Superfrog HD Review - Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! Its a not-so-super frog in HD!
Once upon a time, there lived a happy prince and his bride to be. However, in the dark recesses of her castle, an evil witch plotted to put an end to their happiness. The witch takes off on her broomstick, kidnapping the princess and turning the prince into a frog. The prince sits on the riverbank where he notices a magic potion floating down the river. He drinks the potion, turning him into Superfrog.
With his new found abilities, the prince can defeat the evil witch and rescue his beloved princess. And so, the adventure begins, as Superfrog must traverse the lands in search of the witch and the kidnapped princess.
Superfrog HD is a remake of the classic 1993 platform game Superfrog. Team 17, the developers of the original, recreated their famous title and published in-house in 2013. Superfrog HD is an inferior remake of the classic 1993 release. The game has bad game design choices, lack of creativity and lacks the heart and soul, that make the original game magical.
Missing its '90s cartoon style humour and silliness
Back in 1993, the intro for the original game was animated, while the remake consists of still imagery. The remake intro is missing the classic humorous moments that were in the original. One instance is of a bottle of Lucozade (A fizzy drink from the UK) washing down the stream that gives the prince his powers turning him into Superfrog.
Of course, this would have caused licencing problems in the remake, but with a bit of imagination, it could have been renamed. In the remake, it is a magic potion as oppose to a bottle of Lucozade. Why not simply call it Superzade, Frogzade or something similar?
The intro to the remake is also missing the humorous scene from the original where it is made out to be all a film set. In the original the intro is halted as Superfrog turns to look behind him where another frog is sitting reading a newspaper with a fan in front on them.
The very disinterested frog had forgotten to switch on the fan which causes Superfrog's cape to move as if the wind was blowing it. Upon turning on the fan, causing Superfrog's cape to move, the script continues as Superfrog jumps into the air, smacking his head off a tree branch and falling over.
It is that exact silliness and over the top '90s cartoon style humour that is missing from Superfrog HD along with the childish sound effects that stop it from being a real masterpiece.
This missing '90s style may not affect newcomers to the game, but fans of the original may feel disappointed.
Superfrog HD shows its mobile device game design
There is no doubt that the design of the game focuses primarily on mobile devices. The game has various aspects showing this immediately such as the main menu, level select, score and ranking system, and the slot machine mini-game.
The level select screen can be frustrating as players must click and drag the levels left or right to choose. The click and drag motion is very sensitive. Often it moves either too quickly or out of control ending up going back where it started.
The score and ranking system works like that in most mobile games that contain them. At the end of each level, players gain gold stars, a total of three depending on their performance throughout the level. Their performance calculates their score based on how many coins collected, secrets found, current lives, time left, and how many times they died.
The slot machine mini-game feels like a pointless exercise. In the original game, it was used to gain extra lives, level codes, and score additional points. In Superfrog HD, it is used to unlock the original levels from the original game. The reason for this being pointless is due to each level contains a hidden golden lily pad to find. They have no function other than being a collectors item.
The reason for this being pointless is due to each level contains a hidden golden lily pad to find. They have no function other than being a collectors item.
The golden lily pads could easily have been used to unlock the original levels instead of the slot machine mini-game. It would avoid the annoyance of the mini-game popping up at the end of each level. Despite having all the original levels unlocked, the mini-game still appears with no further use. All mechanics are designed specifically for mobile devices. This design leaves most of the games mechanics dumbed down, particularly for PC and console standards.
What works perfectly for a mobile device, does not necessarily work well with consoles and PC. Superfrog HD is certainly a prime example of this.
Classic gameplay but woefully lacking in creativity
Superfrog HD keeps most of the general gameplay as it was in the original game.
The gameplay varies slightly depending if you are playing an original level or a remade level.
In a remade level, the player must reach the exit, collecting as many coins and fruit and finding as many secrets as possible. Each level contains power-ups such as wings, which allow Superfrog to parachute downwards and Spud, which the player throws as an attack. Invisibility potions make Superfrog invincible to all enemies and hazards apart from the likes of spikes and lava and magic potions which restore Superforg's health.
The original levels play the same way except the player needs to collect a certain amount of coins before the exit is open to them. If Superfrog HD does do one thing right, it is keeping the main gameplay almost exact to that of the original.
There is, however, a woeful lack of creativity when it comes to the level design of the remake levels. Essentially the new levels are nothing more than the original levels expanded. It makes the levels longer than is necessary and adds nothing new or exciting to them. The original levels are the exact levels from the original game but with the HD graphics and a few hazards removed to make level difficulty slightly easier.
In the new levels, after completing the final level of each world, you will have to battle the evil witch. Battling the evil witch at the end of each world, is a new addition that was not in the original. Instead, players only fought her in the final level of the game. Each time you fight against the evil witch, it is essentially the same battle, with the hazards changed in the most minimal of ways.
The boss battles at the end of each world feel completely unnecessary as they offer no added difficulty to the overall game. The lack of adding difficulty makes the boss battle slow down the pace of the game as oppose to creating anything positive.
The overall difficulty of the game both in the remake levels and the original levels is utterly laughable. The game gives the player extra lives as if it is Christmas. Players gain an additional life for every 200,000 points scored. A standard remake level will have an average total of 400,000 - 600,000 points. This results in an average of 2 - 3 extra lives to gain a level, not including the extra life pick-ups.
The ability to just load any level that you have unlocked destroys any fear of dying. Upon dying the player can just reload the last level, they attempted lowering the difficulty of the game further.
The final lack of creativity with Superfrog HD is with the soundtrack to the new levels. In the original game, the music to each world is perfectly created to match in with the environment and atmosphere. While doing this, it keeps a cartoonish, childish and happy theme to it, even in the spooky castle levels.
The remake tracks simply do not have that theme nor do they blend particularly well with the environment and atmosphere of the worlds. The music is lacking the love that went into the creation of the original games soundtrack. Without such a soundtrack, the game feels like it is missing its heart and soul and what brings everything together into one wonderful piece of art. It is just like having a meal that isn't seasoned; it needs that extra bit of oomph.
What frustrates me the most about the soundtrack is that back in 2012, the original game was released on GOG.com. If you bought the game, you also received the updated MP3 versions of the original soundtrack entirely free.
I don't understand why they didn't just use the updated MP3 versions of the soundtrack while keeping the old soundtrack for the original levels. There is certainly enough difference between the MP3 version of a song and that of an original, for it to work.
A not so Super remake
Putting aside my five-year-old inner fanboy, Superfrog HD is a game of poor design choices that also lacks in creativity. It takes away a lot of what makes Superfrog one of the best platform games of the 90s. It dumbs it down to a degree that matches the quality of a mobile device game but not PC or console.
The new levels are uncreative; the game is missing the humour and silliness that makes Superfrog the classic that it is. The soundtrack doesn't catch the essence or theme of the game. There is little replay value, as the gameplay isn't fun enough to last long and there is little to make it worth a second play.
Newcomers to Superfrog may not have many problems with the game and see it as nothing more than an average at best platformer. Fans of the original will most likely see it as a Frankenstein of the game they loved so much as a child, resulting in much disappointment.