Nowadays, many players yearn for he days where games looked a certain way. The low-poly phenomenon in modern games is a bridge for more creativity in design while harkening back to a specific era of gaming. Frogun initially appealed to me because of its splendid replication of retro 3D games, though its tongue-lashing tool was charming, as well. Does it come together to provide a worthwhile experience? Depends.
Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.
“Join Renata as she adventures across a world of mystical ruins with the titular FROGUN! Frogun is an old-school platformer with the soul of the PS1/N64 era, in which your frog-shaped grappling hook is a your best friend!”
The game’s aesthetic shine speaks for itself, but one thing that took me off guard was just how thematic the whole game is. Renata, the player character, is the daughter of a couple explorers/archaeologists. This entails that the worlds she explores are in tune with a more “ancient” vibe, complete with ruins, shrines, and mossy textures due to time’s grip. Even the things you collect are materials like gemstones, crystal skulls, and ornaments.
Perhaps obvious to some, it didn’t really click for me until actually playing the game and progressing through levels how structured everything is. Themes of jungles and ruins and treasure-hunting is at the forefront, evocative of a simpler time in gaming where you just collect things because shiny things are shiny. Stages build upon one another in simple yet interesting ways, allowing for the doom of repetition to be held at bay.
If compared to anything, Frogun reminds me a lot of Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker. Similar aesthetic, similar movement style, similar camera angles, almost identical stage requirements. Navigating a small character with not a whole lot of dexterity to them through a constantly moving stage full of dangers and visual wonders. This game, however, has the benefit of a talking grappling hook cosplaying as a frog.
Mechanically, structurally, and aesthetically, there’s very little actively wrong here. A fine-tuned title that does exactly what it needs to, offering a lot of platforming fun that takes advantage of its hook-based style to travel and interact with the environment. Whipping baddies around and launching them into breakable objects is consistent fun. Wholesomely violent, if you will.
Remember when I compared this to Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker? There’s a bit of a caveat to that: I was never super fond of that game or its control scheme.
Unfortunately, Frogun suffers somewhat from having a similarly rigid control scheme. Renata as a character is not particularly fast, agile, or fun to control; the frogun makes it more tolerable, only not entirely. Thankfully, the level design is made with this in mind, as stages aren’t particularly grand or complex.
When it comes to games, especially platformers that focus on collecting, I prefer speed and precision. Games that allow you to be frantic with your movement is something I tend to gravitate to. Rigid control schemes just don’t provide me the same level of mirth. For this game, it’s not quite a hassle to play, but there’s a subtle indication that you’re “slow as molasses,” further encouraging you to use your frogun as often as possible.
It would help if the frogun wasn’t so finicky in its aiming, however. To its credit, you can hold down a button to make aiming more precise; it’s just hard to remember the option’s even available. Usually, one has a cursor they can spot that indicates where frogun’s tongue can reach, automatically targeting walls and creatures within range. With walls, you need to be pretty precise, especially at far distances separated by gaps. Constantly moving the camera/Renata around to ensure safe passage is a bit of a hassle.
Of course, the game’s speed is likely intentional to suit the purposes of its design. I simply don’t find it as fun as the alternative. Players can certainly find a lot to enjoy in its current state.
As a final nitpick (it’s really just a nitpick), I don’t like how finding notes in stages doesn’t pause gameplay. You can either continue gameplay as usual while trying to read the scrolling text or just sit in place and read it. Either option seems awkward to me.
For all that it is, Frogun embodies a great platformer title from a classic era brought to modern times. I only wish that I could gel with it from an enjoyment standpoint as much as it deserves. Not to insinuate I had a bad time with it, just that from the expectations I had going in, it ended up somewhat disappointing. Regardless of my personal feelings, it remains a visually stimulating adventure with a lot of heart, and that’s what matters.
Frogun has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.