Release Date: November 13, 2006
Popular games get sequels. Innovative games get retreads. Classics of the video game industry get re-imaginings. Sometimes these re-imaginings are successful: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is often seen as a classic all its own, and the Super Mario Brothers games have received greater critical acclaim with each respective release. Other times, they're less spectacular — even the Super Mario Brothers series has its black sheep in SMB2 — or downright horrible.
Sadly, Frogger is a classic, much like its similarly aged companion Pitfall!, that cannot seem to get a break. Those who were around in the PlayStation era typically shudder in disgust when forced to recall Hasbro's take on the jaywalking amphibian, and since those days, it seems like everyone's favorite frog is little more than a green chunk of road kill.
Konami, on the other hand, had other ideas.
Like a digitized Dr. Frankenstein, Konami took the remains of the Frogger franchise, stitched it up, and reworked it beyond recognition. What came from that strange experiment was in fact a brand new life, one only remotely resembling its cadaverous beginnings. Analogies aside, that's predominantly what My Frogger Toy Trials is like.
Gone is the slightest hint that somehow, somewhere, this might be the Frogger enjoyed in arcades in the early 1980s. No, this Frogger is a new creation — a ToyPet designed by Tobi Inc. He's sort of a Tamagotchi-like friend for the game's human protagonist, Kyle, who originally intended the happy hopper to be a dragon. However, due to poor drawing skills, Tobi Inc., left him with a simple green frog. Eager to show that his unassuming little frog can be a darn fine ToyPet regardless, Kyle enters it in the worldwide ToyPet tournament hosted by Tobi mascot Panda Bob for a chance to win the incredible grand prize of one free, no-frills wish to the winner!
However, to write this off as a "kid's game" by the plot alone would be to do the game a great injustice. While the plot is mostly a framework upon which to lay the levels and an excuse to introduce the boss fights as their special gimmicks demand, the plot actually manages to be a somewhat touching, if simple, story about a boy and his frog.
Much touted in the press releases, My Frogger Toy Trials goes back to the hop-and-dodge method of play reminiscent of the original game, right down to the fact that each button press only moves you a single space forward. It does seem a bit awkward, and in more frantic moments, it can lead to intense thumb pain, but overall, it does allow a little more precision than would be allotted in a platform game such as this. The only caveat is that the one-press-one-jump controls mean that in order to turn on a dime on tiny platforms without jumping into the abyss, the player uses the L and R shoulder buttons to turn the froggy hero. It's a bit of a culture shock to the gamers of today, who are used to simply turning in the direction they need to go with the d-pad.
Not helping matters, the graphics are a cel-shaded 3D that, much like the plot, is simple but does its job wonderfully. However, the details on Frogger himself are oftentimes difficult to make out, adding to frustration as the player tries to figure out which way he's facing before making the next leap. Naturally, an incorrect assumption leads Frogger to jump face-first into a wall, or worse yet, into a bottomless pit. That's the only true complaint about the game's design, though, as the graphics are just cartoon-ish enough to work flawlessly, and the enemy and level designs are surreal to the degree for which Konami is known. After all, My Frogger Toy Trials is the only game in this reviewer's memory that pits you against enchanted tiki drinks, possessed sneakers, and inexplicable Dance Dance Revolution arrows.
The game is split up into three types of levels. "Levels," the main stages of the game, place Frogger in a stage where the object is to get from Point A to Point B, without losing all of his health. Later play through the Levels allows players to tackle them as fast as possible, or while trying to collect all of the coins present. "Challenges," in contrast, are exercises in precision, not unlike Levels, save for the fact that any hit makes Frogger start from the beginning of the stage, and three hits spell Game Over for the green hero. These stages are more similar in feel to the old arcade game, requiring timing, coordination, and pattern recognition to survive.
The final stages in My Frogger Toy Trials are mini-games, which comprise both special sets of challenges with a certain goal (one set is box-pushing puzzles, while another tests your acrobatic skills) and boss fights. The boss fights are unique in that they aren't combative in the typical platformer fashion; instead, one boss has you blowing into the microphone to guide a leaf-sailed raft through a water race, whereas another entails rolling into one another in an almost sumo-like manner to knock your opponent into the dangerous arena walls. These range from mildly interesting to downright frustrating, as the boss battles have no means of being skipped and are quite unforgiving in execution, causing several restarted games before one gets the hang of them.
Along his travels, Kyle will gain a number of costumes for Frogger, each one enabling him to perform a different feat. A superhero costume allows him to push blocks much larger than him, whereas a chicken suit has an indestructible beak for breaking weak walls. Other powers include rolling up into a ball Marble Madness-style, and increased health restoration from power-ups, amongst others. Most of these are simple ordeals, but the ball-rolling Afro costume is a true exercise in patience, as the touch-screen controls for moving the ball are infuriatingly unresponsive, more likely causing one's touch-screen to get scratched beyond recognition from repeated dragging of the stylus. That aside, the game is wonderfully responsive in its unusual controls, causing each and every death to feel like the player's mistake, as opposed to a cheap hit.
Aurally, the game is the typical blend of inoffensive and utterly forgettable, with sound effects being describable only as "oddly squishy," much like a toddler smooshing his hands through Play-Doh. Surprisingly, this is a compliment; similar to the simplistic graphics, the surreal sounds make the game feel that much more like playing through a cartoon. However, the musical score isn't particularly memorable, being the typical definition of "video game music."
My Frogger Toy Trials is not a perfect game; although it's far from perfect, it's not terrible, either. The ball-rolling stages alone are reason to knock down the score several points. However, for a family with kids around eight or nine years old, My Frogger Toy Trials is easily worth the $30 price tag more so than many of the licensed kids' cartoon games out there. While it's far from being a classic of its own, My Frogger Toy Trials looks to be just the game the Frogger franchise needed to endear it to the hearts of gamers once more.