Tuesday, 22 June 2010


If for any reason you're still in denial that Sonic the Hedgehog was a inspirational platformer, maybe this one can change your mind. Superfrog for the Amiga (and DOS-based PCs), developed by Team 17 in the pre-Worms days of 1992. It's supposedly an Amiga classic, but as with many "Amiga classics" they're only remembered by Amiga fans, unlike your Marios and Zeldas which every gamer can recognise to some degree. So, is having a frog running around a level as good as a hedgehog... or a rabbit... or a duck..?

There were far too many animals running and jumping about during the early 90s so it's easy to forget that Superfrog exists. It's also easy to forget that it exists on the basis that it didn't really give the platforming genre anything new to play with. But it was a solid platformer split across four disks and a worthwhile purchase for the time. As well as seeing a release on Amiga computers, it was brought to DOS ones and the Amiga CD32 console... which insists on showing up in these blog posts. I've gone with the Amiga copy for high resolutions though they're all essentially the same game.

Superfrog is a platform game, in which the player controls a man-turned-frog trying to save his woman by crossing various 2D levels. The only major twist this time around is a set number of coins need to be collected before the exit will open, but other than that it's a basic left-to-right affair with numerous enemies to jump on. Occasionally things spice up if Superfrog obtains a green yo-yo blob thing, which can be used to tackle more awkwardly placed enemies, but most of the game is left gimmick-free.

It doesn't take long to spot some flaws though. The game has very floaty physics and the collision isn't always up to scratch. You don't get much of a boost when jumping on an enemy's head unlike what you might see in a game such as Super Mario Bros., so it takes a while to get used to the way things roll. It's a feature the game needs quite badly, because one of the other common problems is the type of enemies Superfrog encounters. Aside from the generic land-based animals, there are also flying type enemies... everywhere. They often float around in clusters and only seem to exist to get in the way, but because of the way jumping works, you can't knock them all out in a well executed combo attack.

I also encountered a few collision problems with the scenery, namely the non-flat walls. Superfrog's level design means there's often hidden passageways disguised as walls, prompting the user to check each wall for said passageways. Doing so however can sometimes lead to the player's sprite flicking between jumping and landing animations as it collides with sections of ground it shouldn't be. It doesn't damage gameplay and certainly doesn't occur very often, but it's not very professional either and if I noticed, others will have too.

The graphics are also very hit and miss. Whereas I have no complaints with the backgrounds (including the sun and trees that have been given eyes for some reason), the sprites occasionally look a bit poorly done or rushed. Bouncing blobs with eyes for enemies aren't too tricky to make, and certainly don't resemble anything from Earth. Though it's obviously hard to penalise if Team 17 haven't got the staff, Superfrog looks surprisingly mediocre compared to many Amiga games out there.

Though it makes heavy use of the same synth instruments, the musical score is decent. I suspect things were improved tenfold with the Amiga CD32 port, but for the regular Amiga, the job is done just fine. Though there are many Amiga games with better soundtracks, there are also many Amiga games that fail to handle both music and sound effects in one place. Superfrog doesn't suffer from that, and so it gains a few extra points.

There's also a hidden secret level called Project-F, based on Team 17's earlier game, Project-X. It's a shoot-'em-up set in space, which is a nice addition and something worth looking out for.

I should also point out at some point that the game was sponsored by Lucozade (the energy drink). I have a feeling (like Zool) this is holding the game back from seeing a re-release, though there have apparently been talks for years of a possible sequel, and Superfrog himself has seen a couple of cameos over the years in Worms titles.

Generally though, I can't help but think this game is slightly overrated in Amiga circles. The market was heavily saturated with 2D platformers and Superfrog fails to stand out among the crowd. Whereas the game is very playable and can entertain for hours, it's let down by the fact it only provides us with the bear minimum. I'm almost certain there are better Amiga platformers out there, but it's by no means a bad purchase and still puts up a good fight.

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