GAME TECH: Frog spawns a whole new experience

Frog Fractions 2 is a masterpiece of surreal humour and brilliant game design, writes Ronan Jennings
GAME TECH: Frog spawns a whole new experience

FROGS have a habit of multiplying, but that doesn’t mean they are good at maths. In 2012, one of gaming’s greatest cult moments spawned (ahem), when Frog Fractions was released on the world. Masquerading as an ‘edutainment’ title designed to teach people about numbers, Frog Fractions was instead a trip into complete madness.

For a start, Frog Fractions had nothing to do with fractions. It was a ‘shooting’ game, in which a frog shot down insects in order to protect some fruit. Once the player collects enough of that fruit, they can buy a warp drive (yes, a warp drive) and fly to Bug Mars, leading to a narration on the history of boxing, an attempt to secure a work visa and a run for US president. If that sounds crazy, well, that’s because it certainly was.

Frog Fractions was hilarious, fresh, free and something unusual – a game that didn’t shout about its unique qualities from the rooftops. In fact, the game was launched without any indication that there was anything unusual about it at all. Players were left to discover the wild journey for themselves.

Well, three weeks ago, Frog Fractions 2 arrived. It took people a few weeks to realise that the sequel had, in fact, been hidden in another game entirely, called Glittermitten Grove. This other game is a full-fledged experience in its own right, in which players build a fairy settlement by scaling treehouses higher and higher. Only when you play the game for around an hour or so does a small door appear. Click on the door and you are taken to the insane world of Frog Fractions 2.

Frog Fractions 2 is a masterpiece of surreal humour and brilliant game design. This time around, the base ‘game’ is an ascii-based adventure title, like the kind that were released on the spectrum in the 80s. You control a little character that looks like a smiley face, exploring a world made of keyboard characters. But unlike the first game, Frog Fractions uses this premise to create a surprisingly intricate and fabulously designed world that will leave many gamers completely flummoxed at every turn. If you thought Dark Souls needed a guide, wait until you play this.

Just as importantly, Frog Fractions 2 retains the hilarious, surreal humour of the first game, embodied in the various minigames that populate the adventure world. One involves shaving Barack Obama at various stages of his life while a timer runs down. Another involves convincing your alien roommate (as in Ridley Scott’s Alien) to move out by making life hell for him in the house. Another involves using a microphone to sign and make a van drive faster. No one said Frog Fractions was normal.

Frog Fractions 2 isn’t for everyone. In fact, Frog Fractions 2 might be for no one. It’s obscure, often frustrating in its difficulty and mechanics, with humour that will leave many people cold. But as a work of singular authorship and single-minded, brilliant design, it is a triumph.

Frog Fractions is both a love letter to the difficult games of yore and a tribute to the surreal, offbeat humour of Adult Swim (who published this sequel) and the modern age of internet nonsense. If you want to experience the madness for yourself, buy Glittermitten Grove, build some fairy houses and wait for the adventure to start.

SCALED BACK

Frog Fractions was a game on the smallest scale, but big budget games can be mad too. Take Scalebound, for example, the title that Microsoft asked Platinum to develop for the Xbox One.

Platinum are considered the finest action developers in the world, so many fans were looking forward to Scalebound, which was first announced at E3 2012 and showed the player facing off against huge enemies.

Unfortunately, Microsoft just announced that the game has been cancelled after four years in development.

In October, some of Platinum’s senior developers were rumoured to have taken a break for a month due to the pressures associated with making the game.

No reason was given for the cancellation, but Scalebound clearly hadn’t reached the standards required of a big-budget game and Microsoft decided to cut their losses. They should have made a game about frogs instead – at a fraction of the cost.

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