Frogun Encore Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Though the heyday of the 3D platformer is long past, modern indie developers have done a pretty good job of keeping the spirit alive through dedicated efforts in titles such as Lunistice, Mail Mole, Cavern of Dreams, and Demon Turf. Frogun was another decent new entry to the genre back in 2022 and now the developers at Top Hat Studios have come back for a second outing with Frogun Encore, a “standalone expansion/sequel” that carries on and polishes up much of what made the original a hidden gem. Frogun Encore may still be a little janky in places (arguably that’s part of the charm), but Renata’s sophomore outing is overall a stronger and more enjoyable adventure that fans of retro 3D platformers will want to watch out for.

Frogun Encore plays much the same as its predecessor, tasking you with exploring brief levels packed with secrets, enemies, and a whole lot of collectibles. Renata herself is a little more limber than in her initial outing, as she can now pull off moves like a double jump or a mid-grapple catapult maneuver. And just like last time, she can use her trusty frogun (which can, adorably, talk to her and give advice throughout levels) to zip to distant ledges and snatch jars or enemies up with its lengthy tongue. The girl and frog duo may have a rather simplistic moveset compared to 3D platformer royalty like Banjo and Kazooie, but the levels here are well-tailored to their abilities and routinely come up with interesting new challenges to keep you on your toes.

Frogun Encore Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The moment-to-moment platforming itself is top-notch, and in many ways, Frogun Encore feels a bit like a 3D version of Yoshi’s Island in how it approaches collectibles and completion. To pass a level, simply reach the talisman waiting for you at the end of the course, but you’re missing out on a lot of the experience if that’s all that you do. To 100% each course, you also need to find two green gems hidden somewhere in the stage, pick up every coin, grab a skull squirreled away in an extra-hard, hidden bonus stage, complete the level without dying, and beat the stage within a set time limit. Fortunately, it’s not required that you do all these things in one run, so you can take your time getting to know the layout and collectible locations as you retry it with different objectives.

It’s incredibly satisfying to snag everything, and part of why this system works so well is due to the intelligent stages design. Each level is only a few minutes long, so repeat visits hardly feel grindy or arduous given that you're zipping in and out before a stage overstays its welcome. Beyond this, you slowly start to recognize how there are various built-in shortcuts to take advantage of once you understand Renata’s moveset better, expediting travel and rewarding mastery of the movement mechanics.

Frogun Encore is very similar to its predecessor, then, but it’s clear that the developers have put in the work to address some of the criticisms of the first entry. For example, targeting for the titular frogun is much better this time around, neatly sidestepping the occasionally awkward process that previously arose when aiming and shooting. Now, the targeting reticle will intelligently lock on to grabbable things that you’re facing, and while it can sometimes default to something next to the object or enemy you’re trying to snatch, it overall feels much snappier.

Frogun Encore Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The camera has received some improvements, now taking more of a top-down view of the action that better captures the layout of stages as you navigate them. There’s no more need to fiddle around with the camera as you line up for the next jump because you can always clearly see where you’re going, removing a lot of the previous frustration that came with managing the perspective. Some may miss having manual camera control and the new perspective does give the gameplay a slightly different feel, but this new style overall feels like an improvement.

One of the headlining new features of this sequel is that a friend can now drop in for some local co-op at any time by playing as Jake, and we’re pleased to report that this feels like an organic addition to the core gameplay loop. The new, zoomed-out camera means that neither of you is getting shafted if you fall behind, and if either character dies, they’ll simply be placed in a bubble that’ll float back to the surviving partner. Though these stages still feel like they’re ultimately designed to be played solo, it can be nice to have a friend on hand to help vacuum up all the coins.

Frogun Encore Review - Screenshot 4 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

All this is well and good, but there are some lingering quirks that still need to be ironed out with the physics in Frogun Encore. Platforming generally feels great, but pulling off more advanced maneuvers like zipping between grapple points without touching the ground can be awkward and feel like more the product of chance than skill. Most of the stages fortunately don’t press you too hard, but we still would have liked to see a little more effort to round out those rougher edges of Renata’s moveset in this second outing. Take the devil’s advocate perspective, one could argue that the occasional jankiness in controls is part of the charm, as it does feel to be in the spirit of those early 3D platformers Frogun Encore clearly emulates.

Visually, Frogun Encore adheres closely to the same graphical style of the original, taking strongly after the lo-fi polygonal style of fifth-gen platformers. It’s a charming style that manages to be simple without looking cheap, and we appreciated that the developers took the opportunity to explore more biome types for level themes this time around. In addition to some returning favorites from the first game, there are now new areas like the Marble Garden Zone-esque Elena or the Imperial Japanese-inspired Ybushi, which fit right in with the broader visual style of Renata’s world.

Conclusion

Frogun Encore offers a strong and satisfying sophomore sortie for Renata and her frogun. Much like classic 3D platformer sequels such as Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back or Sly 2: Band of Thieves, it expands upon the foundation laid out by its predecessor in meaningful ways and polishes the ideas that the original release introduced. The level design is tighter, you can play with a friend, the stages are more ambitious, and this overall feels like a more confident and sure-footed adventure. It may still have some lingering issues with controls, but as far as retro 3D platformers go, Frogun Encore is close to as good as it gets.