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Frogger


When I spent a few minutes with Frogger during the Microsoft Press Briefing party at the Roosevelt Hotel in May, I couldn't help but relapse back into a child sending that little green amphibian across the highway on my dad's Commodore 64. Konami's old school Live Arcade adaptation for the Xbox 360 is heavily reliant on invoking that nostalgia feeling rather than impressing the eye or introducing new gameplay features. Unfortunately, that's the source of Frogger's greatest strength and weakness.

Gameplay:
For the youngsters that may be unfamiliar, the object of Frogger is to move a little green frog across an interstate and a log-filled river into one of five locations on the opposite side. As the difficulty escalates over each level, traffic will increase, logs will become sparser, the speed of moving objects rises, and harmful animals such as alligators and snakes appear to hinder your progress. You are racing against the clock which decreases as you progress through each level. It's an addictive mix of fast motion and strategy that can easily cause a sleepless night.

Controlling the green one is purely simple, but occasionally annoying. The left thumbstick almost seems too loose when sending the frog across the board. A double jump can mean disaster at any point in the game. Alternatively, the developer allows for usage of the directional pad which I find slightly more appealing.

The multiplayer section of the game offers a couple interesting options, versus and co-op modes. Versus pits you against another over Live in a speed or total lives race to finish first. Co-op mode is a joint effort that allows for garnering higher scores on the leaderboard. Sadly, both modes suffer from serious lag which makes hopping from log to log a futile effort. Over the multiple sessions I attempted over supposedly high quality connections, not one gave me the same smooth experience that comes from a single player game.

The achievements are broken into 12 tasks of varying difficulty for a total of 200 gamerscore points. The points are split 90% / 10% between single player and multiplayer. Around 60% of the points can be knocked out at the first bout of playtime with a minimal amount of proficiency at Frogger. The remaining 80 points will take considerable longer when attempting to complete the final two levels of difficulty, rack up 30,000 points in co-op, and finish the first three levels without losing a life. Digital Eclipse did a fairly creative job assigning gamerscore points to Frogger, but should have upped the difficulty on the eight easier achievements.

Graphics:
Digital Eclipse went to little effort to upgrade the title. In high definition, Frogger appears vastly dated and on par with dismal Midway arcade adaptations. The textures appear blocky and the actual screen size of the game only covers about a third of an HD screen. It's sad to see visual possibilities wasted in order to pay homage to the past. With titles like Marble Blast Ultra and Geometry Wars dazzling the eye, Frogger is an ugly arcade stepsister in comparison.

Also, I have a bone to pick with the object collision & detection adaptation. Seemingly, my frog will often look like it's sitting on the edge of a log, but I will die anyway. Alternatively, jumping into the final endgame holes can frustrate to no end if you are off by a millimeter. Why bother with these minor graphical increases without increasing the safe area of each object as well?

Audio:
The music is surprisingly quaint in the Frogger arcade offering. Digital Eclipse faithfully stuck with the sweet music that made the original likeable with the kids. The music never overstates the rest of the sound effects and continues happily in the background while cars attempt to run over you. The hopping sound effects will be familiar to the eighties crowd as well as the much dreaded splat.

Conclusion:
Frogger is guaranteed to produce mixed reactions ranging from anger over its lower quality to insistence that Frogger is beyond alteration. Personally, I enjoy Frogger for reasons beyond the quality of the title. It's the perfect game for teaching kids the beauty of Live Arcade due to the obvious simplicity of the title or becoming a kid again for that matter. Is the hippity hopper worth shelling out 400 points from that Marketplace account? People who love the classic shouldn't hesitate, nor should Gamerscore junkies who are looking for a quick fix. Everyone else should try out the demo before laying out the Live currency.