Modern Review: Superfrog HD (PS3)

Superfrog-HD-ReviewIn 1993 Team 17 unleashed an amphibious hero into the gaming world, one who could not only jump higher than both of the Mario Bros combined, but also one that could keep up to Sonic’s pace. Despite his athletic abilities and promising entry, Superfrog was only ever gifted one game, and soon faded into the long list of tried and tested flagship Amiga characters.

Despite this short lived entrance, our Lucozade swigging adventurer was recently given a new lease of life thanks to the recent wave of HD remakes that have been sweeping modern consoles. The Alien Breed series was the first of Team 17’s franchises to receive such a treatment, and it would appear the British software developer was more than confident enough to apply everything they had learned during the last few years in deep space, to our beloved Superfrog.

If anything, this prior experience in handling classic games and enhancing them is something Team 17 definately needed before even bringing Superfrog to the drawing board. Like our aforementioned characters hailing from Sega and Nintendo, Superfrog, along with Zool, Brian The Lion and Turrican were the closest thing Amiga gamers had to a mascot - and one even today they won’t let go of too easily. Simply put, Team 17 had to get this spot on from the word go or face the wrath of an angry mob bearing Commodore keyboards and Quickshot joysticks.

Introducing Superfrog HD

Superfrog-HD-Introduction

Upon booting up Superfrog HD, the first thing you’ll notice is how closely Team 17 have stuck to the original material. The iconic introduction originally put together by Rico Holmes and Eric Schwartz is still present in all its glory, only this time round it sports a new lick of paint with crisp vector graphics. This updated style is very much worth mentioning as it still harbours the unusual cartoon visuals created all those years ago, something which is then carried over into the gameplay.

Back in 1993 there were limitations as to how advanced sprites could look, especially given the limited palettes present and how much memory was available. This in turn produced a more simplistic look for our protagonist, one Team 17 have finally been able to move away from. Like the game’s introduction, the more defined comic appearance of Superfrog is used instead and is here to stay.

This visual update, however, isn’t limited to our slimy-spring-legged hero’s appearance. The 2013 refresh of Superfrog features many of the original environments from the floppy disk epic, with the only difference being the glorious high definition graphics. The vector approach used in this update not only brings the once pixelated environments to life, but it also manages to fix one of the most frustrating aspects of the Amiga classic. Originally you’d find yourself running into countless obstacles and enemies due to Superfrog’s speed and the lack of vision of what lay ahead - something the new dynamic camera addresses by providing a wide and open viewport of the playfield when needed.

Getting Your 5-A-Day

Superfrog-HD-Before-And-After

Obstacles and enemies aside, this modern console update reintroduces the plentiful supply of fruit and coins dotted around each and every level, along with the (once ahead of its time) hidden corridors and caverns which expanded upon touching the hidden entrance. These collectibles sadly become somewhat meaningless in this recent update due to the slightly changed gameplay mechanics. In the original Amiga version the only way to progress through the game’s levels was to collect a set amount of coins in order to open the exit - a number you were always aware of, one present in the bottom corner of the screen. Superfrog HD, however, removes the need to purchase your way into the next realm, leaving the collectibles present in each environment as being nothing more than a small boost to your end-of-level rank. While this amend does allow you to play the game at a much slower pace and soak up the new visuals, it sadly offers only half the challenge the original game had - a potential turn off for the die-hards amongst us.

On a more positive note, the further you progress with Superfrog HD, the more it begins to show how much the Wakefield based developer cares about its back catalogue. While they couldn’t (understandably) reintroduce the Lucozade power-ups into the refresh, nearly all the memorable moments from yesteryear are still present. The main one I’m referring to here is the easter egg found on the last level of the ice world, a hand drawn fall-off suggesting that part of the level was due to be completed - one now immortalised in high definition. Furthermore the game’s post level fruit machine makes a return too, only swapping the winnable passwords with unlockable levels. The only casualty where this is concerned is the Project X level - one which combined the year earlier scrolling shooter’s mechanics with the Superfrog visuals. In an attempt to make up for this absence, Team 17 have managed to take the final (and only) boss from the original game and create end-of-zone showdowns with the evil witch. While these fights may lack challenge, its nice to see more content being brought to the table.

Not Quite Brimble's Beats

Putting aside its greatness for one minute though, there is one aspect to the game which Team 17 need to readdress immediately with this revamped classic. Upon its release on the Commodore Amiga, Superfrog joined the likes of Pinball Fantasies, Turrican and Lotus Turbo Challenge in Paula’s Hall of Fame with its stunning soundtrack. This timeless original arrangement put together by one known better as The Demon (Allister Brimble) has sadly been cast aside for a lacklustre arrangement of notes and unmemorable alternatives. This at first doesn’t seem to be the case given that the opening jingle from the title theme remains intact, but sadly anything from there forward bears little resemblance on Brimble’s original work and leaves a lot to be desired - something many Amiga fans will be disappointed to hear.

Conclusion

Nevertheless the game’s core mechanics remain intact and just as delightful as they were twenty years ago. The dips and turns of the grass world coupled with the exciting curves of the circus zone take us back to a time when platform games ruled supreme and didn’t rely on the third dimension. While you’d very much expect this tried and tested (over and over again) style of gameplay to not warrant a purchase, you’ll actually be pleasantly surprised. While it isn’t for everyone, fans of the original and those looking for a nice casual title will be pleased to know that Superfrog HD provides of window to the past, along with classic entertainment you’ll have trouble putting down.


Last Updated ( 29 July 2013 )  

Cauterize

Better known as Adam offline, Cauterize is one of RetroCollect's final bosses with an unhealthy addiction to pixels. When he's not out searching the web for the latest retro gaming news or creating content for RetroCollect, he'll will most likely be found working on his Sensible Soccer skills.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) Lord_Santa 2013-07-30 13:40
not entirely sure how to feel about the look of Superfrog himself in-game... I always loved his Amiga sprite and this 'new' iteration of him (although looking more similar to his appearance in the 'videos' in-game) feels... off.
then again, I already have this game set up on my Amiga and I've never seen any need for the HD-visuals, although the camera seems like a nice fix; I'm genuinely happy that Team 17 does something other than 'Worms' these days, even if it's nothing innovative about remaking old games, it still is a nice fan-service

here's to hoping that they come up with some new material in the future, preferably in the lines of what made them one of the best studios on the Amiga
(Link to this comment) Topov81 2013-07-31 21:27
Great review of a great game. Loving it so far, and unless I'm mistaken the Allister Brimble music does feature in the original levels ?
(Link to this comment) Cauterize 2013-08-05 17:21
Quoting Topov81:
Great review of a great game. Loving it so far, and unless I'm mistaken the Allister Brimble music does feature in the original levels ?

I spoke to Allister in the process of writing this review and he stated he had no involvement with the audio in this game sadly.
(Link to this comment) Topov81 2013-08-05 19:37
How odd. The music in the original levels definitely sounds familiar.
(Link to this comment) ollie809 2013-08-02 09:02
another reason to buy a vita absolutely adored the original as a kid
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