Team 17 give their Amiga-era platformer a colourful makeover for modern platforms, but sadly it’s not enough to disguise a dated game without enough fun content to maintain interest.
World-building & Story
Story definitely wasn’t a central point in designing Superfrog, as there’s very little here and what there is as run-of-the-mill as it comes. You’re tasked as the titular character – a prince turned into a frog by an evil witch – with saving the helpless princess and in the process turning yourself back into a human. If it sounds like I’ve just described a Disney movie to you, that’s how it felt playing the game, except with none of the charm or character.
My big issue with the story is just that there’s barely any of it here – aside from a few scenes at the beginning and one at the end, the game really gives you nothing to go on. Some of this can be excused by the type of game it is and the era it originally released in, but even then I’d expect a little more.
It’s let down by the world-building too, which is better in contemporaries such as Mario and Sonic that fill gaps in story with a fun, coherent world to explore. Superfrog, conversely, throws you into six disjointed worlds with little connection between them – a great excuse for the art department to go crazy with mad designs, but it doesn’t really allow for the development of any consistency in the areas you’re traversing.
Presentation & Sound
At its core, Superfrog HD is a fairly simplistic 2D platformer from a bygone era that has been given a new graphical lick of paint. Team 17 certainly get some things right – most of the animations are sharp; the themes for each area are generally pretty well realized etc. Yet other elements just aren’t up to scratch – backgrounds are plain and often repeated far too often; certain elements simply blend in to the surroundings making it difficult to navigate around at times etc. It’s very much a product of its time, for better and for worse.
The biggest offender in the presentation is actually in the modern lick of paint the game has received – at times it looks like one of the dime-a-dozen candy-coloured mobile ‘runners’ out there. Things like brief story scenes which play in between sets of levels feature garishly drawn characters that aren’t pleasant to look and levels often feature an over-abundance of glimmering collectables.
And that’s pretty much all there is to the presentation – you’re either running around levels packed with collectables and enemies or watching very brief animated scenes in between. There isn’t really much I can say about it – its plain and inoffensive and gets the job done.
Sound is pretty average – there’s no voice acting (I would have been more surprised if there was!) and sound effects become tiresome after a while. Music has highs and lows but can get repetitive as the songs are repeated through each set of four levels.
Gameplay & Content
So it comes down to gameplay for Superfrog HD then, but sadly this is a fairly disappointing area for the game too. A 2D platformer that seems to draw ideas from rival series ranging from Metroid to Sonic, it sadly never manages to take on an identity of its own.
Upon booting up you’re given a number of options, and certainly content isn’t an area I can fault the game on. Aside from the main game which consists of six lots of four levels (plus an additional six lots of four based on the game’s original design), there’s also various time trials; an endless mode and a nifty level editor which certainly allows you to create designs that rival those in the campaign.
Once you start playing, it’s easy to get to grips with the controls which are much like any 2D platformer you’ll have played before. The titular character can jump (higher than usual as he’s a frog); run; crouch and if he obtains powerups – glide and throw a projectile. In general there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the platforming in the beginning, but it isn’t long before problems start appearing.
For starters, the game does little to explain anything. Rules are established – you can survive enemy hits but not spike pits, but you’ll only find this through trial and error. Bizarre discrepancies exist – you can collect a potion which makes you immune to enemy hits but the spike pit will still kill you in one; while some enemies can be bounced on to be killed while others can’t. And the game’s legion of collectables are never explained – I still don’t know what the crowns do and it took me ages to figure out the weird butterflies I found allowed me to glide.
In addition, things like hit boxes seem off – you’ll regularly get hit by spike traps just by going near them which is infuriating in later levels. The game likes to taunt you with this, providing speed boosts and tonnes of collectables to gather then throwing a nice death trap at the end – this isn’t fun design for a platformer.
Speaking of speed boosts, Superfrog likes to take bits and pieces from other series, but rarely implements them well. The main character can sprint like Sonic and collect tokens to speed up, but this isn’t the focus of the game and so feels tacked on. There are lots of hidden side corridors and secrets like a good metroidvania, yet these are discovered by poking at every wall you come across until a passage opens. It’s time consuming and not really very interesting.
In spite of all of this, I did see all the levels the game had to offer as it’s a fairly laid way to spend some time collecting a load of items in a bright, colourful world. There’s just so many better ways to spend your time gaming on Vita that makes it difficult to recommend this title.
Superfrog HD is an average platformer through and through – it doesn’t do anything badly and is certainly playable, but from the presentation to the level design to the mechanics, everything about it just feels ‘alright’. It’s an interesting timepiece to see what Team 17 were before they became a Worms factory, but I’m not sure it’s a game that really needed bringing back for the modern era.