Frogger reached its 30th anniversary last year so, as is tradition for gaming birthdays, Konami has marched out a new edition of the arcade classic. Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition sets out to bring multiplayer and new play styles to the franchise, but it's not quite all it's croaked up to be.
It's split up into eight modes – six game types, a mash-up mode that cycles through those types at random and a challenge mode – that each take the basic road-and-river-crossing mechanic of Frogger and build new objectives around it. It's only partly successful; some games are fun, but others serve only to annoy.
Funnily enough, it's often the modes that deviate from the formula the most that prove the pick of the pond. In the single player Paint you have to hop all the way around a pattern made up of squares, landing on each panel at least once to change its colour while avoiding the cars that drive across the field horizontally. Fill out the pattern before the time runs out and you move on to the next – repeat unless you lose all your lives.
Tile Capture has a similar feel, only it's set across a more traditional Frogger board and is multiplayer-focused (though all multiplayer modes can be played in single player against CPU-controlled opponents). Each frog has to 'paint' their colour across as many tiles as possible and then jump into one of the five home spots at the top of the screen to temporarily lock their marks in place. The more you claim, the more points you earn. A round ends when all of the top spots are filled, and each subsequent round is filled with more hazards: faster cars, crocodiles in the river and snakes. The game ultimately ends when only one player is left with lives.
A version of the original game is also included and plays well, with similar progression of danger and difficulty when you conquer each screen. But then things start to go a bit wrong, as the remaining game types range from uninteresting to confusing. Lady Frog Rescue has four players rushing around and picking up pink female froggies before returning to the upper bays until all five are filled; again a race for points with the top score winning. It's a fair idea, but isn't hugely compelling.
It's preferable to Twin Frog, however, a baffling game in which you control two frogs simultaneously. They're set two squares apart horizontally and always stay as such. It's much more of a challenge than normal Frogger, as you have to watch two places at once, but the problem comes at the river section of each stage; it can be bad enough when logs don't turn up in good time with a single frog, but with two frogs to line up it's just a pain.
The worst of the bunch is Battle Royale, which quickly devolves into a mess of power ups every single time. Four frogs face off, with the winner being the one that survives the longest or crushes the most opponents. All frogs are powerless until they run into a lady frog; with the power of love on their side, they become killing machines that can squash other amphibians by simply touching them. The only defence is to leap away from them as quickly as possible until the effect wears off.
If that was the lone danger it might not be so troublesome to keep up with, but there are still cars charging around – which can kill any frog, regardless of state – and power ups litter the field. Grab one of the colourful flies and you can freeze, teleport or invert the controls of your enemies, complete with overbearing effect overlays to announce when they've been used. When you have several players activating these simultaneously, while one smashes around like a waterproof Hulk, plus frogs spawning and splatting in mists of chunky pixels, it can be extremely difficult to keep track of what on Earth is actually going on.
Challenge mode mixes all of these game types up, setting tasks such as completing a certain level against a strict time limit, or collecting a set number of power-ups. It's a good way to get a brief overview of all that's on offer, and some of the levels are genuinely tough.
Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition's presentation, meanwhile, is all over the place. The game types that can be played with the retro vector-style neon-on-black colour scheme look fine, but the colours of the re-interpretation of the original visuals are garish and clash. Thankfully you can swap the visual styles around much of the time; there are some cool Contra and Castlevania skins to use as well if you enter codes or complete all of the challenges. The soundtrack doesn't fare amazingly either; it's limited to a few retro-styled techno tunes that grate quite quickly.
There are weird design choices when it comes to the controls, also. Played with the Wii Remote in NES configuration, most of the time the 2 button is used for inputs, including pausing. 1 backs out of some menu choices, but is neglected entirely in-game. Rather than being able to press a button to activate a power-up, you instead have to shake the Remote; the former would have been far more comfortable. You might like the fact that you can change the movement options so that you have to press the D-pad for each square moved, but more likely you'll want to keep it on the default 'hyper' movement so that you can simply hold the directions down until you want to stop jumping.
Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition is a reasonable attempt to inject new life into an ageing franchise. A couple of the new game types are great, and the original is still pretty decent a few decades on, but unfortunately the other modes aren't really up to par. At 1000 Nintendo Points, it leans on the expensive side for what is a rather slim package that you'll only get the most from if you have a few Frogger-loving friends to hand. Think carefully before you dive in.