MSI Frogger TV Plug & Play Game Review

Does Frogger deserve to hop underneath your Christmas tree this year? There was only one way to find out.

Once more, unto the Christmas-retro-goodies pile I go. Yesterday it was Space Invaders, and today we jump forward just a handful of years with 1981’s Frogger.

Frogger

Price: $29

So, in a move that should shock absolutely nobody, the core frame for Frogger is exactly the same as the one used for Space Invaders. Same joystick, same start buttons, same tray that needs 3 AA batteries hidden behind an annoying screw.

Also Read: MSI Space Invaders TV Plug & Play Review

Button A and Button B do the exact same thing.
And you don’t need either of them.

And yes, sadly, same use of composite video for connecting to a TV, or, as the manual puts it, your VCR. I mean, I’m a big fan of retro stuff generally, but even I don’t have a VCR any more!

Luckily, I do still have a trusty Sony Trinitron CRT TV, so I could plug the MSI Frogger TV Plug & Play Game into something that wouldn’t point out all of its visual flaws.

Mind you, it’s worth tempering your expectations, even on a CRT.
(Yes, I need some kind of capture gear. It’s on order)

Now, Frogger’s an interesting one, because classically it didn’t need a fire button at all; just directional input. Here Frogger genuinely surprised me, because I figured that the cheap and above all light build of the stick would mean it would be terrible to play with.

It actually isn’t. Sure, I’m tangentially — very well, entirely — responsible for many frog deaths while playing, but that’s because of my own greed or poor in-game judgement, not the controls in play. Weirdly, the buttons do actually make your frog jump, but only forwards, and usually straight into the path of a truck. It’s not an advisable way to play.

I’m not as big a fan of the artwork on the stick for this one as I was for Space Invaders, but then I do think Frogger stands up a little better as a pick-up-and-play game for a general audience.

I mean, if you want to sell it to a more modern audience, all you’ve really got to do is point out that it’s the game that Crossy Road shamelessly lifts from — and, to be fair, iterated upon — and you’re set.

That’s why this is the second version of Frogger I’ve purchased from Kmart in two years, having picked up the tiny cabinet LED version they were selling last year.

I don’t have a buying-versions-of-Frogger problem.
I can quit any time I want to. I just don’t want to.

What about accuracy? Well, sadly, this isn’t the arcade ROM, despite very clearly having the licence nailed down, and Frogger not being that tricky a game to emulate, all things considered.

I’m slightly less fussed about that than I was with Space Invaders, if only because I don’t get how you get those iconic designs wrong. Also because it’s certainly close enough in game style to satisfy my need to cross road and river, hopefully picking up a sweet lady frog on the way.

For bonus points, of course. I’m sure there’s none of that kind of thing happening when you reach the end of the level.

There are a few minor niggles I wish were better handled. I’m OK with it losing my high score when the power goes off, but there’s not even a high score table. You either beat the high score it has, or not, which limits your boasting just a tad.

Also, and this is small but annoying, it goes quiet for about 15 seconds at the end of each level. It’s not counting down the time left, or adding score bonuses or anything. It’s just kind of quietly waiting for the next level to start.

Should you buy one?

Again, I can see these ending up under the Christmas tree for a couple of different reasons.

For retro gaming enthusiasts, it’s probably more about the branding and almost statue value rather than the game, which has been near endlessly ported and varied over the years. It’s better, by the way, than the terrible Apple Arcade version of Frogger you can get if you have an iOS device.

For those with fond memories of the game… it’s actually pretty much OK. Frogger has a simple compulsive charm that makes it an easy game for anyone to play, so as long as you remember the AA batteries — and have a Phillips head screwdriver ready so you can put them in at all.

Also maybe, apparently, a VCR. Still, if I had the choice between this and Space Invaders, it’s Kermit all the way, baby.

Next time: MSI gets aggressive, with not just one dragon, but a double serving of them.

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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