Game Review: Superfrog HD (PS Vita)

Superfrog

Superfrog HD is a side scrolling platform and adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. Superfrog HD is a HD remake of an Amiga classic originally released in 1993, which has now been updated with sweeping improvements across the board; much in the same way as another Team 17 classic Alien Breed HD from earlier on this year having originally been released in 1991.

Playing Superfrog will be the memory of many retro gamers’ youth as the game was originally released for the Amiga in 1993. I personally recall playing the game at a very young age, so much so that I would struggle to time my jumps on the Amiga’s joystick, resulting in me having to ask for help on a few occasions, so I could actually continue on with the game. Despite that level of difficulty for the very young age I was at the time, it still remained as one of my all-time favourite games even twenty years later.

I must be psychic as in the days leading up to Team 17’s announcement of the HD remake on the European PlayStation Blog, I actually had a thought of how amazing it would be to have a Superfrog remake or sequel for the Vita and PS3 and then to my surprise came the announcement! I literally had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t having a rather pleasant dream only to be disappointed shortly afterwards when I awakened, but it was real and after twenty years since the release of the Amiga classic we are here, re-visiting gaming nostalgia! I had such high anticipation for the HD remake from the moment I read about it, but the big question immediately on my mind as I am sure must have been on everyone’s minds, does it live up to the original and is it a faithful restoration of the original source material. Now the time has come to experience if this HD remake lives up to the expectation of retro gamers.

Superfrog HD has three game modes consisting of the single player story mode, frog trials and a level editor. The single player story is set across six worlds with each world containing four levels, alongside an end world boss battle against the evil witch. The story of the game sees a prince that is about to marry his princess when a jealous witch decides to cast a spell on the prince to turn him into a frog and steal the princess. The prince finds a magic potion in the river next to were everything has just happened, which makes him become Superfrog as he sets out on a journey to overcome the evil witches’ powers and rescue his princess.

After each successfully completed level of the story mode, there is a fruit machine, which provides three opportunities to achieve a matching line of three of the same fruits or gems to win a variety of prizes, such as a total of twenty-four original levels; more spins; and even brushes to have further customisation options for the level editor once you have unlocked all of the twenty-four original levels. Achieving a matching line of three can be rather hit or miss and success in this mini-game certainly has a lot to owe to pure luck, but you can nudge each of the fruits or gems in an attempt to influence the result in your favour.

Frog trials is effectively a time trial based survival mode set in the same levels as the story mode with the twist being that you have a countdown timer starting with only twenty seconds left on the clock, which can be increased by collecting clocks that add two seconds worth of additional time to the countdown timer.

The level editor allows you to fully customise levels from the game with everything the game has to offer that is categorised into brushes; special; hazards; and tiles. The brushes category allows you to decorate the background of a level with anything from a statue to a painting, a slippery slope of slime or even a flame pit and much more. The special category allows you to position power-ups wherever you want to with the power-ups including extra lives to invincibility, coins, gems, fruits and much more. The hazards category allows you to add various enemies and springs that could help you with a well timed jump or catapult you into a hazard. The tiles category allows you to copy and paste a number of designs to decorate the background of a level even further. The best part of the level editor is that it provides great fun and is exceptionally easy to navigate and use with a total of eight slots available to save your customised levels to. However, the level editor does lack the online sharing feature as saw in retail games, such as the Little Big Planet series and the Infamous series which somewhat degrades the importance of the level editor, although at least it provides you with an additional eight levels to play when you want to and your nearby friends could always check out your customised levels on your Vita.

There are six worlds set amongst such diverse environments as the magic woods with a backdrop of trees and clear skies; a spooky house is set in an old castle; a day at the circus is set amongst the backdrop of a circus with suction pipes leading to other areas; history lesson is set amongst the backdrop of ancient Egyptian tombs; ice caverns is set amongst slippery, snowy and icy conditions; and factory failure is set amongst the interior of a rocket ship. There is one thing that every level certainly has in common and that is the countless amounts of secret areas full of gems, coins and power-ups, which provide an additional reason for exploration throughout every one of the twenty-four levels.

There is also a strong variety of enemies to encounter across all of the six worlds including: bees; birds; hedgehogs; snails; plants that fire seeds; slugs; bats; mummies; penguins; snowmen; as well as obstacles such as spikes; swinging maces; blocks from walls that spit out flames and lasers; and many more besides, alongside an end world boss battle with the jealous evil witch. The majority of enemies can be killed by simply jumping on them once or twice, but there are some enemies, such as the birds; mummies; penguins; and snowmen that can only be killed by throwing Superfrog’s spud, while there are obstacles such as spikes; swinging maces; and the blocks from walls that spit out flames and lasers that cannot be destroyed and must be evaded instead. This provides variation in not just how the enemies look in regards to their design, but also in regards to how you interact with them when trying to bring about their demise, while adding an appropriate level of trial and error to the game, resulting in you increasing your knowledge of enemies’ strengths and weaknesses as you progress further through the game.

There are some subtle differences between the gameplay mechanics of the new levels and the original levels, but despite being subtle differences they do make a big impact on how the two sets of twenty-four levels are played. Each of the twenty-four new levels start with a set time limit of ten minutes in which you must complete the level or you will have to start from the beginning of that particular level, while the twenty-four original levels have the same premise, although each level has a set time limit of six minutes. While four minutes is a big difference in regards to the allocated time limit, a much bigger difference is the requirement to collect a certain amount of coins in the original levels before the exit becomes unlocked as until you have collected enough coins a red X will hang over the exit, although this feature is not included in any of the new levels.

For a HD remake Superfrog HD surprisingly embraces modern intricacies by supporting not only cross-buy, which means you get the PlayStation Vita version and the PlayStation 3 version from just a single purchase, but also cross-controller play and cross-save functionality. The cross-controller play between the PS3 and the Vita is quite unique as it allows you to sync the PS3 and the Vita with a simple tap of the Cross-Controller option from the Vita version’s main menu. When the cross-controller play syncs between the Vita and PS3, you will see a map on your Vita with a green arrow pointing to your location within the level, while you are able to fully control Superfrog from the controls of your Vita as you play the game on your television via the PS3. Additional importance is added to the use of cross-controller play as portals open to new locations within every level that can only be accessed via cross-controller play and provides a further reason to explore the levels to find the portals. When a portal is found, it will be displayed as a purple swirl on the PS3 version, but when you enter the portal your focus will switch to the Vita’s screen as that will display the contents of the portal, which will more than likely contain lots of coins, gems and power-ups with further exploration required due to the potential of secret passages leading to more coins, gems and power-ups. Once you have finished exploring the contents of the portal, you will exit via the same purple swirl and the focus will return to the PS3 version. The cross-save functionality allows you to sync the progression of your save file from your Vita to your PS3 and vice versa, so you can start playing the game on your Vita on the way to and from work, sync your save game when you return home and then resume were you left off by loading the save game and continuing via the PS3 version.

The controls feel better than the Amiga version and it certainly feels easier to time your jumps accordingly. The face buttons consist of: pressing X to jump; tapping X for a short jump or hop; holding X for a leaping jump that will gain more ground than a normal jump; press and hold X again while in mid-air after jumping to use Supefrog’s cape to float with the left analogue stick or d-pad used to change direction back and forth during any given time of any jump in multiple directions; press O to throw Superfrog’s spud at enemies with the left analogue stick or d-pad changing the direction you are firing in across five different angles; moving the direction of the left analogue stick left or right to move the character, while moving the left analogue stick down is to crouch; alternatively left or right on the d-pad to change your direction, while down on the d-pad is to crouch; and start to pause the game to view the options menu and the how to play menus. There are no touch screen controls other than for navigating menus. The Vita’s gyroscope functionality can be used during the fruit machine mini-game at the end of every level as tilting the Vita will set the fruit machine in motion and it can also be used to individually nudge each of the three selected fruits up by one to increase the possibility of a positive result.

Superfrog’s unique cartoon style graphics from the original game have been faithfully restored to an amazing quality and they really do look stunning in all of their new shining HD glory. Every new level has had all of the assets from the original game re-rendered to look exactly as it would if the original had never existed and this was a new IP. All of the content from the original levels has been re-created with new graphics, although it unfortunately lacks the emulation of the Amiga version’s retro graphics, which is a shame as it would have certainly offered some retro glory to the fans who played the original game and is rather surprising as this is a feature that Alien Breed HD really excelled in. In regards to the content from the original game, everything is pretty much restored exactly the way it was with the exception of the odd tweak here and there, such as replacing the Lucozade energy bottle health pick-ups from the original Amiga release with orange potions. This change has also removed a bit of the humour from the game in comparison to the opening scene of the Amiga version with the opening scene having been reduced to stills rather than the full animation of the Amiga’s original cut scene and while that removes some of the humour and charm from the original cut scene, it certainly does not detract from the rest of the game.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the main menu, online leaderboards and options menu, which also incorporates support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons. The background of the menu screens looks very colourful and vibrant as they contain the Superfrog HD logo in the foreground and a demo of the most recent level you have played in the background.

Superfrog’s audio from the original game has been just as well faithfully restored as the graphics with retro styled upbeat music and sound effects spread throughout the game. Unfortunately, only the first few notes from Allister Brimble’s main theme remains as it has been remixed, although it is a rather good remix and the first few notes from the original theme do provide an appropriate homage to the original game. There are many great sound effects, such as collecting coins, gems and various power-ups; the wheezing of enemies when Superfrog has killed them; the spring from the bounce boards that increase the height of Superfrog’s jumping and leaping; the flapping of Superfrog’s cape as he floats in mid-air after jumping; and much more besides. As is the case with the graphics for the original levels, it would have been great to have the audio from the Amiga release in the original levels to pay further homage to Superfrog’s retro routes.

The trophy list includes fourteen trophies with eleven bronze trophies, two silver trophies and one gold trophy. Despite being a cross-buy game; Superfrog HD does not feature a double trophy list and instead opts for a shared trophy list between the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3. You may not necessarily find the trophies easy due to how difficult you may find some of the jumps over some of the hazards such as spikes and flame pits and that the time limit may expire before you complete any given level, but the majority of the trophies are naturally earned through playing the game once. Around eight of the trophies will be earned within the first couple of hours providing that you have grasped how to accurately jump over hazards and you are finding the exit for each level before the time limit expires as you will most likely earn the Squisher bronze trophy for killing ten enemies; the Super Squisher bronze trophy for killing 101 enemies; the No Croaks bronze trophy for completing a level without dying; the Hopping To Victory bronze trophy for completing a level; the Toad In The Hole bronze trophy for finding a secret area; the Aureus Lilium bronze trophy for collecting a golden lily pad; the Bonanza bronze trophy for finding some hidden coins; and the Frog Of The World silver trophy for completing a new world. The harder trophies are the Multi Aureus Lilium bronze trophy for collecting all of the golden lily pads and the Bulging Purse silver trophy for collecting 80% of the total coins throughout the new levels. I would estimate depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around ten hours to 100% the trophy list.

There are no difficulty levels, but there is a natural difficulty curve that is provided by various enemies and hazards that are introduced sporadically through different levels and that greatly vary particularly from the enemies and hazards of one world to the next, alongside the trial and error element of how to overcome the enemies and hazards.

There is no proper online multiplayer component, although there are online leaderboards. The online leaderboards focuses on global rankings and friend rankings covering new levels, original levels and frog trials spread across all time, daily and weekly categories with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); score; and the date the personal best scores were set by each of the players for the level you have chosen.

The replayability of Superfrog HD is incredible with an abundance of amazing content, such as new levels; unlockable original levels; frog trials; level editor; and online leaderboards of which the new levels; frog trials; level editor; and online leaderboards were never in the Amiga original, which really adds serious value to the game beyond the fact that it is cross-buy resulting in you receiving the game for PS Vita and PS3 for a single purchase.

Overall, Superfrog HD has exceeded my rather high expectations in every area imaginable of the game with a HD remake that is a faithful homage to the original Superfrog. There are unexpected features that you don’t anticipate from a HD remake of a retro game, such as cross-controller play and cross-save support, alongside the level editor which showcases a level of effort for the remake that can be greatly respected by fans of the original and newcomers alike. If you are a fan of the original Superfrog looking to relive a retro gaming classic from the yesteryear of the Amiga or a fan of platform games, then this is an absolute must buy, especially at only £6.49 with cross-buy providing you with both the PS Vita and PS3 versions! I really hope the trend of excellent HD remakes of classic retro gaming continues, but as it stands this is certainly one of the best HD remakes of them all. It must be said that for any criticism regarding the lack of original graphics and audio for the original levels; we must remember that the ultimate homage to the original Superfrog comes from the fact that it has received a superb, well crafted and well refined HD remake that you will be playing for quite some time.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Superfrog HD
  • Publisher: Team 17
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Cross Play: Yes (Cross-Controller and Cross-Save)
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (Online Leaderboards)
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 214Mb
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