—amphibians have more fun—
Frog Dares is a fun and lighthearted 2D platformer that lets the player assume control of an adventurous amphibian without a name. It was originally released back in 2012 by Toffee Games, who are also responsible for several other theme games including Earn to Die, Theme Hotel, and The Last Shelter. Being an avid platforming fan, I’m always on the lookout for something that cooks up a balance between fresh and exciting, and not overly difficult. And even with the plethora of platform games that are either freely available online, or the paid variety via programs like Steam, I find that not all games are as effective in drawing in the player with their engagement loops or presenting a story that is compelling enough. With its intuitive control system and simple introduction, Frog Dares pleasantly defied my expectations.
The levels (or episodes) in Frog Dares are affixed to a wooden pole sitting in the forest, and are gradually added each time you complete each one. You begin at the Meeting Place, where an orange frog explains that the once wonderful forest is now overrun with dangerous and aggressive insects who forced all the frogs to leave. The arrow keys are for movement, and the up key and spacebar both correspond to ‘jump’, so even without a tutorial movement isn’t hard to guess. Not only that, but it feels so smooth and precise that playing Frog Dares is a joy. In the background, a joyful tune accompanies you as you hop and leap your way around the ledges, which gives the game a vibrant and child-like feel. There are also coins strewn about the place which you can collect and add to your bounty, each worth a cool $100. I’m not sure why this frog needs money, or what he’s going to do with it, but to each their own I suppose. Collecting them all, in addition to some of the other in-game collectibles, will award you with a gold medal of completeness at the end of the level, something that provides a very good incentive to explore all the different nooks and crannies that are about. But of course, there are a bunch of bad guys in the way to stop you.
Apart from natural dangers like poisoned water, or spikes of death, there are really creepy looking mosquitoes that have predictable flying patterns, so at least they give you a chance to avoid them. The later levels feature spiders too, who spice up the variety in enemy design but have a photo finish with the mosquitoes in terms of creepiness. One touch with either of them will damage your health bar, indicated by the red bar and heart on the top left hand corner of the screen. You can fight back by pressing control or x, which lets you stick out your frog tongue and gulp them right up, a gampeplay mechanic that feels really satisfying. Gradually, there are new features introduced into gameplay such as catapult flowers that slingshot you over a large distance, and power-ups in the form of an extra long tongue, super speed, and invincibility. They are well designed and complement the game mechanics nicely, especially the fact that the longer tongue can keep getting longer for every new tongue you find! Every power-up is also temporary, highlighting that very important message from the book My Name is Asher Lev: something that is yours forever is never precious.
To signal the end of each level, there is a large stone cradled by a gate made from flowers, and when you physically jump on top of it, the episode ends. Before you get there, you’ll have wanted to collect the jewels in each level as well, which contribute to your overall level of completeness, as do the secret pages scattered about randomly. Sometimes, ensuring you have collected every single coin or every jewel can be a bit tiresome, but Frog Dares does a good job at maintaining the player’s curiosity by hiding some of these items in inconspicuous areas, and encourages some extra thinking. I felt challenged, but not to the extend that progression felt impossible, which boosted my motivation to complete the game. As you progress through the episodes, more information is revealed about the fate of the frogs and the forest, but never the entire story. This is an aspect of Frog Dares that made me invest in the game. And not on an emotional level that you might experience with atmospheric games, but on a purely gameplay based level like in Mario games which do have an underlying narrative-but the focus is all about having fun racing through levels, collecting coins, and finding secret areas while not falling prey to the various enemies out there. On this level, Frog Dares succeeds and is a great example of how simplicity in game design can still make for a complex, well thought out, and enjoyable game.
WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT:
Play frog dares if you enjoy platformer games, are looking for something casual and not too time consuming, or are crazy about games that have frogs as their protagonists.
- Effective engagement loops
- Cheerful, bubbly background music
- Fluid and accurate control system
- Creative power-ups that lend well to gameplay
- Can become slightly repetitive over time
- May be too easy for seasoned platform enthusiasts