Time on Frog Island is developer Half Past Yellow’s first game on Xbox consoles. Merge games stepped in as the publisher. Time on Frog Island is a laid-back 3D adventure that takes place on a few neighboring islands that are inhabited by anthropomorphic frogs. The game features an attractive art style that falls right in the middle of hi-def and low-poly. The game could be given the popular tag “Cozy”, as there is no combat and the gameplay consists mostly of exploring and completing tasks. Read on to find out if time spent on Time on Frog Island is time well spent or if it’s lost time you’ll never get back.
Time on Frog Island takes place on not one, but three islands, one of which the protagonist is shipwrecked on. The game has short montage-style cutscenes interspersed throughout the gameplay that tell a story of a man and a woman sailing; to sum it up extremely quickly, something happens to the woman, and the boat gets caught in a bad storm. Waking up on the shores of Frog island you can see that your boat is missing most of its major components. When approaching the boat it is made clear that you will need to find/replace all the parts in order to leave. This is the ultimate goal of the game. On a cliff nearby there is a tall, long-legged frog painting a picture. When you talk to him you will get your first taste of the textless dialogue system.
Instead of text, the game uses speech bubbles with pictures. This is one of my biggest gripes with the game, in order to progress through the game you have to complete a lot of tasks given to you by the island’s inhabitants. They explain these tasks by showing a series of pictures; in most cases, this does not work. The pictures are small and confusing, and to make matters worse there is no menu screen that displays your current objectives. Sometimes the protagonist will have thought bubbles showing the items you need, and if you don’t know where the item is you’ll have to scour the entire island looking for it. If you need a reminder on what you should be looking for you have to go back to the frog that gave you the task. Luckily, however, when you get near some of the items you need the player character will have a thought bubble displaying the item which acts as a reminder – I’m grateful for this mechanic, but it’s not enough. The fact that the picture bubbles aren’t very big compounds the problem. Perhaps I need a larger TV, but the best option would have been to include some sort of quality of life improvement in regards to the dialogue. As I mentioned before, I think simply having the info available to you in a pause screen menu would have made a big difference.
Because of the confusing nature of the quest system in Time on Frog Island, I was unsure of what I needed to do at the beginning of the game. Having this state of mind made the game world I was exploring feel much larger than it actually is. The game uses an angled top-down camera which allows the player to see a fair amount of the protagonist’s immediate surroundings, but because of the angle, you cannot see into the distance at all. Despite the not-so-big size of the game world, I found it hard to get my bearings at first due to the unfavorable camera angle. I will point out that Frog Island does contain a few different biome types. There are coastlines and beaches, as well as patches of forests and a small town. At the north end of the map, there is a larger-than-expected mountain you’ll need to ascend. I think they could have added a little more variety overall. There is a small cave on the island but it only contains one room. I would have liked to see some other areas and perhaps a larger cave system.
To complete the quests and repair your boat you will be running around the island. You move rather slowly, which is a drag because there is A LOT of running back and forth for the many fetch quests. You can jump and there are a few platforming sections, such as on the mountain. I enjoyed these parts and wish the developers had included more of this gameplay. The second ability you have is the option to pick up and throw items. I was a little surprised they didn’t really include any gameplay elements that force you to throw items around. Some of the items you pick up on the island give you small boosts. There is an odd propeller plant that when held and activated allows you to move much quicker and jump much farther. You can also pick up a beehive which lets you run much faster. There are a few others as well such as large leaves that allow you to slowly float down when jumping. The game doesn’t really make specific use of any of these mechanics which is a major missed opportunity.
One of the biggest disappointments in the game is the overall lack of activities on the island. There are a handful of extra things to do, but most of them are superficial, only scratching the surface of what I expected to find in the game. One such activity is a time trial race across the island, which was pretty fun, but as far as I know, there are only two races and once you beat one and earn the achievement there isn’t much reason to play it again. There was one other aspect of the game that I thought stood out. A series of quests require you to brew a variety of drinks. Some must be given to other characters on the island, but others can be chugged and they give you new abilities. The most interesting one gives you a sticky frog tongue that you can use to pick up items at a distance. The other abilities may or may not also have a frog theme, which I thought was a nice touch. However, just like the other mechanics these abilities aren’t really made use of in the design of the game.
Time on Frog Island has some charm due to its appealing art style and frog NPCs, but Frog Island is not a locale that you want to book a trip to, let alone get shipwrecked at. Most of my time was spent wondering what the characters wanted me to do, and wandering around fetching items for them. There are some interesting mechanics in the game, but none of them are used anywhere close to their fullest extent in the game’s design. Unfortunately, I can’t get any of the time back that I spent on the game, but at least I can warn you to steer clear of this lackluster experience.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.