Superfrog HD

 

A Review Ė by Pooka

 

As a Superfrog fan, I was really looking forward to writing a review of this game. It took me long enough to get a copy, I do have to say Ė but from what Iíve played so far, I know enough to write this Ė my long-awaited review of the long-awaited Superfrog HD. Iím using the PS3 Version here, so if youíre on the Vita or PC, you may find some small differences. I doubt there will be much that isnít relevant, though.

 

TL;DR? Summary: Itís okay.

 

Graphics

These were the things first publicised about the game, the polished and pristine graphics, made visible by the multitude of screenshots that Team17 saw fit to unleash upon the public. And, to be honest, they are incredibly pretty.

A lot of thoughtís gone into the graphics Ė theyíve retained the animated feel of the game, preserving the idea that This screenshot shows the difference between old and new SF ingame sprites. The new one seems wrong to me.youíre playing an interactive cartoon: pleasing for a fan of the original, which presented that perfectly. Even the intro sequence (disappointingly not animated, nor does it use the original animation by EWS) looks like a cartoon, so itís clear that this is the angle theyíre taking, even though inexperienced gamers may see it and assume itís a game for children... very much not the case!

Something that Iím particularly impressed with is the backgrounds. In the Castle and Circus levels, you can see the Woods through holes in the wall Ė themselves impressive, as layer upon layer of trees in the background gives a sense of how voluminous the forest goes on to be. Gleaming, shifting animation makes the areas SF explores feel alive with movement, and leads to almost total immersion in your surroundings.

The sprites are good too... at least, the power-ups and especially the enemy sprites are, including the Witch, Colin and all the others. They look, move and react as youíd expect them too and make good standard platform game enemies and bosses... not much more you can ask for than that, really!

The one thing that I do have a problem with is Superfrogís sprite itself. As has already been noted, SF here is the lean, mean green machine from the box art and intro sequence, as opposed to the squat, short frog we got in the original release. It looks jarring, especially when you let the controls go and SFís ďat restĒ position places his feet a few pixels below the floor, whereas enemies rest right on top of it: apparent enough to be notable, too. SF doesnít look bad Ė heís the same frog weíve all known and loved for a while Ė but thereís something about how different he seems from his original appearance (and the other characters) that grates on me, even if I canít quite place why.

 

Gameplay

This is the thing that can really make or break a game, and here Iím afraid I have to be slightly critical. When compared to the original game, there is a difference between the two that originally appears starker than it actually is. This is, of course, from the point of view of a Superfrog player. It might be interesting to see how somebody who hasnít played the original rates the gameplay value.

The first thing to mention is the controls. Thankfully, it is playable Ė the key mapping is okay, with one button used to both jump and fly and another to fire Spud, with two buttons left unused (unusual for a game). SF can also be controlled with either the Control Pad or the analogue stick. I have a tendency towards the latter as Iím not used to the four separate buttons on a PS3 controller (as opposed to the completed plus shape on the SNES), but either way, itís easy to get SF moving. However, how far and fast he moves can be a bone of contention. Compared to the sharp, snappy control of the original game, I found SFís response time slower, and even a little spongey Ė especially when he jumps. Itís a higher, more floaty jump than before, with a slower time taken to fall (even without the parachute equipped). In a Mario title, when you press a button, he responds Ė in this, I can press the X button and then take two seconds to wait for SF to have finished his leap.

Magic Woods and SF gets ready to throw Spud. At least they kept that in.However, when he does move fast, he does more very fast. The physics have been touched up a little, so that SF speeds up as he runs, as opposed to being entirely one speed. A special note has to be made for the Speedup Pills Ė underused in the original, perhaps, whereas here they precede an entire section of level which you have to complete in turbo before being halted by a Slowdown Pill. Even without speeding up, SF continues to be quick Ė there is the fast, slick feel which one supposes was the original aim of Team17 when making this. Itís a little harder to stop him, in fact, and it almost feels like you have to continually keep moving.

The main thing that I noticed about the gameplay, however, is that given all this, it does work Ė on the new levels. The unlockable original levels, especially if you know what youíre doing and where youíre meant to go, really seriously highlight how different the controls are Ė Level 2-2 is a good example. Thereís a large section of spikes at the end of the level and itís impossible to pass them sans Wings. Why? Because SF jumps too high, bumps his head and falls onto the spikes without fail! In fact, itís only because of the inclusion of the original levels that the differences are so pronounced. The new levels are built for the Superfrog HD engine: the originals arenít. Lesson learned, in a very frustrating fashion.

 

Sound

The first question anyoneís going to ask here is obvious: is the music the classic soundtrack by Allister Brimble? No. Is that annoying? Yes, very. Is the new music as good? No.

Thatís not to say the new musicís awful; in fact, itís very atmospheric. Itís just not the original stuff, and whatís worse, itís trying to be. Certain sections of the soundtrack sound ripped off from the Brimble score, as if theyíve slipped a few bars in here and there. It sounds odd and a little confusing, as the rest of the stuff clearly demonstrates the musicianís ability to write decent video game music. Even the title screen tune is a fairly accurate tribute to the original, so why not either use the original stuff or go for entirely new scores?

You can see the difference here between SF's feet and the turtle's.This wouldnít be a bad thing if the unlockable original levels didnít have the original music in all its glory. They do Ė itís exactly the same soundtrack. Itís probably even from the same source. Okay, so the original levels wouldnít really feel the same without the original music, and Iím very glad they put it in Ė very glad indeed. The problem is that gamers are going to hear this music and compare it to the new stuff, and therein lies the hitch Ė while the new stuffís fine, Brimbleís music is terrific, and Superfrog HD feels wrong without it. Itís even unfair to the new composer (an intern, so my sources tell me) in some ways.

Other than that, the soundís fine. Itís clear and crisp, and although the sound effects arenít the original ones, they add a lot to the game. Turning them off via the menu really does make more of a difference than you may think, as well.

 

Extras

Iíve written an article expounding upon the differences of the new game already, so thereís not much more to report here. Iíll pick up on a few things, though.

I like SFís new parachute ability, the trophy system, Spudís wherewithal to defeat land-based enemies, the menu, the boss fights (Iíd have appreciated more than the Witch though!) and (to some extent) the original levels. Theyíre all workable additions and add a lot to the game, which would be weakened without them. The online scoreboardís fun too, and itís oddly pleasing to see myself on it! Itís also nice to be able to play through levels again Ice world. I'm still waiting to play this one.after youíve completed them Ė something which I felt the original game lacked. And the Frog Trials, while I donít particularly find them very fun, do prove for an amusing distraction and a bit of practice.

However, one thing I feel compelled to say that I donít like Ė even though a lot of people do Ė is the cross-platform support. I donít own a PlayStation Vita and I donít know many people who do. This is specifically a problem when it comes to discovering secret passages or using the elusive golden lilypad power-up, as you need the Vita to really feel the effect of some of these. In fact, itís impossible to 100% the game if you do. This is baffling, frankly, and feels just like hungry money-grabbing in some ways: buy an entirely new console to get some secret areas? Really? Thatís just cruel! You get both versions when you buy the game on PSN, so why not all the secrets? Is everyone automatically assumed to own both consoles?

 

Overall

Iím aware Iíve been quite critical above, and in spite of all I said, I am quite pleased with Superfrog HD. Itís good to get SF back after twenty years and itís a brave attempt at getting him a new fanbase, despite the target audience clearly being existing fans of the game. But I do also have a lot of problems with it, and therefore I canít give it a perfect score. Fans on the Facebook page have been asking for the original graphics and sound back, and that shows Ė in some ways Ė a level of dissatisfaction with the product as a whole.

Before you make your decision, though, I will say this: it does grow on you. Eventually. It takes a bit of time (especially if youíve been playing the original recently) but after a while, I (at least) found myself becoming more au fait with the controls, graphics, sound and overall feel. The original levels, while not really designed to work with this HD engine, are a comforting relief from the frankly baffling new ones, and the gambling machine sub-game is still really annoying in every single way possible, so thereís a lot of familiarity here, despite the initially shaky start. Yes, it has its flaws Ė some trivial, some unforgivable Ė but, as less than £10, itís definitely worth a play. And you may just enjoy it.

Superfrog is a lesson on how to make a spectacular platformer. Superfrog HD is nothing more than a Good Solid Platformer in its own right... but, considering how games are these days, maybe thatís just what we need right now.

 

Substance: 7

Style: 8 (-1 for the music)

Slant: 5

 

Overall: 6.5

 

 

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