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Frogs

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Written by ST Graveyard

December 4, 2018
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With the release of the WII, Nintendo pushed the company in another direction. A smart move, as they needed to distinguish themselves further from the competition by Microsoft and Sony. They focused more on the social aspect of gaming and introduced the term 'party game'. You invite friends over, everybody gathers around the TV, grabs a controller and start enjoying one of the many easy-playing mini-games available on the system. They completely lost me, I couldn't care less. As always, it was me, as the system turned out to be a major success.

On the ST, it is a whole different story. When I grew up, multi-player games contained two players sitting around the screen. That was what the Atari ST was made for, and we enjoyed the crap out of it. But what about 4-player games, is that even possible? No problem according to Thomas Ilg, and he proves this with his brand new release of Frogs.

When asking him why he wanted to do a conversion of this C64 game, this is what he had to say:

"I know „Dr. Wuro“ Christian Gleinser – the creator of the original C64 Version. I live in Austria, he lives just across the border in Germany. When I first saw the original, I loved its simplicity and its great party value. But that wasn't enough to get me coding. I needed a challenge. In this case two elements got my creative mind going: first, the C64 version was lacking computer controlled frogs. And I had never coded an AI. And second: How would you create a 4 player game on the ST with only two joystick ports. NOT being a gamer, I had no idea that there was a 4 Joystick Adapter via the parallel port. My solution: connecting two STs by abusing the MIDI ports for data transmission. So I asked Christian if he would be OK with me doing an ST version. He gave me the green light and I started coding in GFA Basic – the only computer language I ever mastered.

This was at the beginning of September 2018. By October I proudly presented a first version with the MIDI connection at the OFAM Atari Party. It was there that Daniel 'Insane' Illgen asked me: 'Do you support the 4 Player Adapter?' 'What adapter???' I asked him. Daniel is a technical genius. He is the creator of the 4-player game Zatacka on many platforms. In a matter of hours he created an assembler routine for me, to read the 4-player adapter, and I coded the FROGS GFA side. And it also was at the OFAM that Jan Krupka from the Czeck Republic said 'I can create new adapters!'. So FROGS left the OFAM being compatible with 4 Joysticks and a new release plan: FROGS + Zatacka + ST 4-PLAYER Adapter in a boxed 'ATARI ST Multi-player Power Pack'.

Needless to say that I also got the AI going. And the computer FROGS give you a good fight! This got Christian Gleinser curious in what makes the AI Frogs tick. Christian has a unique way of working: for his retro games he first codes a working model in Python on a modern platform. He finetunes all the game mechanics there, until he is satisfied. And then he basically creates a port of his own game on the C64 – knowing exactly what he wants.
Back to the AI: when we met again, I explained the 'thought process' of my AI for Frogs. Christian took out his laptop, and in some 30 minutes he had coded a version of my AI in his Python model of FROGS. Apart from all that, he is a great musician, creating all his game music himself. And for FROGS he set aside the C64 SID chip for a moment, and for the first time created a version of his own music for the ST's YM chip."


You heard this right people, a beautiful boxed version is coming our way as a double feature, containing Zatacka and an optional 4-player adapter. But back to the review now.

After playing Anarcho Ride, I immediately got excited to check out Frogs. Would this game contain the same amount of detail we have grown accustomed to? Is it as feature rich? Or even more important, does it contain that trademark 'Ilg' humor that always cracks me up so much?

Graphics

Right from the get go, it is apparant that Frogs, as a complete package, just oozes quality. Before the game was released, Thomas had created a very funny 'coming soon' trailer. The product has its own website with lots of goodies for you to discover, and there is much more. And we aren't even talking about the actual game yet. When you load it up, you are presented with nicely detailed menu screens. The stuff we are used to by now, but it's still impressive. The graphics in this game are simple, yet very colourful. The blitter hardware is used to make everything run much smoother. But the icing on the cake for me is the fact that we get the option to play Frogs using the original C64 graphics. While most developers would have thrown this option overboard, Thomas went all the way, and I just love him for that.

Sound

Newly created YM chiptunes are always a winner. This is no exception. Combined with some cool digital sound effects like the buzzing of a fly, the squashing of the Froggy tongue when it gets hold of an insect, it all sounds crystal clear. And of course, we have the option to play music, effects or both together. What else did you expect? ;-)

Gameplay

Let me start by saying I haven't done any multiplaying for this review, and I'm sure this is where the game is really gonna shine. Still, as Thomas already said, the AI of the enemy Froggies will give you a good run for your money. And he was right.

So how does the game work?

First you select the number of players. You can either play alone with 1 (or more) AI frogs, or other human players can join the frantic fun. You have the possibility to choose 3 game modes. In 'Bug Hunt' a fly buzzes over the pond, the one who munches the bugger first using his sticky tongue gets the point. He or she who reaches the score limit first, wins the game. 'Battle' has you up against the other frogs and it is up to you to push them into the water. Each time you manage to do this, you score. Finally we have 'Countdown'. You start with the maximum amount of points and lose one each time you are pushed in the pond. Last froggy standing wins the match.

Frogs contains a bucket-load of different screens to choose from. Each screen has rocks which you can jump on, there are also lilypads you may use to cross to other parts of the pond, but beware as these sink, so don't stay on them too long or you will lose a point. You use the stick to make your frog jump from rock to lily, and with the fire button you shoot out your tongue. Controls are accurate and responsive. That is about all there is to it.

Conclusion

You may have already guessed it by reading this review. Frogs is made for multi-player madness. There is no real level system in the game, you may select whatever option or screen you like from the start. And while the game is nice as a 1 player game, it gets a bit boring rather quickly. The AI is splendid, a great accomplishment for Thomas, I'm sure. Still, maybe some kind of mission system or goal could have solved this. But in the end, that is NOT the point AT ALL. I can not wait to get hold of that 4-player adapter package and try this game with my 2 kids. There is no doubt in my mind we will be dealing with one of the best multi-player experiences on the ST. Bye bye Dynablaster! And remember, there are other games out there that can be used with this adapter. (Leatherneck ... anyone?)

In the end, Frogs is a beautiful package, and as far as I'm concerned, Thomas has done it again and has given the scene a fantastic free product for us all to enjoy. This is gonna be one for the retro meetings!


Score
  • Graphics: 7
  • Sound: 8
  • Gameplay: 9
  • Overall: 8

Review Comments

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Son Shu Shi

March 21, 2021 by ST Graveyard

What an accomplishment this game is. Created with such a small team, the result is really amazing. The game oozes creative passion. While the gameplay is really well balanced, it is a tough cookie, very hard from time to time with its moments of sheer frustration. As of level 3, timing becomes key. You will need to practice and learn the levels to complete this game, there are so many bad guys on screen it sometimes gets a bit hard to take.

Blood Money

April 4, 2020 by Morcar

Graphically, it's also nice on the eyes with well-defined graphics and animation. You really get the feeling that the developers put some thought and love into the game. Remember what I said about the large levels? Well these are wonderful and are very different to each other, they also scroll fairly smooth in all four directions.

Cybernoid - The Fighting Machine

March 28, 2020 by Morcar

When you boot up the game you’re presented with a fantastic loading picture of your ship. It's detailed with bold colours and it tells you This is 16-bit, bitch. Then you get the wonderful rendition of the Cybernoid theme that's on all the 8-bit versions. It's not exact but the changes still make it noticeable to anyone who knows it.

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