Review – Frogun
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. When something is offered to me that resembles games, feelings or anything else tied to my childhood, I can’t help but feel excited about it. Sometimes, this backfires. I have mentioned time and time again that the Nintendo 64 was my childhood, and that 3D platformers were my bread and butter, only to finally play Glover and find out the damn thing was a chore, even for that era’s standards. But that was a mere re-release of an old game. What about a modern title trying to evoke the look, feel and gameplay from that era? You get Frogun.
After so many indie games paying homage to the NES and SNES, Frogun is aimed towards people like me: kids who grew up playing lesser known platformers on the Nintendo 64 and Playstation. Upon booting this game up for the first time, it sparked a plug in the back of my brain, reminding me of some mid-tier, lower budgeted games available for those systems, such as Croc and (most notably) Chameleon Twist.
Colorful, but simple. Limited in scope, but absolutely charming. Visually-wise, the game won me over in an instant. It looked like the crap I used to play as a happy 8 year old. It also sounded just like those games, featuring a soundtrack that’s either MIDI-based or composed to resemble MIDI instruments. I just wanted to figure out if the game itself played as well as it looked.
Gameplay-wise, Frogun is as simple as its visuals. Just like its sources of inspiration, it’s a very traditional and straightforward 3D platformer. It doesn’t focus on large, open levels, although it’s still focused on exploration. The objective in each level is to simply reach the end goal, which is the easiest of tasks: you have infinite lives, and the difficulty curve isn’t steep at all. However, simply beating each level is just a fraction of your objectives in each one of them. Like any good old platformer, each level has its secrets and collectibles.
Each level has a few additional macguffins hidden behind some optional puzzle rooms. In no way are they hard to miss or even hard to acquire, but they give you an additional reason to revisit a course after beating it. Most puzzles revolve around your titular “Frogun”, a frog-shaped pistol that acts like a hookshot, allowing you to grab onto any wall or pull crates in order to create new platforms. The pistol can also be used to grab and throw enemies as well as destroy some pots containing coins, one of the game’s (many) collectibles.
Here’s the thing: when it comes to its game design, I have few complaints about Frogun‘s gameplay. It tries to spice things up every now and then with new enemies, new puzzles, some race-based levels, and even a handful of (easy) boss battles. Intentions, all and all, are excellent. The problem mostly lies on the game’s controls and game feel, which, sadly, feel as janky as the games that inspired it.
Remember the one thing that used to hinder the quality of those earlier 3D platformers? The main culprit was almost always the camera. Frogun suffers with that as well, in conjunction with other clunky mechanics. I have had a hard time looking for an optimal camera angle during each level, and while this rarely resulted in my jumping to my death or hitting a trap, it annoyed me quite often. That’s also due to your main character’s slow movement. You never feel confident on your platforming, as you’re beyond slow and jump poorly. Granted, that incentivizes you to focus on using the titular Frogun, but that doesn’t make the mandatory jumping sections less irritating.
Despite these gameplay issues, I liked Frogun. Sure, its nostalgic aesthetic was a cheap shot for someone like me, but the game isn’t without its qualities. This is an adorable platformer that set out to look, feel and play like a classic 3D platformer from the Nintendo 64 era, and it succeeded with honors. I hope the game receives a patch or two to fix some of its janky physics and jumping mechanics, but you can still have a great time with it right now. If you, like me, grew up playing titles like Glover, Chameleon Twist and Croc, look no further: Frogun is an adorable nostalgia bomb you’re going to appreciate.
Frogun looks just like a mid-tier platformer from the mid-to-late 90s, and I love it.
Even though the platforming is simple, and the level design is interesting, Frogun features tons of issues stemming from its roots. The camera is wonky, the movement is janky, and the jumping mechanics are a bit confusing. Nothing you can’t get used to, but still a nuisance.
Either this soundtrack was composed with MIDI instruments or it managed to sound exactly like the kind of stuff the N64’s sound capabilities were able to handle. Catchy and nostalgic, just like it should.
Fun Factor: 7.5
Frogun was made to appeal to a specific niche: people who grew up with mid-tier Nintendo 64 and PS1 platformers. Its charm is undeniable, and it does provide the same kind of fun these older games used to back in the day, despite featuring the same issues those games had more than 25 years ago.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Frogun is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S.
A copy of Frogun was provided by the publisher.