Reviewed: October 23, 2005
Released: September 29, 2005
Why did the frog cross the road? Because I was darn good at dodging traffic and jumping across logs. But that was back in the day of arcades and pizza by the slice and pockets full of tokens. A lot has changed in 20 years and Konami’s green hero has grown up and joined the elite retro-ranks of classic game heroes gone 3D.
Released on both console and handheld system, Frogger is back and bigger than ever in an all-new adventure. Frogger: Helmet Chaos is the PSP version of this new installment in one of the oldest frogs in amphibian history, and with a new facelift, engaging story, and classic 4-way directional controls, this is truly a new generation of Frogger.
Back in the 80’s we really didn’t need a story to move Frogger across the screen, but this is 2005 and with more than 30 levels to explore, gamers need some incentive, so Konami has given us just enough story to motivate us.
It seems the evil Dr. Wani is trying to take over Firefly Swamp by putting mind-control helmets on the various inhabitants. Upon learning this, Frogger sets out to defeat the evil alligator, save his friends, and restore order to his home. Yes, it’s a paper-thin plot, but it gets the job done.
Helmet Chaos brings back the classic jumping gameplay of the original with a slightly more advanced twist. Levels are laid out in a grid-like fashion and Frogger can either move one “square” or jump ahead two “squares”. So while the levels are represented in true 3D the gameplay stays true to its 2D roots.
Things get a bit trickier when you factor in the new moves. Frogger will often need to change directions and this is done by rotating in place with the L and R triggers – not entirely intuitive at first, but you figure it out soon enough. You can also jump vertically within the same square and you can also do a tongue-flick that shoots out to grab items or even grab onto an object and swing across larger gaps.
Your tongue will become one of your most useful tools as you use it to push and pull objects around the level or swing across the map like a green Tarzan. But alas, there is no combat despite a swamp full of enemies that you must simply avoid. Just get from the start to the finish of each map and stay alive while doing it.
Of course there are plenty of collectibles including thousands of gold coins laid out like Pac-Dots. Dedicated coin collectors will end up with a nice chunk of change they can use to purchase all sorts of extras and unlockables like mini-games for both single and multiplayer.
While Helmet Chaos offers a nice story it lacks the cinematic flair of the console version. Instead of animated CG movies we get static panels and captioned text to accompany the spoken dialogue. My only complaint here is that you have to manually advance the text so it never synchs with the voice.
The design of the game is quite nice with lots of vibrant colors and charming characters designs. And given the limited nature of the gameplay, there is a surprisingly amount of fluid animation for Frogger and the other characters.
The framerate is smooth but that is to be expected since you are basically scrolling the map around to follow Frogger as he hops around. The camera works for the most part but I would have enjoyed being able to zoom out at times for a bigger picture.
I was really surprised with the quality of the voice acting, especially for a PSP game. The style of deliver and overall dialogue is heavily targeted toward the younger crowd, but so is the game for that matter.
The sound effects are all excellent with all of the classic arcade effects plus plenty of environmental sounds to bring these 3D worlds to life. Music is also nice with a good variety of tunes that fit with the cheerful gameplay.
Depending on your skill most gamers can polish off all 30 levels in 10-12 hours, perhaps more if you are on a dedicated quest to get all that coinage. Once you finish the game, or even before you finish it, you will likely want to explore the mini-games for both solo and multiplayer.
Helmet Chaos even supports game sharing so you can play with others who don’t have their own copy. Three games are available when you first start playing and the rest have to be unlocked. Old-school gamers will love the perfect recreation of the original 1981 Frogger game provided you can get used to playing you PSP on its end. The other games are incredibly fun and original and all expand upon the basic themes of jumping around and using your tongue.
Personally, I think Frogger works better on a handheld, so Frogger: Helmet Chaos is easily my favorite version for this next-gen remake. You can bust out the classic 1981 game at a moments notice and relive your misspent youth, or dive into a substantial action-platform title that will challenge your reflexes and your brain.