Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge – PlayStation
Platform: Sony PlayStation
Developer: Blitz Games
Publisher: Hasbro Interactive
Release Date (NA): September, 2000
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
Frogger. The lovable green frog who set arcade cabinets ablaze in the year of our lord nineteen and eighty-one. That’s 1981 for you modern-day gamers. Cross the road without getting squished. Cross the river without falling into the water. By today’s standards, Frogger is an outdated and quaint video game, but it still has so much charm. Frogger‘s concept is so simple, and the colors and music are so cute, how could anyone not love this little fella? Regardless of your experience with classic golden-age Frogger, Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge ushered in the new millennium in style in all its frustratingly joyous glory.
Even if people aren’t playing games in the Frogger series today, there’s no denying the franchise’s legacy in the history of gaming. That’s why it came as no surprise to see Frogger make a leap into the 3D world in 1997 with a remake of the original, titled Frogger: He’s Back! Although He’s Back! was a middling game in just about every category, the same cannot be said for its direct sequel Frogger 2 which just so happens to be the game we are reviewing today!
Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge stars our titular amphibian hero as he yet again must rescue the lost colored frogs. But unlike in previous adventures, these colored frogs are scattered throughout the world by Swampy, a vengeful and vindictive crocodile. Swampy aims to get revenge on Frogger for jumping on his head. As the story unfolds, Frogger thwarts Swampy again and again and, well, I don’t want to spoil the story, but I bet you can guess where this is going.
So based on the story alone, it would appear that Frogger 2 is nothing more than a replica of the previous game except with a story to justify why Frogger must traverse this godforsaken fucked up land to rescue these helpless little frogs. And I mean it… this land is FUUUCKED UP. There’s all sorts of rodents and insects and traps and shit. But Frogger 2 is anything but a replica, replacing the mundane archaic gameplay of Frogger (1981) and Frogger: He’s Back! (1997) with thought-provoking pattern-driven platforming the likes of which I have not seen in a long time. Frogger’s objective is simple, he must go from start to finish and collect all five colored frogs in order to advance. Boom. There ya have it. But a simple objective does not mean that Frogger 2 is a simple game. Let me explain.
One of the things that draws me to a game like Frogger 2 is that it perfectly blends early 3D platforming with quasi-puzzle / pattern-learning in a way that requires the gamer to stop and actually observe their surroundings. Other popular platforming games of the time like Sonic Adventure, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, or Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko were laced with mindless scenes where gamers could sort of power their way through a level without much hesitation. Frogger 2, on the other hand, was a different kind of beast. In Frogger 2, if you didn’t carefully observe every detail surrounding you, you would absolutely die. Over… and over… and over again. Trust me.
The more I observe my time spent playing Frogger 2, the more I can compare it to a chess match (minus your opponent making moves based on your moves – the A.I. in this game is nonexistent). One of the ways to be successful as a chess player is to plan your moves ahead of the current move. Some of the best chess players in the world know exactly what their next X number of moves will be. I equate this to my time in Frogger 2, because not laying out your next X number of maneuvers will easily result in your death. And it’s not just about laying out a button-pattern (i.e. up, up, down, left, right, left) because all of the various traps and hazards you must pass are full of moving platforms and/or moving enemies. So you need to know which way to go and how to time your moves properly, often observing the chaos in front of you to take mental notes on enemy patterns, timing between enemy movements, and more.
Besides the requisite detailed planning, I was beyond impressed with the developer’s strategy of maintaining the classic elements of Frogger while tremendously updating his gameplay. The classic gameplay mechanics remain intact, such as having to cross a specific area of moving hazards, enemies, or platforms to get to the other side. But now they have dished up a heaping portion of linear adventure-platforming to update Frogger’s aging style and bring him up to speed with what’s hot in the industry. The outcome is brilliant, but that’s not to say that Frogger 2 is without any issues.
My main issue with Frogger 2 is the challenging camera angles. Oddly enough, I was actually very impressed with the camera angles for a brief while, until the difficulty ramped up in later levels and those camera angles sealed my fate more than once. The camera moves around to accommodate your needs in a surprisingly pleasing manner, but there are times when you absolutely need a different angle and you just can’t do anything about it. It’s rare, but it does happen. Furthermore, Frogger 2 requires some of the quickest decision-making I’ve experienced in a game in a long time. Even when you plan five moves ahead, you find yourself having to make split decisions on which way to go to avoid a particular hazard or enemy.
I’m also unsure if the controls are bad or not. I know, that sounds weird. I should be sure, right? But I can’t narrow that down and I’ll tell you why. There is a major learning curve for the controls. The scheme is decent enough with pressing X to jump and pressing it twice to double jump, but it definitely takes some getting used to because Frogger’s movements and body placement are on a pretty rigid grid. There is no fluidity to his movements, and if you examine my game stills in this review, you can clearly see that there is ACTUALLY a grid on the stages. This grid is very rigid and means that Frogger’s movements are 4-way directional, so there are no diagonal jumps. With that said, I can’t conclude one way or the other if the controls are poor, or if it’s the system. Regardless, however, something is amiss.
Graphically speaking, Frogger 2 is mostly on par with other games of the era. There are flashes and glimpses where Frogger 2 is above average, namely the cinematic sequences between levels. But mostly, the in-game moments are only serviceable, although I have to admit that it’s really challenging to look at early 3D games without subconsciously comparing them to today’s standards. The soundtrack is enjoyable enough, but the sound effects are absolute where the game shines. The splats, the springs, the doinks, the bonks, and so much more. Every sound effect hearkens back to the days of yore. I was so pleased!
Overall, Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge was such a joy to play. I was immediately reminded of my time spent playing the original Frogger on some computer in the early 1990s. I recall enjoying it immensely and those moments have not left my memory. After being swept away with nostalgia in the first couple of levels, it became clearer that this wasn’t Kansas anymore. I was definitely playing a game that was brand new yet vividly familiar. I have no opinion whatsoever on the story (truly, I don’t care), but I enjoyed the platforming adventure. Early 3D platformers can feel pretty dated at times, but Frogger 2‘s “dated gameplay” is minimal and is easily overshadowed by the requirement of recognizing enemy movement patterns and quick-time button pressing. Frogger 2 : Swampy’s Revenge is leaps and bounds ahead of its precursor and reminds us all why we fell in love with the franchise in the first place.
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