Review: Ribbit King (Nintendo Gamecube)

Developer: Jamsworks Project
Publisher: Bandai
Genre: Sports/Frog Killing
Release Date 06/19/04

It’s hard as heck to find this game in stores, with the Game Cube version being the rarer of the two, but Ribbit King is one of the most unique games I have ever encountered. And at only $19.99, it’s a bargain many gamers will be hunting down on Ebay in a few years paying double what it goes for now.

However, be warned. Ribbit King makes the entire plot behind the Mario Bros games look sane and actually plausible in reality. Whoever cooked up the entire concept of this game was on more hallucinogenics than a stadium full of lifelong Grateful Dead zealots. It’s like mixing Beavis and Butthead, some cuddly Japanese anime, and the house from PCU that Gutter goes to in order to get a ride into town but instead does a few hits off of a bong and thinks and old lady asks him, “Can you blow me where the pampers is?” I have to say I have never encountered a game as truly insane as Ribbit King. Not Mr. Mosquito. Not Incredible Crisis. Not even the anal rape arcade sim game they have in Japan is as outright madness incarnate as this game.

If you can find this game, you’re going to want to pick it up. If only because you’ve never played anything like it, and for 20$, how can you not being willing to expand your horizons?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Okay. I’m going to do my best here. The game starts on the planet Hippotron. The main character is Scooter, a goat man kinda thingie. Not a satyr like Pan though. Hell I don’t know. Maybe he’s a werelamb. Yeah, in retrospect, he’s a lamb boy. But not like this lamb boy.

Scooter is a construction worker on his planet and thus is pretty good with a sledgehammer. Because of his strength and skill, Scooter is asked (forced) by the King to play frolf for the good of the planet. Why? Because the planet’s important fuel supply of Super Ribbinite is almost depleted. And the only way to win more is to win the Universe’s frolf tournament.

Scooter is teamed up with Picwick, an incredible frolf coach…and talking picnic basket. Together they encounter wacky characters like Pan Pan the Panda, the creepy Frolk judge with a lisp, Princess Tippi and more! Each character is introduced with a completely surreal movie clip highlighting the game’s totally zaniness and madcap humour. It’s cheesy goodness before and after every game of Frolf.

So what is frolf you ask? It’s golf. But it’s not. Get rid of the club and replace it with a hammer. Then get rid of the ball and replace it with a frog. Remember Beavis and Butthead back when they debuted on Liquid Television with “FROG BASEBALL?” It’s not too far off the mark here. It’s just a G rated version of that. Then finally replace a golf course with an obstacle course filled with snakes, wooly mammoths, lava bits and bottomless ravines. That’s frolf.

The idea of frolf is to get a frog in one or to at least get more points per hole. At the end of four holes, the player with the most points wins and get both players points to spend on items. You can rack up points by breaking bubbles, pissing off dinosaurs, swimming, and so many other ways. You will never play the same hole twice. It’s an incredible concept made even more fun by the gibberish that consists of the plot in this game.

The voice acting fits each ludicrous character perfectly. The story mode is silly fun for people of all ages, and even better, with the Game Cube version, you get an entire bonus disc of unlockable movies, each one more bizarre than the last.

It’s so hard to explain the plot of this game. It’s so similar to when I was a little kid trying to explain the adventures of two brothers than owned a plumbing business who entered a kingdom full of walking mushrooms and flying turtles in an attempt to save a princess from a fire breathing dragon like character to people who had never played that game before. And look what happened to that game. Sure, Ribbit King will never enjoy sales that are even a percentage of a percentage of Super Marios Bros, but it’s truly that unique. And unlike that venerable classic, Ribbit King at least TRIES to tell a story.

Again, I must re-iterate, this is the weirdest game I think I have ever played. And I loved every moment of it. Especially the story mode.

Story Rating: 9/10

2. Graphics

Well, it doesn’t push the limits of the PS2 or GCN by any means. In fact this game could easily be done on the Saturn or N64 in terms of how much technology would be required for this game. However, the game still looks great for what it is: A very weird psychedelic twisted version of golf.

The stages are impressive with layout, if not in looks. The game looks like a cartoon. That’s all it really need to resemble. The characters still manage to show a great deal of emotion and cuteness, and the frogs tend to look really ticked off after a while. And who wouldn’t after the way they are being abused?

If you’re looking for a game that is visually stunning, Ribbit King is not your game. However, if you’re looking for a game that looks simple, cute and most of all weird, than Ribbit King will be right up your alley.

Graphics Rating: 5/10

3. Sound

This game does NOT have Oscar caliber voice acting by any stretch of the imagination. But the voices are perfect for the characters. And you might even recognize some if you’re a big cartoon watcher.

The music is cute and fits the game nicely. It’s easily forgettable and some may chalk it up to elevator music for the golfing jet set, but it’s relaxing and not distracting in the least. And as golf enthusiasts can tell you, even the slightest distraction cause play havoc on ones game. After the first time I’ve played a stage, I find I forget the music is even there as I am too busy concentrating on figuring out what swing will give me the maximum amount of points but still keep me in line with the main goal of getting my frog in the whole before the opponents.

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control

Being as the game is designed for all ages, the controls are remarkably simple. You merely aim the character with the analog stick or D pad and then decide to swing. You have a power meter that you hit the A button with and then you send the frog sailing. Simple right? Well, there are two other things to remember.

The first is that your frog may jump a little bit after you hit it. Sometimes this can be helpful. Other times it can hurt you as you jump into a snake or mammoth or even a wall.

The second is that you can use the Y button to get a top view perspective. You will use this a lot in later games as it helps you line up that perfect shot.

Considering all you do is aim and hit the A button to really play Ribbit King, you couldn’t ask for easier, or better controls. Like many great games, Ribbit King is simple to learn, but very hard to master.

Control Rating: 10/10

5. Balance

Well, the problem is this. The computer, 90% of the time, is not very bright, and will defeat itself. The other 10% the computer makes incredible shots that defy logic and skill and you find yourself wondering how it did any of that. But in the end, you’ll find the fun is not beating the computer, but in making some very wacky shots and trying to unlock more movies on Ribbit King Plus or trophies for doing insane things.

The game itself is balanced, and as you learn the mood of your frog(s), you’ll be able to really get a handle for how to play the game to where you are racking up a few hundred to a thousand points per whack.

But still, it’s the computer AI that will leaving you looking for a friend to play against, or else make you set out on a self-improvement tour.

Balance Rating: 6/10

6. Replayability.

Infinite. You want a great party game? Whip out Ribbit King. Either play a round of Frolf with them, or make them watch the unlockable videos and cut scenes. Sheer madness. I don’t even want to imagine what people would do with this game when either drunk or on various drugs.

It takes a long time to unlock everything, and even then, playing against a friend or watching the videos or even just playing against the computer one more time is a lot of fun. There’s something to be said for a game that is simple, adorable, addicting and madder than a room full of hatters.

Replayability Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

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HELLO! It’s a game where you beat smack frogs around with sledgehammers in some sort of weird alien sports tournament while you fly around with a talking pic-a-nic basket and a flaming queen of a referee in your attempt to keeping your planet from dying a terrible terrible death because your manic depressive bi-polar King used up all your natural resources! And the entire game plays like what it must be like to eat an entire pound of shrooms.

I don’t think anything else needs to be said about this game.

Originality Rating: 10/10

8. Appeal

It’s amazing fun. But some people won’t get it. It’s a weird hybrid of a sports game and some crazy Japanese cartoon. Some people will poo poo the cuteness. Some will roll their eyes at the story lacking any pretentiousness whatsoever, which sadly, most games are full to the brim with nowadays.

The sheer uniqueness of the game might be enough to scare potential players away.Same with the drug trippy feel of the game that might piss off some parents.

But as I have said earlier, you really need to experience the psychedelic cuteness that is Ribbit King. Even if it’s not to your taste, it’s a game that has been under-produced and will have a cult following in a year or two. Get it while you can. Just to say you’ve played it so you won’t come off like all the posers claiming to have imported Radiant Silvergun on launch day or that have played all the Megaten games and understood them all just by using a Kanji to English Dictionary.

Appeal Rating: 5/10

9. Addictiveness

Ribbit King is a great game because you can’t obsess over it. It’s not a game you will play for hours on end and neglect sleeping, hygiene, or your social life for. It’s a nice fun game you can play for a round of Frolf (half an hour) or two, then go do something else and enjoy trading jokes about the game with other people who own it.

However, while you are playing it, you’ll find that once you get past the mirth inducing aspects of the game, you really take a clinical look at your shots and become engrossed at such things like dodging the wooly mammoth foot or making sure your frog swims to the left and not the right. Little things like that. It’s a nice touch that the game can be enjoyed on some many levels by a wide range of ages.

However, multiplayer mode (especially 4 player on the cube) is going to be a lot more addicting, If only because of the insane conversation this game will elicit from you all.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10

10. Miscellaneous

The Game Cube version comes with a bonus disc of movies. The regular game has tons of trophies to unlock and wacky gimmick combos to pull off. You can play this game for hours every night and still be missing the combo shot that is obvious to everyone else. It’s incredible how in-depth this game can go for being so simple in regards to gameplay.

For only 20 bucks Jamworks Projects has really created a game worth double that in terms of all they packed into the disc. Hilarious characters. A lot of jokes for all ages. Funny gameplay. You name it, it’s in here. Ribbit King takes you back to the time when gaming was simple and fun. It’s hard not to really like this game. But then, it’s also hard to find a copy of it.

Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10

Short Attention Span Summary
The 411: A game that has totally fallen under the radar for most gamers, Ribbit King is a collector’s item waiting to happen. And unlike a lot of rare games, Ribbit King is actually a lot of fun. Grab the Game Cube version over the PS2 version no matter what because of the bonus disc. Just remember, EBgames refuses to admit there is a Game Cube version, so look elsewhere like Software Etc or Gamestop. But for 20$, you’re not going to find a better game for the price that manages to mix originality with total insanity like Ribbit King.