A long time ago, on an internet far, far way, Jim "Twinbeard" Crawford released a free browser game called Frog Fractions. Its absurdist humour and unpredictable string of non-sequiturs allowed the curio to go viral, resulting in a successfully crowdfunded sequel, Frog Fractions 2.
There was a catch, however: the Frog Fractions sequel was to be released in secret, as a hidden part of another game. After three years of an almost completely inscrutable ARG consisting of hidden codes in other games, alleged time travellers, escape the room games, and mysterious parcels shipped to the most diligent of internet sleuths, the elusive Frog Fractions sequel was discovered in a recently released Adult Swim game called Glittermitten Grove.
Unlike the first Frog Fractions, Glittmitten Grove costs money. Ł14.99 / $19.99 to be exact. And with this costlier adventure comes a lot more content, with a campaign that's at least six times as long as its predecessor's hour or so running length. Plus it contains Glittermitten Grove, which is a fully-fleshed out game in its own right.
About Glittermitten Grove: it's a resource management game about using fairies to build up a treehouse village through harvesting materials from the ground. This relatively straightforward systems-based sim is an acquired taste, and not one I've acquired, though thankfully a secret code has been uncovered that kicks players straight into Twinbeard's highly anticipated sequel. Pro-tip: type "butts" and save yourself the trouble of excavating the very real urban legend.
That's when you're whisked away to TXT World, an Amiga-inspired overworld that serves as a hub for Frog Fractions 2. Yes, Frog Fractions 2 has an overworld, and it's a relatively consistent one. Tasked with acquiring new gear, clearing obstacles, and collecting keys and gems, it's a throwback to the ZZT-era of shareware titles, where puzzle rooms in abstract interconnected overworlds were the name of the game.
You'll spend much of your time in this deranged overworld, but it's not exactly a pleasant place to explore. Unlike the first Frog Fractions' quick pace that ensured players never stayed in the same skit for too long, TXT World is long, ugly, and devoid of much humour relative to its predecessor. Twinbeard tries to make up for this by adding more conventional game mechanics like puzzles, mild stealth and minimalist combat, and it does achieve some degree of success with this Toejam & Earl-like exploratory adventure, but it's a very different beast from Frog Fractions and one likely to disappoint those anticipating a more laidback affair.
Much of the game is split between a handful of mini-games, scattered throughout TXT World like Zelda Dungeons. These are the meat of Frog Fractions 2 and each offers a completely different, entirely insane premise.
Going into detail about these would spoil much of surprise, so I'll limit this to one example: Spaxris, a sim about a man trying to coax his college roommate into moving out by sabotaging their environment without arousing too much suspicion. Did I mention that their roommate is also a xenomorph? But that's not why our hero wants him gone. It's really about wanting to move into the master bedroom, obv.
Many of these games are delightfully deranged, hearkening back to the rapid fire nature of the original Frog Fractions, which knew when to kill a joke. Or at least when to shave off the schleem and repurpose it for later batches.
Frog Fractions 2, however, is stretched too thin with a more predictable format that robs it of its predecessor's more purposeful pace. Exploring the overworld takes a long time and while there are plenty of goofy gags along the way, the ratio of jokes to skill-based navigation challenges takes a major hit in this ambitious follow-up.
By and large, my time with Frog Fractions 2 has paled in comparison to its predecessor. That said, it earns brownie points for being different; it's both different to the previous Frog Fractions, and different to anything else in existence. There's still a degree of magic and wonder to this bonkers pastiche of obscure shareware spliced with the postmodern absurdity from the network that brought us Too Many Cooks, and one has to admire Twinbeard's commitment to the bit, but after a few hours of actually playing Frog Fractions 2, it seems tamer and more conservatively structured than the madcap marketing ARG that made Frog Fraction's sequel such a mythical presence.