Superfrog was one of two attempts to create an Amiga game to rival the original Sonic The Hedgehog. The game is fondly remembered by Amiga fans, but can a platformer that is now twenty years old capture hearts once more, or should the amphibious hero been left on of his lily pad?
The game begins with a short introduction which recreates the screens from the Amiga version. A besotted Prince is cursed by an evil witch and turned in to a frog, before conveniently finding a potion which makes him super.
You could argue that Superfrog is misnamed, as our amphibian chum is less than super, at least to begin with. Each level starts with just a standard frog who can run and jump and it’s only while playing that various pick-ups add the “super” powers. A cape to allow him to glide, a small green character to throw at enemies and potions to increase health, time and speed.
You have an energy bar which depletes when you come into contact with an enemy, and when a life is lost you lose all the power ups, which can make negotiating some levels extremely frustrating.
There are also thousands of bonus items to pick up, mostly fruit and coins that increase the score. Many of these are hidden in secret passages or can be revealed by head-butting the scenery, much like a certain plumber. However, there’s a lot to search for, and even though each level has a generous time limit discovering all the secrets will take multiple plays.
Controlling Superfrog takes a fair amount of patience, as this is a pixel-perfect remake of the Amiga game, so as soon as you let go of the stick, the green chap stops dead. Inertia is strangely absent until you encounter one of the classic game tropes of the 16-bit era, the slippy-slidey level. The scrolling also stops as soon as the character stops moving and this, when combined with some annoying zooming in and out of the screen as you speed up and down, actually managed to make me feel a little queasy.
For a game that is undeniably retro, it’s a surprise to find that it has that most modern of gaming features: the ability to use a PlayStation Vita as a controller for the PS3 game. A simple tap of the screen synchronises both platforms, and when the game is in progress the Vita screen turns into a map, which is most useful when trying to locate all the hidden areas. When using the Cross-Controller feature, Superfrog can enter portals on the PS3 screen and be transported to an extra hidden area on the PS Vita screen, which is a neat touch.
The game also ships with a level editor, where you just need to place a start and end point on the map, then create as many platforms, pick-ups and enemies as you like. It’s a nice addition but rather fiddly to use – LittleBigPlanet this is not – and as you cannot share the levels in any way, other than passing your PS Vita to a chum, it is sadly rather pointless.
Also included is an endless runner mode called Frog Trials, in which you must collect time extending power ups whilst speeding through levels. It’s mildly entertaining for a few games and the inclusion of online leader boards will add to the replay value.
You may have scrolled to the bottom of this, and are now wondering where the score is for Superfrog HD. There are two reasons for the lack of score, the first being that I have yet to finish the game despite playing it every day on my commute to work, for the last two weeks. I find it extremely frustrating with instant deaths and, as I mentioned earlier, losing your super powers make some sections incredibly difficult.
Pixel-perfect leaps are required and at times I thought I was on target to land on a platform, only to find the frog slipping over the edge into a pit of flames. The collision detection is also unforgiving; brushing against the side of a spike – not the pointy end – will kill the frog. You have no idea how many times I almost threw my PS Vita across a crowded London Underground carriage while screaming obscenities at a cute, but deadly, bumblebee!
The second reason for the lack of a score, to be brutally honest, is that I am not sure what score to give. As a HD remake of the Amiga game, Superfrog HD is faultless. Everything from the 16-bit era is present, including the original twenty four levels which can be unlocked by a winning spin on the level-ending fruit machines.
However, it is a remake and that means it includes all its faults which may have been overlooked twenty years ago, but today are plain irritating. Marking the game down for those reasons seems quite unfair, since Team 17 set out to make a HD version of Superfrog rather than a remake or remix, but giving the game 10/10 for doing exactly what it says on the tin is also out of the question.
I did enjoy playing the game, and there are some levels that capture the exhilaration of Sonic, whizzing across the landscape at top speed and jumping far across the bright blue sky, so if you are looking to relive past glories then this may be the game for you. However, gaming has progressed and become a lot more forgiving in the last twenty years and, as much as I hate to admit it, to a modern gamer Superfrog HD is rather croaky.