The ColecoVision Once Again Fulfills Its Arcade-To-Home Promise

By Adam Trionfo and Chris Federico

(Originally Published in "Video Magic," 1998)

Frogger Colecovision Box

The new version of Frogger for the Sony PlayStation didn't cause quite as much hoopla as hoped, possibly because it's not much fun (or so we've heard). But the advent of that sequel makes one wonder what was so special about the original in the first place; let's look at the adaptation of the original Frogger that was transported from Sega's 1982 coinop to the system that was the first to be considered truly capable of bringing arcade games onto television screens with accuracy.

It was interesting hooking up the ColecoVision for this little examination; one never sits down and thinks, "Okay, now for some hard-core Frogger." The game is an archetype; although it's not as intriguing as some of the other, lesser-known arcade titles available for the machine (Exidy's Pepper II, for instance), it's unfair to look at it in that light, because it was the original incarnation of a concept that would go on to be twisted, upgraded and (in some cases) improved-upon in so many subsequent contests.

So, based on an appreciation of the game itself, ColecoVision Frogger is, surprisingly, hard to get bored of. As is usual (although not the general rule) with the system, it's an extremely successful translation. The graphics are crisp and detailed, making it easy to eyeball the frog's movement options from any point; the squishy character's route is easy to predict at a glance, getting that headache out of the way and leaving time for minute strategies concerning the actual jump-by-jump timing. The very finite mechanics make it necessary to time your moves well, and the challenges that one can see made the coin-op version so successful -- timing a leap onto a fast log before it's surprisingly passed by, for instance -- are intact in this 'port. A complaint is that if the frog makes it onto the very end of a turtle or log, he'll look like he's landed successfully, but then slip off!

All of the cutesy details are definitely here; the music, the toy-like animation and the goofy sound effects were all programmed to keep the translation consistent and total. -- Chris F.

Frogger Colecovision Screenshot

The ColecoVision controller does not lend itself to quick, definite movements, which usually makes it awkward. But with this title, the controller does not have to be that precise because, as with every version of Frogger, there are only four directions of movement. This makes for less frustration with the ColecoVision joystick than I am used to. It is with some relief that the frog is able to move without using any of the buttons. The Atari 5200 version requires the player to push the controller in the desired direction and then press the fire button (or the player can opt to use the keypad). The Coleco controller works well enough that this alternative is not needed. One note: I was unable to use a 2600-type joystick, because I could not start the game with controller 2 as is normally the case with ColecoVision releases (this would have made the game-play feel much more natural to me).

The graphics of this conversion are far superior to the Parker Brothers release of Frogger for the Atari VCS, which, even after the release of the Atari 5200, was the ColecoVision's main competitor. The graphic quality of the later Starpath Supercharger version of Frogger for the VCS is nearly identical to the ColecoVision game, with all arcade tunes intact.

But Frogger is Frogger, no matter what system the game is being played on. The reason that it works so well in the first place is because it does not rely on graphic prowess. The graphics are very good on all systems for which the game was released, but it wasn't the graphics that made people love this game. Frogger is a puzzle game. Don't let that shock you; in retrospect, you will find that it is more of a puzzle than a top-view action game.

The game-play, at first, may not seem to support this. But given time, the player learns that moves calculated before the flight across the street will favor the life of our happy frog. Once this aspect of the game is glimpsed, it is possible to see that Frogger has more in common with strategy games such as Tetris or Bust-a-Move than it does with similar-looking games like Freeway. Frogger is one of the few games that definitely deserves the title "classic."

The gaming genre was refined when Sega released Frogger. Not only were the graphics at a level above much of what was found in the arcade, but the game-play followed through with a grip like any good puzzle game has these days.

The simplicity of the game-play means that several attempts can be made in as little as fifteen minutes. If you've been at it for that long, of course, it is too late. The bug sets in. You find yourself resetting the game after losing one or two lives too quickly. This leads to a fixation on clearing screens and attaining perfect scores. Be warned: Like all puzzle games, once you're hooked, Frogger can steal your life away! -- Adam T.

The box pictures and screenshot are from: