Review from Gaming With Neddie at scribbleking.typepad.com
I've always been a big fan of platform games. While many people have gotten bored of the genre already years ago (either of the 2D or 3D variety), I still cannot get enough of running through levels, jumping on people's heads and collecting stuff so you can get to the next level. I guess this started with games like good old Donkey Kong (who is still one of my favorite characters in a videogame of all time) and Spectrum classic Manic Miner. I keep reading reviews where people are negative about recent platformgames, while I always enjoy myself immensely with games like this. I don't know what it is, maybe it has something do with my love of animated movies, the best platform games bringing the feeling with them that you are in an animated movie yourself.
One of my favorites in this genre must be Superfrog. It came out for the Commodore Amiga in the beginning of the nineties, at a time when characters like Mario and Sonic were becoming more and more popular, selling millions of consoles in their wake. This was also the time when every other software company was trying to come up with their own 'cool mascotte platform game' and most of these companies failed miserably. The Amiga also had it's fair share of these games, with characters like Chuck Rock, James Pond and Zool in them. Those characters actually even had their fair share of success, but there were dozens of platform games that made you tear your hair out.
Cue Team 17, a developer known for their brilliant games, who also tried their hand at the platform genre. I can remember playing the demo of this game, which was on the cover of one of the many Amiga mags, and absolutely loving it, so when the full game came out I was quick to snap it up. For the next few days, I played Superfrog almost continuously, and even though it was pretty tough in places, I was able to complete it fairly quickly. Playing through it was one of the most pleasant game experiences from my Amiga days, and even when I played it again a few days ago I couldn't help but marvel at the high quality of the game. It's the clear, well defined graphics, combined with the tunes and the very well balanced gameplay that make Superfrog a true classis. It has all the staples that you find in games like this (enemies that you have to jump on, coins to collect, and the required ice levels) but done brilliantly. It all really looks like a cartoon, the levels clear and without the clutter you find in many other games in this style. The enemies were not terribly imaginative, your standard videogame nasties, but Mr. Frog himself was a likeable and flexible character who was not afraid to make a death defying jump here and there.
It showed Team 17 once again at the top of their game, which makes you wonder why we haven't heard anything from Superfrog since. No GBA-remake, no GameCube version with 3D graphics, not even a mobile version, nothing. I can recall the game being pretty successful, so why the total silence? Maybe it was the fact that even though Superfrog was a brilliant game, and even though it had some nice original touches, the fact remained that it did not really stray too far from the age old and worn out model. If you take another Amiga platformgame like Fire and Ice (which I will write about some other time), then you can see a difference in attitude towards the genre. While Superfrog just tried to take the recognisable elements and refine them as much as possible, Fire and Ice introduced some new elements (like a few levels where you had to guide other characters, the possibility to not kill your enemies but only freeze them). Nothing world shocking, but still enough to make it stand out a little bit more.
That said, Superfrog is still a prime example of how to make a good platformgame. I'm still hoping for a next-gen sequel (or just a 2D sequel), but until that time I'm sure I'll enjoy myself playing through the original game a second time.