my games blog, the story of my odyssey with Frogger: Helmet Chaos
on Nintendo DS:
up a copy of the new Frogger on (what else? Nintendo DS. It's a
game I've wanted to check out for a while, because of its retro
gaming appeal, and also because it just looked promising and it's
almost completely swept under the rug.
played for a little while, and my overall opinion of Frogger keeps
swaying back and forth. I don't know right now whether I could recommend
it, and that in itself is very frustrating, because the core of
the game is really quite good. There have been a number of attemps
by Konami to revive the Frogger name ever since that disastrous
Playstation title, so perhaps they've finally figured out how to
make the old frog work in a modern action-puzzler.
think the reason I want to like this game is because it reminds
me so much of Chip's Challenge. Chip's was one of Epyx's first launch
games for their color handheld, which became the Atari Lynx. Heck,
Chip's Challenge is one of the best puzzlers, period. It's also,
as anyone who's devoted a couple hours to it, brutally hard. I don't
think I've ever solved more than a couple dozen levels, and there's
over 150 total, not counting a few bonus levels. Now that's a puzzle
on DS follows a similar vein, albeit far simpler; kind of a "My
First Chip's" for the kiddies. There's a lot of hopping about
islands and caves and green medows, avoiding cleverly-drawn bad
guys, grabbing coins, and moving blocks for the millionth time since
Sokouban. Hard to believe the most copied videogame of the last
20 years is...Boxxle. How did that happen?
anyway, I think I'm on the third world, but I'm not sure, and this
touches on one of the real flaws with the game. Apart from the cut-scenes
(aided with horrible Disney-esque voice acting), there's nothing
to tell you where you're going from one level or world to the next.
It's just POOF! and you're in the brown stage. Then POOF! and it's
the dark green level.
I finished one level, I was taken to a couple of bonus screens,
bumbled through, told I couldn't pass forward, and then taken there
anyway. Sounds undescriptive, yes, but that's the impression of
the experience. All I know is that I didn't have enough coins to
give somebody. No clue who he was, what he was after, or what the
whole point to the exercise was. Maybe he was just homeless; God
knows if that were the case, I'd only be too glad to help him.
a strange thing to me, because world maps have been standard ever
since Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World. You think a game that
included a butt bounce would also feature those things. So that's
a strike against Frogger.
the levels themselves are a lot of fun. There's a good variety of
challenges and puzzles that left me stumped for a moment or two.
The box promises 30 levels in total, and each one is sufficently
large enough that I'm not feeling shortchangedd. At least, not yet.
in Frogger looks great, and it's a good showoff for the DS' polygons.
There's a lot of color and shading, the animation is really good,
and it all churns along smoothly at 60fps. And, it needs to be said,
it's funny to watch Frogger wipe out when he smacks into a wall.
are also a number of unlockable items to collect, all standard issue
in the post-Soul Calibur world, and a number of multiplayer mini-games,
including a couple variations on the original 1981 Frogger. Are
any of these mini-games any good? Well, some are and some aren't;
I really don't expect any of them to become the next Bomberman or
Monkey Ball, but you never know. Most likely, never will anyone
at this point, I'm leaning slightly in favor of the new Frogger,
but there are two monstrous flaws that may just kill it altogether.
First is the life gauge. Your health is measured as four hit-points
in a green heart. Standard issue, yes. However, you only have one
life. One life per game. Now this is where it gets wierd. Anytime
you are killed by, say, falling into water and drowning, you simply
lose one hit point and restart from the last save point. Figure
that one out. I drown and continue, minus one hit point. I get knocked
out by a rolling hedgehog, and it's game over.
I'm stuck on a boss battle which is completely unnecessary (does
an action-puzzler with a clunky-moving frog need a boss fight?),
completely frustrating, and completely unfair. I'm up against a
giant Robotnik tank, armed to the teeth with half a dozen different
attacks, and you're only supposed to outlast it. Oh, don't forget
the screen is scrolling...slooowly. This frog isn't good at dodging,
I'll say that. The kicker? Some attacks will hurt you, and some
will knock you out, which starts the whole battle over from the
beginning. I have no idea what triggers this.
It's the Zookeeper Quest Moder, all over again! If I can get past
this part, then hopefully the rest of the game will settle into
a good rhythm and actually be fun. I'll be disappointed if Frogger
falls apart, the death from a thousand cuts, because it should have
been better; all of these stupid problems could have been avoided."
some time, and a few attempts to give the game another chance, I
finally gave in, and realized that, despite my best hopes, it was
not meant to be. Frogger: Helmet Chaos is a sloppy, unfocused game.
These are the ones that always frustrate me; if only a few more
hours of playtesting were allowed, if only the developers discovered
some insight, if only the Frogger name would stop being dragged
through the mud like yesterday's trash. If only. A lot of hopes
and dreams in this world come down to those two words.
just think, I could have picked up Super Princess Peach instead.