Apr 25, 2011
Ancient Frog is one of those games I’m always looking forward to discovering, as a reviewer. As much as I love shooters and action games, I can’t help my craving for the more artsy/outsider style of games. It’s such a unique experience that, at times, doesn’t even really feel like a game.
There are no “lives,” no time limit or leader board to compete with. You’re playing as a frog, trying to climb your way to a tasty fly in as few moves as possible with the goal of coming in “under par.” But rather than manipulate a directional pad or other such control scheme, you’re moving the frog’s limbs, one at a time.
Some levels of Ancient Frog are so easy that it feels like you’re hardly trying at all. Then, it gets hard. Like, we’re talking QWOP-level difficulty. Even with the built-in hints feature giving you some idea of where the frog needs to be to advance, just getting it into that position can be mind-bending.
What makes the game so difficult is that you have to take into account the physical limitations of the frogs and that the footholds are set in specific locations. You can’t just stretch a leg or bend a joint in a direction it won’t go, and if the only way to go up is to rotate 180 degrees and climb upside down, that’s just how you’ll have to do it. Half the battle is figuring out which limb to place first, as you can find yourself without a solution right from the very first, wrong step. Thankfully, swiping the screen to the left provides a convenient “undo” function.
The graphics are breathtaking, featuring fluid animation and photo-realistic environments. Granted, there’s not a lot going on — a 3D frog model, a buzzing fly, some dew drops or other object to climb on and a picture of a leaf, lilly pad or tree trunk to provide the background. Even so, the texture work and special effects are simply phenomenal.
The only problem I had with the graphics was on the tree trunk levels, where it can be extremely difficult to see each foothold. Thankfully, the game highlights any foothold you can reach when you select a limb, but it makes planning each move in advance very strenuous. I couldn’t wait to pass these levels.
In the end, we’re left with an extremely unique puzzle game with stunning graphics and a zen-like experience. The world just melts away as you become engrossed with solving each one. What’s even more interesting is that I actually found myself thinking like a rock climber, relying on what little experience I’ve had from the few times I’ve climbed artificial rock faces. You can’t actually fall in the game, but you have to plan out each movement or risk getting stuck. It can be very frustrating.
All in all, Ancient Frog is just a great little game that I’ve become extremely enamored with. I’m glad I got to play it.