One thing I love about PlayStation Mobile is that the format allows developers total creative freedom with their games. There are no rules, no set guidelines when it comes to what type of games that authors can and can’t produce and – as many titles have shown already – developers can really let their imaginations run wild and stray from the norm when it comes to the games themselves, the settings, the audio and visual presentation and the characters. Taking that into consideration, I am sure that’s what lead to the birth of Frog Ninja…
It has to be said that I haven’t encountered many ninja frogs in my time, and certainly none that are bright blue or comparable in size to your average human… turtles I can live with but frogs I’m not sure about. Regardless, this is a side scrolling action platform game putting you in control of the aforementioned amphibian hero as he hacks and slashes his way through hordes of assassins, samurai, archers and other characters all out for blood. Your goal? Survive as long as you can while you try to escape the dark forest that you’re in.
Immediately playing the game and comparing it to the description of the game on the PSN Store screams one thing at me… the word dark. Dark? Dark?!! The game is so dark it’s bordering on looking at a black screen for most of the game. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh as you can see the frog and enemies you face off against, but that’s about it but what the screenshots here don’t show is how dark the game actually is when you play it on the Vita. While these screens show that the game is set in a forest, you’d be hard pressed to actually tell that when playing it on your Vita. You can make out the outlines of the trees and the treetops and the different area at the bottom of the screen but the fact that it is supposed to be three different colours and a forest… more like three murky shades of black and certainly not what you would expect from the Vita’s glorious OLED display. While this aspect of the visuals doesn’t stop you from playing the game, it’s hard to believe that the only time the true visuals of the game can be seen is when you use the Vita’s screen capture capabilities and then the display is lit up in all its glory.
All of that would be tolerable if it wasn’t for the rest of the visuals. Animation is – to be generous – sparse. The main character has barely an handful of frames of animation to him covering movement, jumping and all types of attacks (shuriken and swordplay). When you have a game’s lead role that features less than 10 frames of animation covering all of that, then it’s certainly time to worry – and unfortunately the same applies to every other character in the game. That would just about be acceptable if it wasn’t for the abysmal collision detection in the game that harks back to the 8-bit era…
When playing the game something struck me very quickly as I unleashed attack upon attack on the approaching samurai and hurled countless shuriken towards them… they stopped suddenly before reaching their targets but miraculously they still seemed to have their desired effect. Moving closer, and as I jumped around I found out why… unbelievably, every single character and object in the game was surrounded by a box. A very large box and it was this that was being used for all of the game’s collision detection routines. It didn’t matter if it looked as if there were gaps between you and anything else on screen – if the boxes collided then you were in serious trouble. I honestly hadn’t seen anything this bad since the days of the ZX Spectrum and it made the game feel shoddy and amateurish.
Sound doesn’t fare much better with little in the way of sound effects other that the odd hack and slashing noise and a whistling noise which I assume is supposed to represent wind flowing through the forest and there’s no music whatsoever. By this point I’m sure you’re thinking that I have little positive to say about this and everything I have mentioned may seem as if I am being incredibly harsh on the game and basing my thoughts on first impressions and judging it purely by aesthetics, so putting that aside, what about the game itself?
Well, Frog Ninja is a stereotypical side-scrolling martial arts affair. Keep moving from left to right, jumping over or attacking everything that comes towards you using your sword or shuriken. Along the way there are bonuses that you can collect – health boosts, bonus points and extra shuriken as you only have a handful of these at your disposal and in theory it sounds as if it could be a fun game. It’s let down very badly by it’s execution though. There’s no fluidity to your jumping and it feels more hit and miss as to whether or not you can time your jumps properly, hindered no end by the awful collision detection. Jumping in the air only seems to cause some of the creatures (and I use that term loosely) to immediately fly into the air and home in on you (and that’s assuming you can jump where you actually want to go), causing you to quickly lose health on contact with them. Attacking using your sword seems to be a case of hit and miss as there’s no real indicator as to whether or not you are swinging blindly at thin air or at the collision block surrounding your enemies… and sadly I could go on. Attempting to progress through the game just feels like a chore and not enjoyable or challenging as games should be.
Trying to forget about the game (which isn’t difficult), even the presentation outside of the game itself is a shambles. It makes use of the PlayStation Mobile SDK’s built in menu creation tools to create the game’s front end and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s executed so poorly here that it looks as if no care or attention was given to how it will look on screen. All you see are a few buttons down the side of the screen with little else and it just feels rushed like the whole game. Even the high score table is the same, offering nothing more than a list of scores – no option to add your name against anything so it’s little more than a meaningless string of numbers on screen.
I’m sorry but this game has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Visually it’s a mess, the controls make it incredibly frustrating to progress through the game to any great degree, and even playing for just a couple of minutes makes you feel as if you’ve wasted time that could have been better spent playing something else… anything else! I’ve played virtually everything released for PlayStation Mobile and I have to say that this ranks right at the bottom of the pile. Sadly, while the SDK is available for anyone to develop PlayStation Mobile games, it doesn’t mean that Sony Computer Entertainment should allow anyone to actually publish them. This game just proves that it’s time that PSM needs to have at least some degree of quality control in place. Even if this were free in one of Sony’s promotions, it’s one to be avoided at all costs.
At A Glance
- Title: Frog Ninja
- Publisher: YUME Crawlers
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Online Multiplayer: N / A
- Local Multiplayer: N / A
- Memory Card Space Needed: 7Mb