Time on Frog Island
Developer: Half Past Yellow
Publisher: Merge Games
Website: Time on Frog Island (mergegames.com)
Genre(s): Adventure, Sandbox
Platform: Steam (Also available on PlayStation, Xbox, Stadia and Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 12/07/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Hop To It
My Steam wishlist is full of cute and cozy titles, many involving animals. Time on Frog Island had been there for a while, so I was thrilled to see we got a code to review! I was drawn to the art style, particularly the anthropomorphic frogs, and how colourful it was.
Shipwrecked on Frog Island, you must find a way to fix your boat and continue your journey. But was this title toad-ally awesome, or a frog-ettable experience? Let’s hop to it and find out.
Time on Frog Island opens with a cutscene of you sailing your boat in stormy weather, before waking up on a shore. You are not told what to do, but instead, see that your boat has transparent missing pieces. Your character also has speech bubbles with images appearing above his head, such as the sail or the wheel, since there is no dialogue. I don’t think you need to be outright told what your aim is, as it’s pretty self-explanatory from this.
The artist frog nearby is using your plant that washed ashore, so you trade him a bottle to get it back, giving it a hug. It’s clear that this plant means something, especially because you can’t go to sleep at night without it either. When you go to sleep at night, you dream of the past, unravelling the backstory of the beloved plant. Told through illustrations, it’s a beautiful way to tell a sweet but heart-breaking tale!
The main story however is simple; trade items with the frogs on the island to eventually gain the objects you need to fix the boat and be on your way. I was disappointed that it only took me about maybe two hours to complete the story and get the items for the boat. This could be done quicker than that too if you didn’t help all the frogs and focused on the boat items. I think that there should have been more things to get for your boat, to prolong the story. The ending was quite anticlimactic this way, as it seemed like the game was over before it started.
Trade Your Way
As mentioned, trading is the key element of Time on Frog Island. Finding the items that the frogs need though is the puzzle-like aspect; they’re scattered across the island, or another frog has them. Speak to a frog and a bubble would appear above their head with the item that’ll make them happy, or what it’ll take for them to give you the item you need.
I spent a lot of my time at first exploring the island, and there were lots of items to pick up. However, you can only carry one at a time, and there is no inventory. Though this extends the play time because you’re not just picking up everything and hoping to use it later, I had to make a mental note of where everything was as there was no map. The island wasn’t particularly big in fairness, but I did get a little lost at the beginning. I didn’t want to be told where each item was, but it would have been nice for a map to show me which section I was heading to, and trigger my memory.
There was also no quest list, which again made it a little more difficult to keep track of what items I needed. Though I did like that you were free on the island to do whichever tasks you liked and could work out what to do yourself, I feel these quality of life features would help. This combined with more tasks to do before the story ends would polish the game. There were a lot of secret achievements to get so there was that incentive to return once finishing the story, especially with the other tasks too. However, perhaps these could have been incorporated into the main story to prolong the ending.
The controls for Time on Frog Island are minimal, so it is easy to pick up. On PC, this is WASD to move, space to jump, E to hug, then left click to interact with someone/something or pick up and drop things. The latter is where there were some troubles. Sometimes you’d try and interact with something or talk to someone and you’d end up dropping an item instead. With some items being fragile, they could smash if you threw them, and you’d have to go find them again. I’m not sure if this is the case on controller, but adding an extra button to differentiate these on keyboard would be ideal. Granted, the developers say the game is best played with gamepad, so if you plan on using one, your experience may be different.
One mechanic I really liked was the item interaction. Leaves could make you glide when you jumped, and balloon-like plants could make you run faster before they deflated. It was also cool how taking ice down from the snowy mountains would cause it to melt. If you fell from a height too, you would drop your item. I had a lot of fun picking up items across the island and seeing what I could do with them! A very cool section was the flower area; it had sunflowers when it was sunny and mysterious blue flowers when it rained. The latter flower was needed by one character, so you had to wait for it to rain.
The design of Time on Frog Island was exactly what I’d hoped since being enamoured with it in the trailer. I loved the nooks and crannies of the island, and the different types of nature scattered such as mushrooms and wildflowers. Finding a way to reach heights and cross rivers was fun, which is why I wish the map was a little bigger as I just wanted more. The lighting was superb, from the early morning fog to the orange-hued sunset. I loved the different buildings and houses, but wished I could take a peek inside! Everything was colourful and detailed, and just a joy to look at.
Each character was unique, with different colours, heights and sizes. The tadpole dogs which followed you around were adorable, especially when you could pick them up and hug them! The lack of speech, instead making little noises and having images in speech bubbles, was charming. The whole atmosphere was cozy and wholesome, perfect for playing when rain is pouring outside, and you’re wrapped in a fluffy blanket.
This was accentuated by the soundtrack, which varied between times of day, weather and areas. The instrumentals were mystical, reflecting the freezing mountains or the playfulness of running around the island in the rain.
Time on Frog Island is a charismatic title, taking a simple premise of trading but combining it with a beautiful, colourful world of frogs and nature. Though I had some minor issues with the gameplay, such as not having a quest list or a map, it was still a fun experience. The major downside is that the story can be completed so quickly. Despite there being some extra tasks and achievements to get which do extend the playtime, they’re not part of the process to fix the boat.
Including more tasks or incorporating the extra ones would make the sailor’s struggle seem more real. Instead, it almost seems more like a quick stop off at frog island before continuing his journey. I’m all for short and sweet games, and the backstory was very heart-warming, but it felt anticlimactic. For its price point, I don’t expect a 50-hour game of course. A little bit longer however with some more tasks for the story would do the trick. Regardless of this, I’m keen to return and get all the achievements or tasks, making all on Frog Island happy!
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
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