Mister Frog! (Free) is Coconut Island’s follow-up to the impressive One Tap Hero, so it has big shoes to fill. In this case, they’re probably clown shoes, as Mister Frog! presents itself as a Vaudeville act, in which the titular frog is performing to entertain an audience: perhaps you and the child you’re trading turns with.
At a glance, one might me tempted to draw comparisons to Frog Fractions, what with the stationary frog catching flies with his tongue-thing, but this game is as straight up as that one is twisted.
You swipe to stretch Frog’s tongue out to catch bugs, with three or more creating a combo. Combos of all the same color insect worth more, and a progressive combo multiplier that drives you to keep up the combos.
There are two modes of gameplay: timer-based Arcade, and the brutal Survival mode, where you have three lives and every bug you miss costs you a life. Building those same-color combos goes out the window in Survival, where my scores tend to be less than 10% of my scores in Arcade mode. It’s not as hard as Super Hexagon ($2.99), but it’s hard enough.
Survival mode makes for a pleasant contrast with Arcade mode, which is still fast-paced, but easy to get a satisfactorily pretty shower of lights out of. Either way, a game is unlikely to ever take more than two minutes to play.
Some of the nuances are really well thought out, such as the clock/bomb bugs, which either come onscreen as a clock and then turn into a bomb if not eaten immediately, or come on as a bomb which will eventually change into a clock. Either way, clocks are really good (extra time in Arcade, and a way to get back lost lives in Survival) and bombs are bad news, especially in Survival, where eating a bomb bug means game over, man.
You can curl Frog’s tongue out into curves, swirls and jagged v-shapes, and when you reach full extension or lift your finger, it sucks back in. The mechanic there is another clever element: you capture any bug you touch with your finger, and when the tongue retracts, it takes with it any bugs that happen to be touching it at the time, but bugs passing by while you’re swiping don’t get stuck: it’s a tongue, not a spiderweb.
You can buy extensions to the tongue, as well as new mix-and-match outfits for Frog and one-use powerups, but the game’s IAP doesn’t feel onerous. The powerups only matter if you’re trying for a high score, and if you’re really into the game, you’ll be able to buy the tongue length extensions. Those are important as a frog gets older. The tongue’s the first thing to go, you know.
Crucially, none of this breaks the game: playing with full power-ups doesn’t guarantee a high score, and the way Frog’s tongue works is basically the same and fully playable at minimum length, maximum, and all points in-between. Sure you can pull off an additional fancy trick or two at greater lengths, but only if you’ve been practicing.
Mister Frog!’s biggest flaw is that there isn’t really anything new after you finish upgrading the tongue. I think the lack of further progression was a design choice, and it fits well with the pick-up-and-play aspect, but it does limit the game’s shelf life.
In short, Mister Frog! is very pretty, with responsive controls and pleasantly old-timey music. This is a game that you and even a very young child might be able to share, trading turns and comparing scores. It’s not terribly ambitious, certainly no One Tap Hero, but it does well within the limited scope it sets for itself.