Also on: PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PS4, PS5
Publisher: Merge Games
Developer: Half Past Yellow
It feels like just yesterday I was writing about how I?m a sucker for games like Haven Park or A Short Hike ? short, cute games where you?re on an island or in a park, helping out the locals by doing low-stakes easy tasks for them. They may not aspire to be much more than pleasant games, but there?s something about the lack of pressure and direction (and accompanying cuteness) that speaks to me.
Unfortunately, Time on Frog Island shows that just because a game fits into that general micro-genre, it doesn?t necessarily mean I?m going to enjoy it.
I mean, I want to like Time on Frog Island. It?s got a cute premise: you?ve been shipwrecked on an island full of humanoid frogs, and you fix your ship by solving problems for them. Add in some equally cute graphics and communication that?s done entirely in pictograms, and you can see why it?s in the same neighbourhood as some of those other games I enjoy.
But the execution is all off. You can kind of see why in the above paragraph, in the part about everyone using pictograms to communicate. While that may look fun, it?s not exactly the most informative way of speaking. Just because a frog tells you it wants?I don?t know, something that looks like a happy piece of sushi (?), it may take you awhile before you?re able to figure out that the frog wants some kind of blue bug. Not only that, in order to find those, you need to a) search the island until you find those bugs (and they?re not anywhere nearby), b) realize that you need to feed the bugs blue fruit so that they turn blue, c) puzzle out that to grow the blue fruit, you need to scare away the crows, which in turn requires d) figuring out a way to fix the island?s scarecrows.
I know that there?s a bit of a spoiler in there for one of the first tasks in the game, but in all honesty, I had to find that info out from a walkthrough, so I figure I can?t be the only one who?ll be stumped by Time on Frog Island very early on.
What?s more, the game doesn?t make it easier on you. There?s no map, for one thing, and we?re not talking about an island with a bunch of unique or distinctive biomes, so it?s easy to lose track of both where you?re going and where you?ve been. Even worse, there?s no way to check what tasks you need to do ? Time on Frog Island just assumes you?ll remember the pictogram and be able to go from there, without any kind of quest list for you to keep in all sorted.
In fact, I?d say that the lack of a quest list might just be Time on Frog Island?s biggest issue. After all, we?re talking about a game that?s basically nothing but fetch quests, so for the game to not include a way of keeping track of your one task seems like a major oversight.
Then again, maybe the makers of Time on Frog Island just figured they could get by on a cute premise and general aesthetic. To be sure, in some cases that may be enough, but in this case, it just means you have a game that has the right tone but none of the right content.
Merge Games provided us with a Time on Frog Island Switch code for review purposes.