Sea Life Safari
- Developer: Wanako
- Publisher: Sierra Online
- Microsoft Points: 800 (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60)
You know how there are certain things that you enjoy, even though you have no idea why? Kind of like how white beer tastes like liquid hedge, but is sort of quite nice because of its strangeness? That's what Sea Life Safari is like.
It's an entry in a genre so niche and so underpopulated that it doesn't even seem to have a name. Photography games? The snap-'em-up? Whatever you want to call them, they're relaxing games where you trundle along - usually on rails, as in this game - and must take interesting photos of the wildlife you spot along the way. It's a chilled-out relaxing style of game I've always secretly enjoyed, for reasons that I can't quite explain, and I was pleasantly surprised to see an example turn up on Live Arcade.
As the name so cunningly suggests, this one has an aquatic theme and finds you gently drifting through five different undersea environments in search of the perfect pics. The left stick moves your view, left trigger zooms in while right trigger takes a photo. From a tranquil coral reef to a ferocious underwater volcano, you've got 24 photos in each run (no digital cameras here, clearly) to capture a top quality image of each of the region's inhabitants. You can throw "gizmos" at them with the B button to make them react for more lively shots, which is essential for getting the highest possible ratings.
You see, there's a crusty old sea dog who judges your snaps at the end of each run. Once you've supplied him with enough pics that meet with his approval, he'll allow you to move on to the next area. Thankfully, the game mixes things up for each run through with different routes through each area and different secrets to find along the way. There are ancient artefacts lurking in the scenery, golden seashells to find and special comic moments waiting to be triggered.
The graphics are cartoony, but not distractingly so, while a burbling ambient soundtrack accompanies you as you move among the seaweed and ruins on the seabed. The scrolling could be smoother - a particularly strange problem, given how linear the paths are - but it's nothing that will concern the game's intended audience. This is clearly a game designed for light-hearted communal family play, with everyone chipping in with suggestions of what to photograph. And, on those terms, Sea Life Safari is a sweet, amusing and enjoyable little experience.
- Developer: Voltex
- Publisher: Konami
- Microsoft Points: 800 (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60)
Somewhat confusingly, this is actually the third Frogger 2. Parker Bros produced the brilliantly named Frogger II: Threeedeep! for the Atari 5200 in 1981, while 2000 brought us a rather wretched 3D platformer for the Dreamcast, also claiming to be the one true heir to the throne of Frogger.
This latest stab at the prize takes it back to the old school - you control a cute little green frog and guide him through fifteen levels of maze-like action. Avoiding enemies and picking up the obligatory coins and 1Ups along the way, the mazes are bisected by rivers and its here that the old Frogger gameplay is stirred into the mix.
With its perky music and bright cartoon graphics, Frogger 2 would be ideal for little kids - a huge casual market currently poorly served by Live Arcade - were it not for the absolutely horrible execution. Games like Frogger rely almost entirely on precision and predictability. You know that Frogger is this size, and that he hops forward this much. You then gauge the speed of the logs, leaves, cars, whatever, and make your move accordingly. Except in this modernised version that precision is lost. The collision detection is wayward, and it's not always clear if Frogger is going to land on the edge of a floating platform or fall through it.
The game also gets too hard too soon, assuming it is meant for younger players, with loads of enemies moving around their fixed paths leaving only tiny gaps through which to successfully slip. It requires phenomenal timing, and the twitchy controls and misleading graphics conspire to make that a deeply frustrating task.
You do get a couple of multiplayer modes for online, where you race against other players, but the fundamental design flaws remain. If you want to play a classic arcade game updated the right way, stick with Pac-Man: Championship Edition. Leave Frogger 2 to sink back into the swamp.
Get your first month for £1 (normally £3.99) when you buy a Standard Eurogamer subscription. Enjoy ad-free browsing, merch discounts, our monthly letter from the editor, and show your support with a supporter-exclusive comment flair!