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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Sony PSP games
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Frogger Helmet Chaos

Reviewed October 2005 by Corbie Dillard

Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami HWI
Release Date: September, 2005
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Genre: Action/Adventure
Price: $29.99

It's hard to believe it's been almost 25 years since our slimy friend Frogger first appeared in arcades back in 1981. Over the past several years, Frogger has made his way onto several console systems in one rendition or another, and now he finds himself making a home on Sony's PSP system. Building on the classic Frogger "hop and dodge" gameplay mechanics, Konami has crafted a puzzle-laden platformer that requires as much thinking as it does quick reflexes. So how exactly does the legendary Frogger gameplay hold up in its fancy new 3-D world on Sony's high-tech handheld? Surprisingly better than it does on the console systems, to be honest.

Story

The story in Frogger Helmet Chaos follows the adventures of Frogger as he sets out to rid his swamp of the deranged crocodile scientist Dr. Wani. Dr. Wani has created mind-controlling helmets and is outfitting all of Frogger's friends and family with them. Frogger now has to traverse area after area, defeating all of Dr. Wani's henchman along the way, in order to put a stop to the scientist's evil plans to take control of Frogger's once-peaceful world. All in a day's work for such a well traveled toad.

Gameplay

Frogger Helmet Chaos features two game modes. Story mode allows you to play through the many puzzle-filled levels as the story unfolds in catchy little cut scenes at various intervals. Mini-game mode allows you to play mini-games that you purchase with the coins collected throughout the story mode. As you advance along in the game you will reach points where you can visit a traveling caravan. Here you can visit with many of the shop owners and purchase these mini-games, which vary in cost.

Story mode is the heart of the game, and obviously where you'll spend the majority of your time. Armed with not only the standard hopping move, Frogger has also added a few new moves to his repertoire. Frogger can now use his tongue to not only move blocks and pillars, but also to grab onto golden rods in various places that allow him to cross gaps too wide to jump as well as swing from these rods in trees. Using these different moves, you have to successfully find ways to navigate the well-laid out levels in the game, all the while avoiding the multitude of enemies scattered throughout these levels. Every so many levels, you'll encounter a boss that must be defeated in order to move on in the game. Couple all of these things together and you can bet you're going to be in for a serious challenge. You'll soon be wishing for the days when all you had to do was cross a busy freeway.

There are basically two words to describe the play control in this game: responsive and unforgiving. When you press a direction on the d-pad, Frogger immediately hops in that direction with no hesitation at all. Same goes with the button assignments, as every move in the game is easily and functionally pulled off instantly. While this is inevitably a good thing, it comes at a price. Since the game's levels are set up for precise movements, if you get in a hurry or panic, this tight and responsive play control can work against you, making it easy to make a wrong move. This is where the real challenge of the game comes into play. Part of the challenge of the game comes in not only solving the many puzzles in each level by moving blocks and pillars, but also in learning how to use these tricky controls to your advantage and to keep your cool when things in each level become intense. All in all, the game has a terrific gameplay system, but one that will take a little getting used to.

Graphics

There's no denying the charm found in Frogger Helmet Chaos' zany visuals. Colors are bright, almost painfully so in some areas, and everything seems to jump right off of the PSP's screen. The game has a very cel-shaded look to it, as if it came straight out of an animated cartoon. While the look of the game fits in perfectly with the presentation you'd expect from a Frogger game, many of the textures in the game just seem a little uninspired, especially considering the power of the PSP's graphics engine. The game does feature a very steady frame-rate, and everything in the game, especially the enemies and characters, move silky smooth. So while the visuals in the game are about what you'd expect from a Frogger game, it's hard to play it on the wonderful technology of the Sony PSP without wishing for a bit more eye candy.

Sound

Sometimes a game soundtrack is just plain corny. Other times it's corny, but with substance. Frogger Helmet Chaos tends to lean towards the latter. Most of the tunes in the game sound like they were pulled from a Saturday morning cartoon or an old-fashioned carousel ride, but the way this music is pulled off just seems to blend in perfectly with the tone of the game. Each level has this sticky-sweet, upbeat sound to it that's just creative enough to make it likeable. The voice acting that's used during the game's many cut scenes is also surprisingly well done. You'll even notice that the professor manages to pull off a solid Sean Connery impression, whether it's intentional or not. Sound effects, which are crisp and almost as cheery as the rest of the audio in the game, round out a surprisingly entertaining soundtrack.

Conclusion

While most Frogger fans are going to immediately assume that Konami's latest rendition of the Frogger series is nothing more than a thrown-together port whose purpose is nothing more than to take advantage of the popularity of the current handheld systems, many of these fans are in for a nice surprise. This game manages to take most of the endearing aspects of the console versions and somehow mold them together into a solid portable platforming experience that even eclipses the high-powered console releases in many ways. It's not going to revolutionize the platformer, but the many puzzle elements and tight play control at least offer up an enjoyable playing experience that's easy to pick up and play anytime and anywhere. At the very least, Frogger Helmet Chaos proves that our old pal Frogger still has a little jump left in his step, even after all these years.

 

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Playing Hints and Tips

- With the ultra-sensitive play control, you've really got to be careful where you jump and what direction your facing when you do jump.

- If you're having trouble beating a boss, chances are you haven't memorized its pattern correctly. Every boss in the game has a distinct pattern. Use it to your advantage.

- Don't forget to collect lots of coins so you can purchase mini-games at the local caravans.

- You can use the PSP's "L" and "R" shoulder buttons to turn Frogger around without having to actually move him.

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

While some areas in the game lack the type of detail we'd all like to see in a PSP release, you can't help but admire the simplicity and bright color scheme the game presents. Storybook visuals, a very steady framerate, and some of the brightest and almost psychedelic colors ever seen in a game, all come together to form an appealing, yet somewhat plain graphical experience on the PSP.

Sound

The upbeat and cheerful styling of the soundtrack somehow seems to amplify the cartoonish theme the game carries throughout the story. Strong and convincing voice acting also helps compliment the game's many cut scenes, and the sound effects are top notch. It's safe to say that it's the type of audio experience you're either going to love or hate.

Fun Meter

The many puzzle elements found in each level will keep players guessing, and the touchy controls will keep them falling into the water trying to figure out how to successfully navigate each level. The bosses in the game are a little on the difficult side, but most of the time all they require is some serious practice. If you're looking for a solid PSP game for short spurts of portable gaming action, then Frogger will not disappoint. If you're looking for a Crash Bandicoot, or Spyro the Dragon type platformer, then you may want to look elsewhere.

Addictivity

Since most of the fun in the game comes with figuring out the puzzle elements of each level, once you've accomplished this, the game loses a lot of replay value. The mini-games, while a nice change of pace from the story mode, don't offer much in the way of extreme enjoyment, not even the wireless versions. It's nice to have a solid version of the classic Frogger game to play, but other than that, most gamers won't get too much mileage out of the mini-games.

Total Score= 3.625 Dragons, 72.5%



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