Frogger: The Great Quest Review – Hopping Mad Platforming (TBT)
The year was 2001. The golden age of 3D platformers flooding the gaming market, especially ones starring cute cartoon animal mascots, was nearing its end. That didn’t stop Konami from releasing Frogger: The Great Quest; a game that reimagined Frogger, the characterless namesake of the 1981 arcade game of the same name, into an anthropomorphic shorts-wearer, with a zany personality to match.
Developed by the now-defunct Papa Yeti Studio, I played Frogger: The Great Quest all the time growing up. I’m not sure why, but there was a handful of games that whenever my siblings and I reached the end, we’d start over and play it again. Frogger: The Great was one such game. Back then, I was oblivious to the game’s flaws, and as they say — ignorance is bliss.
You control Frogger as he jumps, spits, glides, and frog fu’s his way through the various levels. For a platformer, Frogger: The Great Quest has one fundamental flaw that can’t be excused – it doesn’t know how to platform well. The buttons are sticky, with sometimes their being an obvious delay in when you press a button to when Frogger actually performs the action. Just keeping Frogger on the narrow platforms he must navigate is a struggle as the analog controls are a bit wonky and lack the precision necessary, and fighting the camera is a struggle all its own. The only saving grace is there isn’t any fall damage and barely any bottomless pits to fall into. Whenever you do die, which will usually be in combat — a process that boils down to just spamming the attack button until all your foes (or you) are dead — you respawn instantaneously at the nearest check point. However, that opens another can of worms regarding there being no consequences for failure as the game doesn’t feature any sort of lives system.
How my siblings and I played this game back in the day so mindlessly of these faults blows my mind. Although, I can’t be too hard on the game. And not because I have nostalgia blinders on, but because the game does do some things right when it comes to level design and characterization.
The story has a simple yet bizarre setup; After overhearing two boys discussing the Brother Grim fairy tale “The Frog Prince”, Frogger decides he wants to become human and wishes upon a star. Suddenly, a Fairy Froggy Mother appears in front of him. Instead of granting his wish, she sends him on a quest to seek out a princess whose kiss will turn him into one. Hijinks then ensue as Frogger is continually guided to princesses who can’t or just flat out refuse to kiss him, forcing him to travel from location to location to track down a reliable lead that will point him towards a princess that is both willing and able. The dialogue is, presumably, unintentionally terrible while the voice acting is just as absurd. This results in plenty of moments that can either be described as laugh-out-loud funny or just plain cringe-worthy.
Frogger’s quest takes him to many diverse and equally charming places, which range from a small town overtaken by goblins to a riverboat casino, and even includes a haunted castle. Each locale is colorfully designed and have a cartoon-esque vibe to them, but some of the textures haven’t aged very well. The levels are open in the sense you can usually go off the beaten track anytime to collect gems and coins, which are, unfortunately, only used to unlock character bios. It is worth noting that the PC version of the game features a bonus level not available on console (yes, I have played both versions).
The characters are just as delightfully quirky as the places they inhabit, though the character models themselves are a bit janky. Standouts include: Count Blah, a vampire whom only eats fruits; Dr. Starkenstein, a mad scientist with an unhealthy obsession with Frogger’s legs; and Wild Thing, a goblin-like monster that believes Frogger to be a tourist. But the best character by far is Phroi the fairy. He is the sassy and sarcastic leader of a gang of otherwise unintelligence fairies. After leading him to the aptly named Fairy Town, Phroi forces Frogger to perform five tasks that take the form of fighting the physical embodiment of death to playing children’s games, such as tag and hide-and-seek, all under the guise of meeting “his” princess.
For a game designed primarily for children, there sure are a lot of references and gags that will flew over younger me’s head. Such as the smooth-talking southern gentleman crocodile named Slick Willy, whom is voiced by a President Bill Clinton impersonator. And the Metal Chicken RAY, which is not only named but also designed in clear homage to the Metal Gear RAY from Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Despite the fun I had with it back as a kid and now as a legally recognized adult, Frogger: The Great is unquestionably not a good game. The game’s inability to platform and the bare-bone gameplay makes sure of that. You can tell the developers put some heart into their work, which is something that most obvious cash-grabs lack, but that isn’t enough to overcome its rudimentary design flaws and secure a passing grade.