A ribbiting experience
Lots of platform games over the past few years have attempted to model themselves on the old 16-bit style. Some are Metroidvanias, some are humorous, and some offer assorted other RPG elements. One little indie game, however, stands out from the crowd in the way it successfully fuses all these elements together in an attractive little package. I am of course speaking about Frogatto & Friends, henceforth known simply as Frogatto.
Frogatto is a retro-style indie 2D platformer starring the titular little frog – resembling a somewhat psychedelic version of Kermit – who awakens one afternoon and takes a leisurely stroll only to discover that his domain is under siege by the armies of a mysterious figure known as Milgram (which is an amusing and slightly disturbing nod to the famous authoritarian experiment of the same name). Despite his lazy, irreverent nature and internal conflict regarding his purpose and role in the world, Frogatto eventually resolves to be a hero, if only because it’s the most convenient option.
Being a frog, Frogatto has an elastic tongue which proves to be indispensable as both a tool and a weapon. Somewhat like Yoshi, players will be able to extend his tongue to catch and swallow enemies and other objects and carry them inside Frogatto’s body indefinitely. These same enemies and items may then be regurgitated out to become lethal projectiles. Some enemies cannot be swallowed and instead must stomped-upon, Mario-style, while others must be avoided entirely. Upon ejecting swallowed enemies, Frogatto makes a bass-y belch sound that I shamefully admit to finding terribly amusing.
Shiny, golden coins dot the landscape of Frogatto’s bright, colorful, 16-bit-style world. These can be used to purchase various upgrades, weapons, and additional abilities. Players will use them to add more hitpoints, extend the range of Frogatto’s tongue, and even gain the ability to shoot balls of energy, which becomes extremely useful later on and particularly in tougher battles.
The game world is displayed as a map and various locations may be revisited. This is especially useful after you’ve purchased upgrades, as your new abilities will allow you to explore previously unreachable areas. It just seems, though, that coins are not as abundant as they should be and shops are a tad too rare. Certain areas, too, feel sparse and incomplete. Nonetheless, the attention to detail and keen art style will help you remain invested in this crazy fantasy world.
You’ll soon find that hero little frog is quite agile. Quickly tapping the left or right buttons will send Frogatto sprinting in the desired direction, and momentum is maintained even when crossing into different areas. Our hero can also swim and briefly cling onto walls. Unfortunately, it all feels a bit slippery, as if the control needs to be fine-tweaked slightly. It’s just a little bit too easy to make a miss on a well-timed jump or accidentally tap the sprint combination and have Frogatto running off a ledge to his death. Swimming in particular can be a bit of a cumbersome task, with controls that feel as if the protagonist is darting in six degrees way too fast. Thankfully, underwater sections are rare, and most platforming tasks on dry land can be performed with little fuss. There exists a bonus game which consists of collecting coins within a specified time limit in a single room; I recommend giving these a go before you tackle the mission proper in order to familiarize yourself with the controls and various platforming nuances.
Presentation-wise, the game is a perfect reproduction of the sensibilities from the 16-bit era; the pixelated-yet-colorful graphics and the chiptunes all make it seem as if the game would be very welcome on an old SNES. There are frequent occurrences of dialogue which outline the game’s story and give clues. For the most part, however, it’s simply humorous trash-talk, serving mainly to add character to the game. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but the ending dialogue with Milgram himself is rather tongue-in-cheek and worth the price of admission alone.
Frogatto is a fun and cute retro-style platformer with likable characters and an absolutely gorgeous art style. Despite some minor flaws with the controls and a slight lack of polish, it remains highly playable and extremely charming. Whether you’re looking for a great time with a classic-style game or are aiming for family fun, you can’t go wrong with little gem of retro-style goodness. And best of all, even Mac and Linux fans can get in on the action. Hop on over to the official store page and grab your copy now.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Mac, Linux. ; Publisher: Lost Pixel ; Developer: Lost Pixel ; Players: single-player. ; Released: 15 May, 2013.
Full discloure: this review is based on a review copy of Frogatto given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.