It’s irking to see a series with plenty of untapped potential fail to claim what’s rightfully made possible through the immediate gratification of a platform such as the Xbox 360‘s Live Arcade. Although perhaps we should be thankful that the developer’s didn’t over-exert themselves over another broken platformer nightmare, such as so many Xbox titles. Sticking to your guns sometimes is the most appropriate move you can make, although the achieved end result might not be spectacular. While I don’t believe this was the right thing to do entirely in this particular situation, god bless Konami for not continuing upon the downward spiral that had been every sequel to the Frogger saga. The better way to go might’ve been not to release Frogger as a singular game, or to hold off on some kind of Konami’s Greatest Hits compilation.
Frogger’s influence over pop culture is immense. It was the basis of a 2005 MTV Music Awards skit in which Will Farrell, as the architect of The Matrix, claims to have invented Frogger and preceding that had played a large role in a memorable Seinfeld episode called “The Frogger”. I’ve got nothing against Frogger in its original arcade form, but it hasn’t aged so well so as to be in contention with titles like Sonic The Hedgehog or Streets of Rage. Bringing out the classic for the twenty-fifth anniversary makes sense and I’d defend Konami all the way if it hadn’t been brought to every console spanning over the last twenty-five years, also. Maybe a little distance would make the heart grow fonder. Last time I bought a Frogger title before now had been with my original play station, as I felt the restoration into 3D was sound enough, but I’ve played the others in between and the water has become choppy.
That’s okay though. It’s easy to forgive something which merely means to recapture the exact experience of yesteryear. There’s a modest attempt to modernize the formula. Playable with either enhanced or original settings, it’s hard to tell which makes for a better gameplay experience. While the original version could easily be passed off as bland, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In our enhanced mode, we find a slightly altered soundtrack and a visual style flush with color where it had been left to our imagination, in the past. That’s all that really counts in the end anyhow, when a game is reliant entirely on the player’s reflexes and ideas about how they wish to make it from the bottom of the screen, to the top. There seems to be something wrong with the hit detection in Frogger, causing your frog to be run over, pushed off the screen, and attacked by vicious wildlife far before god intended for him to die.
I’ve found that there’s even some slow down in the enhanced version, believe it or not. So at risk of dying far more often than you should, you’ll at least be able to enjoy the simple visual upgrade. At the top of the screen are divots which are called Frog Homes, obviously this is the destination for each of your frogs. Per level, there are five of these grass patches. Once each one has been filled, you’ll progress to the next level. There are enough perils placed between your frogs and their individual homes that the odds stack up against you in short time. There are the left and the right edges of the screen, the road consisting of four lanes congested with traffic, a series of turtles and logs to jump upon to avoid falling into the water, and then the enemies which patrol the waterway. Timing is key in Frogger and if you’re anything less than proficient in this aspect, you’re not going to get very far. As frog homes are occupied, the game speed ramps up, with new swamp creatures and faster vehicles occupying much of your pathway, in some of the later levels (of which there are only five).
Frogger succeeds in being the first in its series to include online play, yet forgets to give gamers a reason to play. Over Xbox Live, a few variations on the main Arcade game are available. There’s Vs., Vs. Speed, and Co-Op Mode. Somehow, only Vs. made it into the local multi-player selection. I’ve honestly played Frogger once online and it was with a friend. Otherwise, I’ve been unsuccessful in finding a single match. Whether or not this single added feature will make it a likely purchase for you depends entirely on whether or not you’re sure that one of your friends can play with you over Live. If so, the lag is something awful, taking into account what is being displayed on screen (nothing which would sweat a 16-bit console).
For anyone still harboring what I’d suppose is an unhealthy measure of faith in the Frogger franchise, throwing several hundred gamer points at the problem with this XBLA adaptation of the renowned 25+ year old series probably wouldn’t be the worst idea. After all, at its core is one of the greatest arcade games ever. Just remember that there’s nothing else waiting for you and that although you can finally get online with a Frogger title, you’ll be more alone there than you would be playing single-player. It’s a shame that the new Xbox Live gameplay variants weren’t adapted for local play and that the enhanced version isn’t quite as reliable as the original. If anything, Frogger remains cheap over XBLA and acts as a good enough distraction from all of today’s ultra-serious war games.