Friday 25 June 2010

Frogger II

Christ what is he emulating now?

Frogger II: Threeedeep! for the Atari 5200. Yeah... sorry about this. The best version of the game does indeed lie on outdated Atari hardware. This is the sequel to the arcade hit Frogger, except nobody remembers it. I don't think that's right, so I'm blogging about it, because who better to tell than people I don't know on the internet?

There are of course other versions of the game I could have tried, but neither the Apple II, Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Commodore 64 or DOS versions looked half as nice. There's an almost identical version for the almost identical hardware powering the Atari 8-bit series of computers, but this was the fourth attempt at wrestling the emulator to actually run the game so you can make do without the added title screen for today.

Like most games I seem to come across, I ran into this accidentally. A YouTube link in a Google search. My limited experience with the Atari 5200 led me to believe most of its games weren't much better than its older brother, the Atari 2600, hence why I thought the console failed (as well as the fact it's got numerous other design flaws). But sure enough here we are with a game that doesn't look too shabby for 1984, so I guess it needs some attention.

Frogger II is an extension from Frogger I. The rules are more-or-less the same - get to five points on the map without getting killed before the time runs out. But this time, the settings are different. In the past, it was simply, "hop across the road, hop across the water", now there's swimming and jumping involved.

Atari 5200 games aren't known for their depth (there's a pun there somewhere) so don't go expecting this to blow you away. The game is divided into three sections; an underwater section, which sees Frogger fight the currents and avoid fish/crocodiles/oil as he swims his way up the surface, an above water section similar to that of the original game except with a boat at the end, and a sky section, where Frogger must bounce off clouds and grab onto birds to reach his destination. There's three goals underwater, one on a boat and on in the clouds, and Frogger's task is to get to those places. Because that's what frogs do... apparently.

Once you manage to arrive in all five locations, the level restarts and extra enemies/obstacles are placed around the level to make things a bit trickier, just like in the arcade game. In order to get to the surface you must obviously swim up, and in order to access the sky area you need to attack a duck, which is easy to identify on the basis that it doesn't just move in one direction.

Frogger II is one of the few examples I can give where sprite/tile based graphics don't have the advantage. Remember the NES? 16 colours on screen at once. Frogger II? Between 20 and 28, AND (if you don't mind the slightly blocky graphics) a higher resolution display. Now obviously it's let down in other areas because the Atari 5200 is a generation behind compared to the NES, but from a distance it does look rather ahead of its time. Or maybe its just me. Perhaps I'm just clutching at straws trying to justify why I felt the need to spend time playing a twenty-six year old game rather than doing something more productive with my life.

But I suppose the real reason I'm pointing this game out is that the Frogger "series" doesn't really see that much media coverage. In more modern times the name has been attached to a string of mediocre and quite frankly, ugly looking releases, but Frogger II is a good game, as is 1997's Frogger 3D and probably 2001's Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge (which I really wanted to play back in the day but the yanks hogged the Dreamcast release). Good Frogger games do indeed exist!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, don't worry about the fact that you could be doing something more productive with your time.. You write it for the same reason we read it...I think

    And that reason is... I don't know, old weird games are interesting, I guess.Its funny just thinking of cracking open a beer and playing Street Fighter III Special 20 Peoples with a good mate on your NES back in 1992, and how much more it would have been aprreciated... back in the old computing times.

    Video games are no longer what classified something as a "video game" in the 90s and 80s... They're becoming more like an attempt to create a whole new planet inside of your new 360 or Wii, which is no doubt very entertaining and often means great replay value, but at the same time, where are the pixels? Wheres the chiptune music and general addictive obscurity? The 16 and 8 bit consoles are cool because they're historic, and it doesn't seem like there's more room for official 2D releases anymore.