Wednesday 7 August 2013

Superfrog HD Review (PS3/PS Vita)

Superfrog first appeared on the Amiga back in the days when the platformer was king. It never made it to consoles to take on the Sonic’s and Mario’s of the world but was given a warm reception and to this day the little green frog prince holds a warm place in the heart of many a retro gamer. Team 17 have decided the time is now right for Superfrog to finally make the leap to consoles and we are more than happy that it has.

We’ll be honest, Superfrog is one of those games that we’ve always wanted to play but never managed to get hold of. This means we were of course happy to finally get to play it but also a little unsure if the gameplay would hold up without a rose-tinted view point to fall back on. We can get that fear out of way right away. There is much more to this than reliving memories of a golden game from years gone by. 

For those new to the game the story is a wonderful piece of hokum about a prince and princess who have a magic spell put on them which turns them into frogs. The princess is whisked away and it is up to the prince to bounce through six worlds to save her. Not an original plot by any means but then sometimes the old stories are the best.

The first thing returning fans will notice is the overhaul the graphics have been given. Everything is now much more colourful and bright. The sprites and backgrounds have been redesigned and upgraded and it all looks suitably comic and silly. The new look keeps the feel of the original while allowing it to look suitable for both the PS3 and Vita screens.

The levels themselves have also been remixed to better cater for a new generation of gamers. What this means isn’t just that they have been made easier. While that is the case in certain places, some have also been added to and made larger. For those that prefer things how they used to be you can unlock the original levels via a fruit machine mini game. The levels aren’t that difficult to unlock either and we had all of them available by around half way through the game.

Levels themselves are bright and bouncy, filled with collectible coins and fruit to add to your score and springs and secret passages to help you through the level. Villains take the form of worms, penguins and other assorted goofy animals with big eyes. There are disappearing platforms and spikes, falling blocks and ice levels. If you ever wondered about the heritage of the Amiga platform genre it’s all here to see. Superfrog is definitely still an Amiga platformer at heart as well. That pacey, slightly slippery, mad cap approach we associate with so many of the machines output is still heavily in force and for many new gamers will feel like something fun and new.

All of the levels are well designed and the learning curve is good with each world adding new dangers and providing a step up in challenge. Levels can be raced through to reach the end or taken more slowly to try and find all the coins and collectibles. Power ups come in the form of wings which let you float and potatoes with eyes that you can throw at enemies to despatch them.

There is always a clock ticking down but unless you’re going to search every tiny corner it won’t get near to running out on you.  At the end of each level you get a star rating and a rundown of your completion time, score, coins collected and secrets found, so there is plenty here for the completionists to do when revisiting levels.

If there is a criticism it’s that sometimes you’ll be careering around at such a speed that’s it difficult to see smaller enemies and spikes. This is more of an issue of the Vita’s smaller screen but even then you have enough flexibility in terms of energy and lives for it not to cause any major frustrations. The boss battles with the witch at the end of each world are also pretty poor, with little imagination or clever design in place. They don’t last long though so you can soon get back to racing around.

As well as the main game there are a host of other options available. These include an endless runner version of the game where you continually need to pick up clocks to keep you dwindling time ticking over. It proves a fun diversion but doesn’t promise to last as long as the level editor option. Here users can remix and set up their own levels from the assets in the game and share with over players. This could provide a string of excellent content should the community get behind it and it’s a great addition to have.

Overall, this is a great return for one of the genres much loved underdogs. It’s seems we’ve been waiting for the return of Superfrog for forever and now is definitely the right time. It’s a fun and knock about kind of game that relies on pace and the constant sound of collectibles being picked up to keep you going. It’s short and sweet with the draw to keep you coming back to completed levels strong and is a genuine breath of fresh air. We haven’t played a platformer like this for years and we’re so glad to finally have its type back again. 


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