|Source // Wikipedia|
Where oh where was I when I first encountered Frogger? I couldn't tell you, but my memory wants to say that it was a nice family friendly game, so I wouldn't be surprised if I was rather young when I was first squashed by oncoming traffic. Maybe it was available at school. We played Lemmings at school, so we might have played Frogger.
Anyway, bumbling through my memory aside, Frogger is impossible to forget, if only because everything else like it is referred to as 'like Frogger', that game where you hop a frog across a dangerously designed road network before hopping across a congested river. Only then can you feel safe, until another frog spawns (hah, frogspawn, get it?) and the cycle repeats.
It repeats so often that Frogger is everywhere, so once more I've hopped into a few different versions to see what's what (and once more, it still has absolutely nothing to do with my inability to play the original arcade version...).
Atari 2600, 1981
The screenshot doesn't do this version justice, partly because the screenshot doesn't capture all the elements of the game - I'm sat on a set of ellipses (or 'turtles', if you use your imagination), and the white frog is on top of a log, if memory serves. To get to the point, it looks like Frogger running on an Atari 2600, which is what it is.
Gameplay is simple, once the music finishes and allows you to actually start playing. If you know of Frogger, you know what it feels like. Four directions of movement, with moving up the screen being the most preferable. The only difference is that in this version (the only version I'm aware of at least) you can safely scroll off the sides of the screen in the river section and not lose a life. It makes the latter section a breeze, though there are other game modes to change the difficulty by including more traffic and alligators and so on.
Overall, it's a quick fix of arcade gaming at home. The Ribbit-O-Meter says: Ribb
Atari 5200, 1983
What a difference a couple of years makes, eh? Frogger looks pretty damn swanky on the Atari 5200, which is such a shame because it plays like garbage.
See me down the bottom of the screen there? I've managed to hop backwards from the very start of the game. It took me a life or two to work out that you've got to press the jump button and the direction you want to jump in - just pressing the direction rotates your frog, and that's no good when you're pushed for time because a car is speeding into your face.
Other than that, it at least looks good. Some things more than others. I think my frog looks like a spider there...
The Ribbit-O-Meter says: Riibb
Game Boy, 1998
A long time later, with Frogger being 17 years old at this point, versions came out for all manner of systems in 1998. Here's the Game Boy version where, as you'd expect, things would get a little tricky to see. You can play because you know how to play Frogger by now, but it's still black, grey, grey and white (or black, green, green and green should you have it in a Game Boy, in your hands).
Cars look like cars, logs look more like logs, your frog doesn't look like a spider... all is going well for this port - as well as a Game Boy can offer at least. It should easily keep you entertained as your parents drive down the motorway, running over frogs.
The Ribbit-O-Meter says: Riiibbit
Sega Mega Drive, 1998
Back at home on the Mega Drive, we're gaming with colour, doing what we always do with Frogger - hop, hop, hop, damnit, hop. Of note though is that the introduction screens point out that you get bonus points for escorting home a lady frog, which is quite the side quest. I didn't manage that one though. She just slipped through my fingers. Like a wet frog would.
The joke, not the game. Though the Ribbit-O-Meter says: Riibbit
Finally we come to the SNES offering, where so much has been done to the graphics that it must have cut into the music budget, because I didn't have any. Maybe that's just me. Worth noting is that it plays just like Frogger (huh, who'd have thought it?), looks pretty damn flashy, but portrays a depressing look at the state of mankinds inability to live at one with nature.
Find the grasslands in that screenshot. Find anything that a frog could call home. He can't live in a cave. Those trees are no good, they'll disappear off screen in a few seconds. It's appalling.
The Ribbit-O-Meter says: Ribbit
So there you have it, a quick tour of the same game on five different systems. You know all about Frogger already, that's why it's on a list of 1001 video games you must play before you too get run over by a bus, bitten by an alligator, drown on the back of a turtle...
Four directions, quick thinking and reflexes to match. That's all you need. It helps that in order to best use those things, the developers decided that a helpless little frog with no ability to attack was the go-to character. It's not all about blowing things up, is it? Getting out of the way can be just as much of a thrill as putting someone else in the way, and after all these decades, Frogger continues to prove that.
If you've not played it - let's face it, you have, but if you've not played it - go and play a few rounds of Frogger. Just because.
George Costanza's fictional Frogger high score in Seinfeld has only been beaten twice.
Frogger, developed by Konami, first released in 1981.
Versions played: Atari 2600, 1981, via emulation.
Atari 5200, 1983, via emulation.
Game Boy, 1998, via emulation.
Sega Mega Drive, 1998, via emulation.
SNES, 1998, via emulation.