concludes with a harrowing ride atop several trucks as you avoid low-hanging signs, eagles and holes.

Frogger 3D asset


In some ways, Frogger 3D feels as much like a puzzle game as it does an action title. There are cases where youíll have to try a stage a few times before you figure out--for instance--that you must hop on the back of one of your larger frog friends and quickly gobble up cherries before his timer expires so that you can then hop through a space that the large fruit blocked. Elsewhere, stages can have multiple exits and you have to figure out how to reach them if you want to most conveniently experience every one of the 60 or so stages in the game. Since high scores and rankings on stages are also saved, thatís another way that you can challenge yourself and have fun playing long after youíve ďbeatenĒ a given zone. Thereís also an ďendlessĒ endurance mode where you can hop along an infinite number of streets and ponds pulled directly from the original Frogger.

Throughout the years, Konami has tried a number of tricks to make Frogger relevant for a fresh audience. Some of those attempts have fared better than others, but nearly all of them have complicated the play style too much. The result was typically something that strayed too far from its roots. Frogger 3D avoids that particular trap. While imbuing this new project with greatly improved visuals and a wider variety of stages and challenges, the developers at Alpha Unit also showed uncommon respect for the core elements that made the original title so much fun to experience. For all of its shortcomings, thereís the distinct possibility that this is the best implementation of the classic Frogger formula that the world will ever see. Whether or not thatís enough to warrant a purchase really comes down to how much of a kick you figure youíll get out of seeing a frog revival, the price on the sale tag and possibly your proximity to a working Atari console.

Rating: 6/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (October 19, 2011)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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