Frogger

Road in this morning.

One of the good things about being a youngster and a 16-bit Internet hack is that I've never had to talk about pumping coins into an arcade machine. Coins? Get lost Granddad! My memories are better. For example, I used to play Frogger on my Dad's Amstrad PC in the garage. Sometimes it had spiders in it. And when Konami people threw Frogger t-shirts at my head during E3, I didn't raise them to my face to help choke back the tears of nostalgia; I threw them back and knocked over a cardboard Solid Snake.

This is a good thing. Because science (well, made-up science) tells me that sentimental attachment is parasitic; a long-term decomposition of objectivity, which transforms the chambered muscular organ in your chest into a chambered round of rose-tinted aggression, ready to be fired off with indignation whenever somebody mucks around with your childhood (another upshot of being young and having no past to speak of is that you have lots of time to waste on rubbish gun metaphors).

So it's handy I'm not like that, because one of the things games companies often do when they bring us updated versions of their old games is, well, update them.

Frogger, for example, has new graphics and sounds. I am untroubled by this. With the extra time I gleaned from not angrily firing my vital organs at people's heads, I was able to explore the menus and discover you can turn them off. So the choice is simple: pixellated old-days graphics and dodgy sounds, or the sorts of thing that, as you can see in the screenshots, you'd probably expect the Master System to aspire to.

Another thing you'll note is that the game only occupies a section of the screen, as though it's being played sideways on a 4:3 television that's been kicked over. This is fine too. Stretch it out using the options menu and it looks horrible, but, again, the option is there. This optional-update stuff is becoming a bit of a theme.

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Updated graphics! Frankly I prefer the old ones because it's easier to judge the absolute end of a log or car.

From which you'd be forgiven for inferring that Konami hasn't done much to update Frogger at all. But that's not the case. Actually what they've done is rather clever. Instead of changing things and winding people up, they've used the Xbox 360's system of achievements to encourage you to concentrate on different aspects of the otherwise simple task of delivering frogs across a road and over a river. And online they've added leaderboards, which you can only contribute to if you don't muck about with the default lives setting, and a couple of multiplayer game modes.

The single-player first. Without paying attention to the achievements, it's much the same. Using either the left analogue stick or directional pad, you move your little frog across a road in-between traffic, which comes at you from both sides, pause for a moment on the opposite verge, and then spring deftly across logs and turtles that are flowing along in parallel opposing currents. The idea is to deliver five little froggies into the five little slots on the opposite bank. As you might imagine for a console that costs 279.99, uses three processor cores and has more redundant memory in it than an old-people's home, the 360 deals capably with all of this. The only slight niggles are the game's own - you have to be quite precise when leaping into the slots on the bank, for example.

It's when you first complete a level, the game awards you a few points and you hit the Xbox guide button to see what you've been rewarded for that you spot the others. And they're quite good fun to go after. Of course you're given points for completing levels one through five, but you're also given a few points for delivering the frogs to their river-side homes one by one from right to left. You're rewarded for saving five lady frogs, who pop up occasionally on a mid-river log and need collecting and depositing too. You earn yet more points for completing a level in less than 45 seconds, by eating three bugs, or by playing chicken with the traffic - these are the best achievements really, the idea being to remain in the flow of traffic on level one and two until the time limit approaches and then scamper across the river before time runs out.

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Online play adds something. There are leaderboards to 'log' your high scores, too.

Then there's the multiplayer. You can play ranked versus matches, where the goal is to outscore your opponent - a byproduct of which is that you've generally outlasted them - with the action split down the middle. If you're not bothered about rankings, you can take a friend on in a general or private friends match in versus, versus-speed or co-op modes. Versus-speed is about getting all five of your frogs to the other side of the river first, while co-op is a straightforward game of Frogger that combines your scores with those of another player. Lag doesn't appear to be much of an issue, since you're not interacting (although the game does helpfully tell you if the other player has a rubbish ping during the lobby phase), and although I experienced some trouble setting up a private game I didn't have any difficulty hooking up with random strangers (if only life were like that etc.).

And that, really, is your lot. There's not a lot to criticise. A restart option would've been nice for those occasions when you foul things up immediately on the first level - and no I don't think that's just me being young and stupid. Other than that, Frogger is a well-worked update that meddles with a classic formula without actually changing it. It's a role model for arcade updates.

It's also rather quickly dispensed with. Getting to levels four and five, reaching 30,000 points in a co-op game and managing to deliver 15 frogs to the other side of the river on one life are tricky tasks that'll keep you going for a bit, but otherwise Frogger will probably take you less than an evening to exhaust. So really it depends how much 400 Microsoft points is worth to you. It's worth 3.40 to me.

7 / 10

Frogger is out now on Xbox Live Arcade and costs 400 Microsoft points, which is 3.40 in old money (and EUR 4.65 and USD 5.00 in other types of old money).

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy Frogger Tom Bramwell Road in this morning. 2006-07-12T16:30:00+01:00 7 10

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