Video Game Review: ‘Frogger 3D’ Exemplifies Flaws of New Handheld

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CHICAGO – “Frogger 3D” should have been a slam dunk. Take a beloved, nostalgic franchise and upgrade it for an exciting new console. Sadly, the Nintendo 3DS has been a bit of a bust so far with no major title making it a must-own for the holiday season (at least until “Super Mario 3D Land” hits next month…has there ever been more riding on one game for a major company?) and “Frogger 3D” will not be the buzzed-about game to get it to the other side of the pop culture road. As a mild diversion, it has its moments, but weak level design and frustrating gameplay hold it back even as a nifty bit of nostalgia.

Frogger 3D
Frogger 3D
Photo credit: Konami

It’s been an amazing thirty years since “Frogger” hit the market and took the arcade world by storm. I’m old enough to remember playing the original game, jumping on the back of frogs and logs while trying to avoid the traffic. It was a spectacularly addictive title, simple and yet also more clever than a lot of its arcade competition — an easy game to enjoy, a tough one to master (like most of the arcade hits of the early ’80s.) While some of its peers, especially “Donkey Kong,” have found ways to stay current and fresh with each new console, “Frogger” has become more of a relic than a thriving franchise. That means that a game like “Frogger 3D” has two goals — appeal to the fans old enough to be nostalgic for the original and bring in young ones who may have never heard of it. In both areas, the game misses the lily pad.

Konami, who has to have made a fortune by now on all the “Frogger” iterations over the years, celebrate the 30th anniversary of their hit with a 3D game that takes place across multiple worlds with numerous variations on the classic gameplay. Logs and trucks aren’t good enough any more as you’ll head to unique settings like the Far East and even Space over five dozen stages organized in a simple “complete one, move on” structure. The game does introduce new elements every once in a while including friends that Frogger will need to jump on to progress or towers that can be climbed to increase his jumping design. On a development level, “Frogger 3D” should work.

But games don’t exist on paper and “Frogger 3D” just feels clunky, like most Nintendo 3DS games. For not the first time, I actually turned off the 3D functionality because I found it got in the way of the game instead of enhancing it. The gameplay doesn’t actually need the 3D, which makes its placement on top of it feel like more of a distraction. There have been a mere handful of games for the 3DS for which this is not true and until a title comes out that truly uses 3D to enhance gameplay and not just as visual bells and whistles, this handheld is going to suffer.

Frogger 3D
Frogger 3D
Photo credit: Konami

As for how the game plays with the 3D off, it’s wildly inconsistent. Incredibly easy levels will be followed by ones that might force you to buy a new 3DS since you’ll have thrown this one across the room. Too often you’ll die just exploring the level for the first few times, making for a game that’s really nothing more than trial and error. It’s a memorization title more often than a strategy one or even a hand-eye coordination one and that’s disappointing.

The game also seems surprisingly glitchy. I swear there were times where I should have been nailed by a truck and wasn’t and others where I was eaten by some dumb snake that was half a mile away. The detection of where you are on the map seems a bit off, even more so if you’re trying to play in 3D. And the worlds end with goofy variations on Frogger themes like a boss level in which you have to knock out the tires on a massive truck that’s apparently doing loops around your neighborhood. It’s often just a weird, weird game, which is disappointing given the charming simplicity of the first title. What happened to just trying to get a city-bound frog home again?

For the record, “Frogger 3D” also boasts 4 player multiplayer over wireless which allows players to compete with their friends for high scores on their favorite levels. I didn’t get a chance to play the game with friends although I can’t imagine it would greatly increase my opinion of a title that feels like it got flattened by a machine that’s essentially still in the development stage.

“Frogger 3D” was released and developed by Konami exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS on September 20th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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