August 10, 2013

Superfrog HD Review for PS3 and Vita

A seemingly simple platformer that turns tricky and challenging, but not without a few warts. More inside

Superfrog HD is a beautiful remake of a 1993
Amiga classic for the PS3 and Vita (available cross-buy, cross-save, and a great touch with cross-controller!). As soon as you fire it up on your OLED screen or your big HDTV, the colors and crisp graphics burst out of the screen at you. There are a lot of options at the get go to play the game:
  • The story
  • Frog trials (an endless runner mode)
  • Level Editor
  • Cross controller function with the PS3 (allowing you to unearth secret levels on your Vita)


The concept/story
You are a prince and your princess gets stolen by a witch with a bad attitude. She turns you into a frog, you get a cape, and the rest is you running and jumping through 6 worlds. Each world has a different theme: Magic woods, a haunted house, pyramids, a carnival, an icy world, and a robotic factory... They appear very different but at their core, they start to have repetitive features. Spikes, traps, fireblasts... they all just get more complicated as you progress. It is fun and definitely challenging, but doesn't feel fresh.

Gameplay: 
Your main goal is to make it through the level, collect as many coins and fruits and treasures as you can (although the reason is not clear... you get points, but soon you may find yourself just trying to get past all the traps and enemies and forget the hidden bits... If you're a leaderboard junkie, you will go for those high scores). At the end of each world you must face the witch and blast her with your spud.

One thing you may find confusing is what all those little power ups do. I ended up running through them and not really getting it for awhile. Of course, I should learn that games without paper manuals have the built in manual you need to check out. There it tells you all about them. I didn't know why I was able to float at some points until I found that in the manual. And firing a super-spud as well.

Once you figure out how to control and what things mean, it makes the game a lot easier to understand.
Don't forget to read the manual!

Controls: 
The jumping takes a little getting used to. It definitely is a little floaty and loose. Once you figure out the jump mechanics you are all right, but it might take a little. I let my 6 and 8 year olds give this a try and they picked it up pretty quickly. The firing mechanism is a little wonky. You can only fire if you are standing, which makes hitting the flying enemies tougher. It would've been a nice touch to be able to jump and fire.

Graphics:
Crisp, beautifully colored... Looks wonderful in HD. That being said, the graphics don't vary much within a world and you see the same stuff all the time. Each new world is fun to unlock as you get to see new things.

Sounds: 
The developer, Team 17 Digital Ltd, kept true to the original sounds and soundtrack. For some, it will be okay, but the songs do get repetitive and some may complain that it would be better to turn off in the options. Which can be done.

The sound effects are simple, and I found the lack of sounds for the frog jumping or moving to be strangely missing.

Difficulty: 
At first you may not have any trouble at all and may wonder if it will get tougher. The second world amps up the difficulty in that the many traps, moving platforms, and enemies are somewhat hard to see at times when you are moving so fast. On the Vita, especially, I had a tough time telling the difference between green slime, and a green enemy moving within it. In a game that wants you to go through quickly, I wish I could see the dangers better. I would slow down so I wouldn't get frustrated by running into an instant death spike.

Level editor: 
Surprisingly, the level editor is a complex yet a tedious concept. You could theoretically make huge sprawling levels from any of the 6 worlds, but the interface is a little daunting. You can only place one block at a time which may turn off a lot of folks. And then you can only play local games; there is no upload and share with the community option, which is what makes games like Sound Shapes or LittleBigPlanet such a draw to create levels.

Cross controller!
This is my favorite function of this game. This is the reason I would pick this up. Any game that supports a cross buy and then implements a cross control function so you can play the game with your Vita as a controller is a big plus.

All you need to do is to fire up both the PS3 and Vita versions and then on the Vita choose "Cross Controller." A "Frog" screen will appear on your Vita and now you use the Vita as a controller to play the game on the big screen. The reason you want to do this? Only in this version of play do you see little portals to enter. When you do, the action flips to your Vita only and you can play a mini level. It is short, but it mixes it up a bit.

Meanwhile, when you play on the big screen, you can glance at the Vita and see a world map unearthing as you progress through the level. Awesome touch!
This is the Vita view when playing Cross Controller. Very helpful!

Verdict:

You will like this game if: 

  • You like a casual platformer that is easy to pick up and go, and it is challenging as well
  • You enjoy using both the PS3 and Vita in cross-control fashion
  • You have children (my two kids really enjoyed it)
  • You stick with the game... it gets more interesting as the levels progress
You might not like: 
  • The tedium of the music and sound effects (which can be controlled in the options)
  • The imprecise controls (until you get used to them)
  • The difficulty of using the level editor may put off some
Final Words: 
Superfrog HD is a fun game but is not quite on par with other platformers. The younger crowd will be more forgiving of its lower points, while a more hardcore, older crowd might be wishing for a Rayman or a Mario. 

7.5/10

Comment below if you enjoy platform type games and if you might pick this up. 

Thanks to Team 17 Digital Ltd for the review code for this game. 

Steve Davala is a teacher and a writer who plays lots of video games. Follow him on Twitter @sdavala or check out what else he is writing about on http://stevedavala.blogspot.com/






 
                     
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