Review: Frogger Hyper Arcade Edition (Sony PS3)
by Aaron Sirois on July 24, 2012

Frogger Hyper Arcade Edition
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Zombie Studios
Genre: Action
Release Date: 07/10/2012

Frogger is a true gaming legend. Thirty years ago, Konami released the original to the arcades, and they haven’t looked back since. Frogger has seen numerous sequels, releases, and re-imaginings. Frogger Hyper Arcade Edition is the latest, sent out to celebrate the series’ thirtieth birthday. It features a ton of modes, throwbacks, and new content to try and make it the most compelling entry to date.

The odd thing here is that Zombie Studios was at the helm for this one. Their most high profile releases were the Saw series of games. While I got enough enjoyment out of both Saw titles, they hardly spoke to me in a way where I thought “these guys would make one hell of a Frogger game”. Still, Frogger seems like a title that’s almost impossible to screw up.

So, have the years been kind to our amphibian hero, or is this yet another legend that can’t stand tall in a modern gaming world?

Modes

Frogger HAE throws a ton of options at players, all intended to stave off monotony for as long as possible. Let’s not forget, the core of Frogger is an arcade game. Arcade games were designed to be simple and to suck money from people who wanted to etch their name on a leaderboard. Just reissuing that simple offering wouldn’t be worth ten dollars these days. We expect, and demand, more.

Basic Frogger is still in play. In this mode, you lead frogs to the safe zones past a busy road and an even busier waterway. Getting seven frogs to safety moves you forward to the next level, where things get tougher. Twin Frogger does the same thing, but has you controlling two frogs at the same time. Higher difficulties give you more distance between frogs. For players looking for a tougher challenge, that will surely fit the bill.

Next up we’ve got some multiplayer modes. These include Battle Royale, Tile Capture, and Lady Frog Rescue. In Battle Royale, players look to either outlast or outscore three other frogs. Grabbing a lady frog is similar to getting a super pellet in Pac-Man, and there are other power-ups as well. Tile capture is interesting. By hopping onto a space, you mark it with your color, but the only way to lock it in is to get a frog to safety. In the meantime, enemy frogs can take over your spaces. Lady Frog Rescue is like tile capture, but instead of of marking territory, you’re saving females.

There are still more modes to talk about. Paint is a mode where you need to hop on tiles to mark them. The tiles in question make up a picture. Paint every tile, and you’ve won, but that’s often easier said than done. Froggy Freak Out runs you through a gauntlet of challenges from all of the other modes. One minute you’re saving lady frogs, and the next you’re moving twin frogs through treacherous traffic. The various objectives make it the star mode of the game. Finally, there’s a challenge mode. There are twenty challenges to complete, and many of them are quite difficult. They involve getting high scores and accomplishing tough feats in fast times.

The variety doesn’t just end at modes. You can choose a variety of themes, music, and even different control schemes to mix things up. For example, the DDR/Karaoke Revolution level replaces vehicles with arrows. The Konami code can be used to unlock a Contra level, complete with classic enemies and the even more classic Contra theme. There are even two control types to use. Classic uses the normal Frogger scheme, and the hyper control scheme allows you to hold down the directional button in order to move continuously.

For ten dollars, there is a surprisingly large amount of content here. It seems there is a lot you can do with such a simple formula, and HAE certainly delivers on that idea. Any time you grow tired of one mode, you can try another. My only complaint is that the multiplayer modes are offline only. Though I doubt an online community would have been created for Frogger of all things, it was still a letdown. The AI frogs are just no match. That’s the only blemish I can come up with here.

Graphics

With a variety of skins to choose from, Frogger looks completely different depending on how you play. Even the frogs themselves change. There is a classic looking 8-Bit version, a more modern interpretation, and then you’ve got the more out there skins like Castlevania, Contra, and DDR.

The kicker is that many of these skins simply look bad. The “next gen” skin is boring and looks more like something out the SNES days than something truly modern. The DDR one is easily the worst. The arrows and note bars are uninteresting, and the horrible colors make it a complete eyesore. I’m not a fan of the hyper skin either, as it just seems to have decided neon colors were enough. When I think of the word “hyper”, I don’t think of what I see here.

This is a visually unimpressive game. That’s kind of to be expected, but it’s still a letdown. It can grow chaotic during multiplayer as well, as it becomes hard to keep track of what is going on thanks to all of the movement and vaguely defined characters. The problems add up to the point where you’ll grow sick of looking at the thing after a while. I’ve learned to stick to the two or three skins I can stand.

Audio

HAE follows recent trends when it comes to music for new versions of Arcade classics. Rather than keep the old stuff, a new brand of electronic music influenced by the older tunes dominates the soundtrack. In fact, the only use of the old school Frogger theme is as an intro. The songs are… kind of annoying. I found that a couple of them could be enjoyed, but only for a minute or two. This is problematic, because you pick one song when you play. That song loops until you get your game over. If you get stuck with a clunker, that’s too bad. Honestly, the best tunes in the game are the ones borrowed from Contra and Castlevania. They stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The sound effects are pretty basic and standard. They’re pretty much ripped straight from the original game, though they’ve been cleaned up a bit. This is both good and bad. It’s good because those classic sounds are important to the overall feel of the game. It’s bad because that damned jumping noise gets really freaking old after awhile. The same can be said of any old school game, however. I’m not singling Frogger out on this one.

Overall, the presentation is just lagging. Granted, presentation isn’t the most important part, especially when we’re talking about a thirty year old franchise about a frog crossing traffic. Still, the audio in particular can have a serious negative impact on your enjoyment of the game. That’s a shame.

Gameplay

Frogger is about as simple as it gets. In fact, there are no buttons to worry about during normal play. The only thing you need to operate your frog is the d-pad and/or analog stick. A simple press or motion will move the frog in the desired direction. That’s it.

During multiplayer, an additional feature is introduced. There are three power-ups that can be found and used. Red flies teleport the other players, blue flies freeze them in place, and green flies reverse the controls. You can hold one of these at a time, and activate them by pressing a shoulder button. This is a feature that is rarely used, but still amusing.

There are some control issues. The timing between jumps is very crucial. You can’t simply tap the button to get the frog to move. In fact, mashing is a good way to screw the timing up. Instead, there’s a certain rhythm to getting the frog to move as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is fine when you’re moving in a straight line continuously. However, the very premise of Frogger demands that you constantly move around and change direction. This makes things a pain, and it is very easy to mistime a press so that you don’t jump at all. It takes a lot of practice to get over that.

For obstacles, the game sticks with the classics. Vehicles on the road come in a few different sizes, speeds, and patterns. Any touch will be an instant death. On the water, you have snakes, alligators, otters, and turtles to worry about. The turtles are especially nasty. They’re used as platforms, but they will randomly sink below the water. Going underwater is an instant death. Since you can’t really time when the turtles sink, luck plays far too large of a factor in whether you survive your crossing. You can also die by touching the edges of the playing field.

The point of each level is to move seven frogs to seven different lilly pads. Once a pad is occupied, another frog can’t land there. Any attempts to do so results in a lost life. Grabbing flies and/or lady frogs increases your score. Extra lives are awarded at specified score milestones. Scores are also posted to an online leaderboard. It’s a pretty standard arcade action game.

The Frogger style of gameplay is thirty years old. While this game adds some new twists in extra modes, the classic style remains intact. It’s simple, challenging, and can be pretty fun. Though the controls can feel a bit stiff, and the luck factor of the turtles seems cruel, the gameplay still receives positive marks. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Replayability

I’ve already covered the sheer number of modes available to play in this game. There are eight of them, and together they allow players the chance to always find something to do. I’ve played a number of equally priced PSN games, and few of them offer this much content. It’s true that not every player will like every mode, but there is something for pretty much everyone here.

A single game of Frogger can go anywhere from a minute to over an hour depending on your skill and patience. If you’re truly set on moving up the leaderboard or clearing every challenge the game has to throw at you, you’re in for a long ride. If you just want to try everything, you can accomplish that in less than an hour.

Online multiplayer would have pushed the game over the top. However, it still offers a pretty darn good amount of content. At the very least, they didn’t just repackage the same old game and call it a day.

Balance

Arcade games were designed to hook the player and get them to spend quarter after quarter. As you can imagine, a good way of doing this was to make the games fairly difficult. Frogger was, and is, no exception. While early levels are easily passable, things quickly pick up. The speed in which you need to react is unforgiving. When you throw in those damn turtles, things get evil. Not to mention, you’re on a time limit with each life. When you’re stuck in the median because there’s no platform to jump onto, it can become frustrating.

What it comes down to is probably a 50/50 split between luck and skill. That might be an even ration, but it doesn’t make for the most balanced game. The most skilled player can still get screwed over by turtles or a lack of logs. In the Paint mode, it was incredibly easy to get stuck in a no win situation. You’re screwed no matter what you do.

While some may appreciate this unforgiving attitude, I can’t exactly call it balanced. After all, a true challenge is when you lose because of lack of skill, not because of bad luck. This is one aspect of the arcade original that needed some work.

Originality

I must again mention that this is a re-release of a thirty year old game. Classic Frogger may have gotten a visual upgrade, but the gameplay remains exactly the same. That doesn’t exactly reek of originality.

Then again, the developers went out of their way to go as far with the formula as they could. The plethora of extra modes help the game score some points here, which I thought would be impossible. It may be true that other arcade classics have seen similar types of releases, but it’s still a positive step. There are few things worse than a quick and dirty port. This is not one of them.

Addictiveness

Initially, the game is quite addictive. There’s a rush of excitement at the idea of trying out all of the modes. After that feeling is gone, you’ll end up reflecting on which modes you really liked, and which ones were better left unplayed. After that initial period, you’ll likely end up playing two or three go to modes that you like the best.

There is a certain drive to push forward and better your top score. The online leaderboards help in that regard. After all, if there are hundreds or even thousands of players with a better score than you, than something needs to be done. I find myself turning the game on every once in awhile just to move my score up a bit. That’s a good sign for the game’s longevity.

However, the game does not lend itself well to extended play sessions. Hours of Frogger on end will likely put off most players for quite some time. That’s due to the game’s simplicity. Having only one way to interact with the game can definitely get old. We need more than jumping.

Still, the game scores decent marks here.

Appeal Factor

For old timers looking to relive the glory days of the early eighties, this is probably a must buy. Frogger is a legitimate classic for a reason. It has stood the test of time and will likely continue to do so. For younger players though, the game isn’t such an easy sell. The concept is outdated, and all of the fresh makeup that Zombie Studios has applied can’t hide the fact that this game’s core concept is from the stone age.

Despite the ever present generational gap, Frogger should do well. After all, it’s reasonably priced at ten dollars. Were there less content, I would say the game was over-priced. What’s here, though, is good. This is one areas where the download only format works. No one is going to buy Frogger as a stand alone game at retail prices. Nostalgic fans and/or curious newcomers will likely see ten dollars as a blow they can stomach. If it were at five dollars, the game would be a must buy.

Miscellaneous

Throughout my time writing this review and actually playing the game, I was torn. On one hand, nostalgia was hitting me hard. I may not have been able to play the game when it first came out, but Frogger has been a fixture in the gaming community since I was born. It was familiar, and fun. On the other hand, there are a lot of issues that have to affect the score. The presentation is a letdown on all fronts, the balance is all over the place, and there’s yet one more major problem I’ve yet to mention.

The game freezes. It freezes a lot. It will freeze at just about every opportunity. I’ve had it freeze as a trophy popped up, as I was in a late game of classic, and even right after the first jump. When this happens, you lose any unsaved progress, have to restart your system, and hope you have the patience to not throw your controller across the room. It’s extremely annoying that such a simple game comes saddled with such a crippling problem. It’s bad enough when something complex like Skyrim glitches out on you, but Frogger? Seriously? I pray this gets patched soon.

Beyond that, I did enjoy the game. I would recommend that interested parties pick the game up. The overall experience is an enjoyable one. It’s just sad there are as many frustrating moments as they are.

The Scores
Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Poor
Audio: Poor
Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Bad
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
Final Score: Decent Game!

Short Attention Span Summary:
Basically, Frogger Hyper Arcade Edition is a mixed bag. While it does bring the classic gameplay with a some fun twists, it also brings lackluster production values and game crashing bugs. Not to mention, it remains firmly rooted in the old arcade tradition of trying to suck quarters out of the player. While you won’t be chipping in money to keep playing, you’ll still be unceremoniously killed by circumstance. In short, the game is worthwhile, but ultimately not as good as it could have been.




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