Ah, now we’re really stepping back in time.
The trouble with doing retro game reviews is that sometimes you come across a classic and think to yourself, ‘Wow, that’s really old!’ before realising that it isn’t quite as old as you are. Doh!
Harking back to the Golden Age of videogames, Frogger hit the arcades in 1981, sharing cabinet space with early contemporaries such as Asteroids and Space Invaders.
The concept is simple; starting at the bottom of the screen you must guide your little froggy safely to the top, avoiding obstacles along the way. Complete the level and you start over, the difficulty increasing each time.
It is a single screen affair with the level broken into two parts. The first sees you dodging traffic until you reach the safety of the river bank whilst the second part sees you hopping on lily pads and logs whilst trying to avoid snakes, snapping crocodiles and the fast flowing river.
Control is equally straightforward. A tap of the joystick in any direction sees you move once. There are no tricks, no flashy moves. This is arcade simplicity and is all about timing and reflexes.
You start the game with five lives with more added at defined points intervals. But there are a multitude of ways to lose a frog, from getting squished by a car to falling in the river, hitting the river bank to dropping off the edge of the screen. Even if you manage to avoid all these obstacles, you still need to beat the clock because if the timer hits zero, that’s another life lost.
It’s a game that has been replicated and copied so many times that not only are most gamers familiar with the concept, I have difficulty remembering where I first played it. There were direct sequels of course, including updated versions as late as 1998 on PC and Playstation. Then there are the likes of Horace Goes Skiing, which borrowed the concept liberally. I suspect though that my earliest memories were from the BBC clone Hopper.
Whichever version you think back on fondly, this is one of the defining titles of the early videogame era.
Simple, repetitive and challenging, it’s the sort of game that is easy to dismiss by modern standards. But spend a little time with it and you’ll be hooked all over again.