Konami, you've been around for quite some time now. Founded in 1969 in the hefty burgs of Osaka, Konami began not as a gaming company but as a company devoted to jukeboxes, both in sales and repairs. It was not until 1973 that Konami made the conscientious decision to enter the more interactive world of amusement machines, though the fruits of the labours would not be seen by the public until five years later. But it wasn't until 1981 when Konami really hit it big in the arcades. Their grandest achievement? Arguably, a little game called Frogger.
Frogger doesn't play around. It's exactly what it sounds like, and it's exactly what you'd expect from a game with that title. You control frogs who have to hop across both a highway and a river to get to their homes on the other side. Crossing the highway involves avoiding traffic, while navigating the river requires you to hop across lilypads and moving logs while keeping a close eye on the nasty beasts that think you'd make an excellent delicacy. One by one, you have to hop them upward, downward, left, and right as needed, avoiding the many obstacles whose goal probably isn't to deter an amphibian (but it happens anyway). If your frog gets hurt, you lose a life. Once all of your frogs have arrived in one of the available "frog homes" at the top of the screen, you move on to the next level. The only safe strip is the median between the road and the river.
So... what will kill you? Similar to that TV show "1000 Ways To Die", there are quite a number of ways to suffer a painful demise as a frog. If you're hit by a moving vehicle, you'll be squashed like a Saturday morning pancake and be in need of a TOAD truck. If you miss a jump and fall into the water, consider your corpse now a vital part of the riverbed. If you jump not into one of your homes but straight into the nearby riverbank, you will suffer a bonk on the noggin. If you try to enter a home already occupied by a fellow frog gentleman, he shall escort you out and you'll be charged with breaking and entering and have your mugshot on the 6 O'Clock News. If you come face to face with your arch-nemesis Captain Archibald Tennyson Alligator (name pending, subject to actual research), you shall become the dinner of scaly kings. If the object you're riding on slides off-screen, you're presumed dead, your body is never found, and Robert Stack will narrate your heart-chilling story. Or you could simply run out of time. These things happen. Remember: frogs don't live as long as humans do, so every moment counts, and one cannot whittle away their hours trying to cross Route 66.
Sounds like it might be safer just to build a new life on your side of the street. But... think of the poor, defenseless polywogs you've left behind. Who will help them grow up and teach them how to do their taxes?
Pollywog a cracker? (I ran out of frog puns a while ago.)
Ultimately, the goal of Frogger isn't just to guide croakers to a safehouse; it's also about racking up those sweet, sweet points. By earning yourself a high score, you can boast to all of your friends and the local arcade-swooning ladies that you have magic fingers and lightning-quick reflexes. Attaining the high score in a classic arcade game proverbially crowns you King of the Klassics amongst the gaming community, earning praise and possibly a cameo in a Pizza Hut commercial. There's just one catch: Frogger doesn't allow anyone to input their initials once their results appear on the score ranking screen. Unless someone is watching your moves intently, seeing you earn every point you get, observing you scarf down delicious insects or rescue lost female frogs in your travels for extra points, you'll have no way to prove you were the culprit that topped the Frogger charts. George Costanza could NOT have inputted the letters "GLC" in that Seinfeld episode where he tried to preserve the legacy of his Frogger score. That is inaccurate. Besides, how long could someone hold onto that moment as a highlight? I once finished an entire pizza in one sitting, but I stopped bragging about THAT. Well, okay, I will soon.
It must be said, however, that earning a high score takes talent. Having spent some quality time with Frogger over a bottle of Chianti and the most romantic S Club 7 songs I could track down, I learned that I am NOT an expert at Frogger. Getting through the first stage nearly defeated my spirit, leaving me as a mere shell of a man. And yet, I can understand the simple pleasure of it. With simple, straightforward but cute graphics and an equally light musical score, the focus is clearly on the gameplay and, though not overly complex, there is an innocent charm to Frogger that other arcade releases of its time failed to elicit. In other words, Frogger is a pretty well-executed and worthwhile concept. Too bad it ate me alive! (Then again, I've never been competent at those extremely-old-school arcade games.)
Frogger has been ported like crazy and sequelized with a passion, though the core gameplay mechanic that made arcade-going citizens content sometimes gets replaced with lackluster adventuring, puzzle-solving, or trivia-based questioning. But for the pure, untainted experience, the way it was intended to be enjoyed, we must look back to 1981, the year when Ronald Reagan was shot in the chest, when the first American test-tube baby was born, and when Eddie Van Halen said, "Sure, I'll marry you, Valerie Bertinelli." Frogger, you're not half-bad... for someone who's green.