Frogger was released in 1981, and its concept was fairly simple: Frogger is a tiny frog that's trying to get to the other side – whether that's a busy road or a river infested with hungry crocodiles. Frogger 3D doesn't vary too much from its predecessors; there's a starting point and there's a destination, and Frogger must dodge obstacles along the way. The difference is that getting to the other side in Frogger 3D is a lot more complex than it used to be.
Your goal is to reach a glowing marker on the other side. Should you reach it, you reset the stage and have to reach a new goal marker in a different location by going through more complex obstacles. You have a limited number of lives with which to reach the goal, and running out forces you to restart the stage from scratch. Your eventual goal is to get to the end without losing any levels, although that is easier said than done. Your frog dies in one hit from anything dangerous. Get squished, eaten, dropped in a pit or any other nasty fate, and you'll be starting over.
The twist is that the obstacles vary from stage to stage. Early on, you're dodging cars. Then those cars might be wrecked by an out-of-control truck that smashes across the stage as you're trying to hop across. Another stage might force you to dodge hawks that are trying to devour your frog. You might make your way through a casino while slot machines randomly pay out and force you to dodge the deadly rush of coins. Some stages are far less frantic but require you to figure out how to navigate the maze of pits and traps to reach the goal. As the game progresses, the stages get more complex, but the primary goal remains the same: avoid becoming roadkill.
Power-ups come in the form of Frogger's pals. In various stages, you encounter frogs that grant different powers for a brief period of time when Frogger jumps on their backs. Metal Frog allows Frogger to smash obstacles and basically renders him immune to being squished. It's not quite the same as invincibility, since a car that rams into Frogger will explode shortly afterward and the frog can't survive that. Big Frog is exactly what it sounds like: a double-sized frog that can leap gaps or stand on holes that the smaller Frogger can't. The oddly named Vore Frog functions like regular Frogger unless food is around. If there's a tomato, the frog will leap two spaces instead of one to eat it — even if you don't want him to! There are other frog-granted power-ups that function similarly. Some of the frogs are optional; you don't need a Metal Frog to get past certain levels, but it makes it easier. On the other hand, other levels are designed entirely around the frogs. This makes the power-ups also function as a sort of time limit. Run out of time, and you'll be in trouble.
To be fair, not every stage features straight-out Frogger action. There are a few gimmick stages that replace the normal dodging with another trick. For the most part, these stages tend to be rather dull. It's clear that the gameplay is designed mostly around the fast-paced dodging of obstacles. As bizarre as it sounds, there are actually boss fight stages in the game. The first boss is a gigantic truck that attempts to squash the poor frog. To fight it, you have to push spiked boxes in front of its tires. While the bizarre dissonance of a Frogger boss fight makes it memorable, it wasn't very fun. The mechanics are not designed to compensate for it, so it feels overly long and somewhat awkward without being very challenging. There are quite a few stages like this, and they represent some of the game's weaker moments. There's nothing precisely wrong with them except that it feels like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Frogger is not designed to battle bosses or fight enemies or really anything beyond getting from point A to point B without becoming a froggy pancake. Having to time your jumps to get a slot machine rollin' is fine, but it slows down things and feels out of place compared to the other frantic stages.
It's easy enough to finish a stage in Frogger 3D, although some of the levels can be nasty if you're not careful. The real trick comes in finishing the stages with a high score, which is based on a number of factors. Obviously, finishing a stage quickly earns you more points than going through it slowly. You also have coins that you need to collect while trying to reach the goal. These coins are often in out-of-the-way places and require you to put yourself in harm's way to reach them. New coins also appear during each stage of the level, so you can't simply collect them during the early, easier parts. There are also collectible achievements that you can earn during a level. You get an achievement for doing darn near anything, such as finishing a stage or stepping on a certain square. There are scores of achievements for the various ways you can die. The best way to get a high score in the game is to finish the stage quickly and without dying while collecting as many coins as possible.
Frogger 3D has a fair amount of content for your dollar, although it's difficult to say that it's worth full price. You can burn through the stages very quickly if you just sit down and play. Getting high rankings may take a little longer, but not to the point where it adds substantial value to the game. There is extra content, but none of it is particularly mind-blowing. A Forever mode lets you play the original Frogger and attempt to get high scores or compete against ghosts to see who can finish the fastest. There are also multiplayer modes that let you compete against friends, assuming they too own a copy of Frogger 3D. Despite all of this, it really feels like a game you'd buy for DSiware than a full-fledged release. It's Frogger, for all the good and bad that implies. It's certainly not bad, but it's also not worth a hefty $30 price tag when you can buy similar games for far cheaper.
Frogger 3D is one of those games where I felt the 3-D hindered the game more than helped it. With the 3-D on, the visuals looked blurry, and it was actually harder for me to judge the distance between obstacles than it was with the 3-D off. After a few stages, I left it off and noticed that I had a much easier time with the levels. The graphics are OK but not too impressive. The characters are brightly animated and charmingly cartoonish. The backgrounds tend to be busy and distract from what should be easy movement. There are times when it is hard to tell if your frog is too close to a dangerous obstacle or if an object is blocking your way. The soundtrack is passable but completely unmemorable. It's not a bad-looking game, but it's not good-looking, either. Frogger 3D is just bland.
That pretty much sums up Frogger 3D. It's actually a fairly good evolution of the Frogger formula, and the short stages are easy to pick up and play. There are some standout levels, but most are mediocre, with a few unenjoyable levels scattered here and there. As a timewaster, Frogger 3D is perfectly fine. As a retail-priced game, however, it is lacking. If you're a big fan of Frogger, you'll probably have fun with this title. Otherwise, there are better arcade-style titles on the 3DS.
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