Frogger is back in his latest adventure to hit home consoles with Konamiâ€™s release of Frogger: Ancient Shadow. Unfortunately, the gameplay hasnâ€™t evolved all that much since the series debuted on home consoles more than eight years ago. While the game is clearly intended to be played by a younger audience, the clunky control scheme and bland level designs make it difficult for any age group to fully enjoy it.
Frogger doesnâ€™t handle like your normal super hero, mostly due to the fact that normal super heroes arenâ€™t frogs. The worlds are made up of tiles, and pressing any direction on the D-pad will move Frogger one tile in that direction. Sometimes he needs to face another direction without moving, done by using the shoulder buttons to have him spin in 90 degree increments. In addition, his long jump can be used to jump two tiles, allowing him to clear small gaps. A vertical jump move allows him to collect coins or health high above his head and the new double-jump doubles his hang time, making it easier to latch onto objects using his tongue. His tongue can be used to swing from branches and wooden posts, and it can even push and pull objects out of his way. The askew camera makes it difficult at times to see what type of jump you need to use in certain situations, so try not be surprised if you accidentally flop into a lake thinking that a long jump would get you all the way across. Once you figure out which buttons do what the controls feel pretty natural, so you donâ€™t need to think too much if you need to swing across a large chasm or if some coins seem far out of reach.
The story mode in Ancient Shadow is straightforward, bland, and can become very tedious towards the latter part of the game. Seven different worlds comprised of four stages each make up the entire campaign, and although the environments are varied the same puzzles are constantly being recycled. Frogger needs all the health he can get just in case he slips into a lake or accidentally walks into an enemy. Instead of being able to attack, any foe you encounter simply follows the same linear path without any variation so maneuvering around them is only a matter of timing. The only real challenge in this game is making sure you survive to the next checkpoint without falling victim to the unresponsive controls. Jumps donâ€™t always work properly in succession, so you need to time your D-pad tapping precisely if you need to pass through a series of collapsing areas quickly. Sometimes, though, even if you do press the button the frog will just sit there, and unless you react fast and try to jump again you can expect to fall to your death. Your only goal is to make it to the next checkpoint or else you have to start all the way back at square one.
The levels generally consist of bland puzzle opportunities where you can grapple onto some objects, push a few blocks around, and hop across a river only to make one careless mistake and have to restart. This game could have definitely used more checkpoints, especially before areas that introduced new features such as crumbling platforms, which would obviously kill anybody on their first time though. A lot of the stages are played on a trial and error style of gaming, and usually you can only complete a level once youâ€™ve died at every place possible. The single player portion seems to drag on for a long time after the first few stages, but luckily there are plenty of minigames to help diversify the gameplay.
The most entertaining part of Ancient Shadow is the multiplayer minigame section. Whether you decide to play against a couple of friends or with some computer opponents, the minigames offer some creatively designed challenges. A time attack mode is essentially comprised of the unlocked single player stages, but this time around youâ€™re racing against the clock. The original arcade Frogger that was released back in 1981 is also included, but this has also been a part of practically every other Frogger game to date. Thereâ€™s only eight different minigames, including versions of dodge ball and jump rope, all of which have simple controls and can be mastered easily. Still, these brief games can be a lot of fun if played in short bursts with friends, and luckily they arenâ€™t plagued with the camera or longevity issues of the single player missions.
The production value is Ancient Shadow is mediocre by todayâ€™s standards, so donâ€™t expect anything more than some brightly colored levels and lively voice acting. The varied worlds help the game feel fresh, but the environments themselves arenâ€™t visually appealing. Comprised of simple textures with low polygon counts, you can encounter locations such as the green pond setting or the yellow desert location, and to be honest everything just looks outdated. The sound effects are nothing more than some generic hopping noises along with the general buzz of other creatures in the world, and the soundtrack is hardly even noticeable. The voice actors are surprisingly enthusiastic and well done, but their childish voices are clearly geared towards the younger crowd. This title doesnâ€™t do anything major to go above and beyond, but instead it comes across as another standard Frogger release.
In conclusion, Frogger: Ancient Shadow wonâ€™t be a worthy title for most PS2 gamers out there. The single player campaign is dragged out and filled with the same puzzles over and over, and there isnâ€™t a whole lot of depth to the multiplayer portion either. Although itâ€™s possible for some kids and people new to the series to have some fun here, Ancient Shadow doesnâ€™t quite hit the mark as a whole.