Review: Frogger for iPhone

Lex Friedman
17 September, 2009
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Man oh man, do I love Frogger. My affection for the classic arcade came runs deep, and I’ve long been a purist: I don’t like knock-offs that star other critters; I want to guide a frog, across a well-travelled highway, onto floating logs and swimming turtles, and finally to its perfectly-frog-sized home.

You can imagine my cautious optimism when I spotted an official Frogger game—$1.19, from Konami Digital Entertainment—in the App Store. And indeed, that cautious optimism turned to true delight once I installed Frogger. Even as it embraces the perks of the multi-touch era, Frogger for iPhone remains true to its roots.

The familiar obstacles from earlier incarnations of the game return, and more familiar ones appear on each successive level. You’re tasked with navigating your frog, one hop at a time, across many opposing lanes of traffic, and then across a pond on turtle shells, alligator backs (but stay away from their heads!), and more. All the while, you must avoid getting hit by a car, landing in the water, standing for too long on a sinking turtle, jumping on a snake, or simply taking too darn long to get the frog from Point A to Point B.

The artwork has been modernised, but remains satisfyingly cartoony. It must be said, though, that the image you see when your frog takes a major misstep is undoubtedly the most graphic amphibian death in the history of the iPhone. Kermit would have nightmares.

The original arcade version of Frogger required only a single joystick, since you could only ever move in one direction at a time, one frog-sized block at a time. The iPhone version of the game offers three distinct control methods that exploit the iPhone’s unique interface. By default, you control the frog by sliding; the direction you slide your finger propels the frog the same way. This is my preferred method, because I can put my finger anywhere on the screen, adjusting my spot if the frog’s current action area starts to get obscured by my hand. The second method, tapping, fails to work around the obscuring issue as nicely, since you need to tap specifically on the proper edge of the screen to move the frog in that direction. It works, but I prefer my fingers be on the bottom of the screen, far away from the important area when I’m jumping “up” to the finish line.

The final control method—tilting—is awful, and I wonder whether Konami chose to include it just so we’d all appreciate how clever the sliding method really is. You can adjust the tilting sensitivity, but that doesn’t change the fact that you essentially need to angle to the iPhone directly away from your vision to jump ahead, which makes no sense at all.

But if you stick with sliding, Frogger rocks. Mixing the classic arcade game with the iPhone’s awesomeness works to perfection, and I’m thrilled that it was ported so well.

Frogger is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.

[Lex Friedman encourages you to keep informed about every thought he has.]

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