Control an enemy-slurping frog in this throwback to early ’90s side-scrollers.
I’m one of those jaded, overly nostalgic gamers whose basement may or may not house a shrine to retro consoles, complete with a Sonic the Hedgehog effigy made of Atari 2600 joysticks, Nintendo 64 Rumble Paks, and blue velveteen. So when games like Frogatto come along, with its old school graphics and side-scrolling gameplay, it warms the cockles of my 16 bit-loving heart.
In this unexpectedly deep platformer, you control Frogatto, a wise-cracking, zigzag-mouthed frog that must save his village from encroaching evil forces. Hop about and slurp up enemies with your Yoshi-ish tongue, spitting the baddies back out and vanquishing them with a well-placed bop on the head. You’ll also be swimming, fielding floating planks, and gathering coins to buy power-ups, like a tongue extender, in the in-game store.
Frogatto is replete with all the hallmarks of a classic, side-scrolling platformer. There’s boss battling, item collecting (finding the key to a locked door, for example), and jumping ’til you can’t jump no more. This might include leaping over hazards, like scorching fireplaces. Frogatto also jumps on enemies like beetles to dispatch them, after grabbing ‘em with his tongue and then spitting ‘em out on their backs.
If you’re going in with low hopes, expecting a quick, breezy iPhone app or a puny game you can plow through in an hour, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Frogatto‘s world is open and fairly sprawling, and honestly feels on par with the platformers from the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis days. There’s a world map Frogatto can occasionally access to gain his bearings, and the map is pretty big. In that sense, you’re definitely getting bang for your buck, since there’s so much to play through. And everything’s presented in that vintage, colorful, pixel-y package that’s so familiar to gamers older than the ripe age of 22 or so. Frogatto truly could have been released on a home console a couple decades ago, and that’s a compliment. The game uses those classic, 2D graphics that have aged well over the years, unlike the blocky graphics from 3D’s salad days.
In addition to the lengthy story mode, Frogatto offers an excellent add-on: a multi-challenge arcade mode. It’s all the action without the dialogue. You’ll collect as many coins as you can in the timed Coin Race, keep up with the moving screen by dashing across terrain in Run, or jumping your way to safety in Run’s vertical counterpart, Climb. The story mode is fleshed-out and solid enough on its own, and the arcade mode feels more like a cherry on top, and less like an unnecessary tack-on. If Frogatto existed in the ’90s, it could have easily retailed for fifty bucks or more for a home console.
The game’s only real pitfall is its wonky jumping, which feels unruly at times. Landing on enemies is finicky, and it’s easy to overshoot platforms, especially if the hop has a running start. It’s eventually manageable, but it means a slight learning curve, and one that could have been avoided. While gameplay is challenging in its own right—boss fights can be tricky and foes like homing fish can be a thorn in your side—some of the difficulty is deadened by the fact that when Frogatto runs out of health, he starts over not too far from where he, er, croaked. Not to mention the unlimited lives. Perhaps if there were more dire consequences for, well, dying, the challenge would have been kicked up a few needed notches.
If you’re one of my fellow, bitter, retrogamers, Frogatto will be a breath of fresh air in a world filled with motion control, exercise games and war simulations. Despite the jumping mechanics that may test your patience, this game is a lengthy, polished platformer that serves up hours of nostalgic, amphibious fun.