When Jimjum Studios reached out with word of their new game Froglike, and said that it was a roguelike about a frog, I was pretty much sold on the name alone. Of course clever names can only get you so far, and so when Froglike officially launched on iOS and Android this week, I was eager to see if its actual gameplay could live up to its silly name. And boy does it ever. Froglike tries to answer the question “What if Frogger was a roguelike?" and it does exactly that, mixing twitchy action and avoidance gameplay with a strong progression system and roguelike elements peppered in.
Each level is on a grid made up of a random layout of floor tiles, aka lily pads, and your nameless frog hero can move to any of them using the cardinal directions. Where there are not lily pads there is water, and despite being a frog you do not want to jump into the water. Apparently this frog can’t swim. In areas where there’s only water separating parts of the level logs will scroll by which, if you time correctly, you can use to cross those channels of water. Yes, just like in Frogger.
Your goal for passing each level is to make your way to a special large lily pad that has a number on it that increases the longer you stand on it, kind of like a “land grab" mode in a multiplayer game. This number acts as your score, and when the lily pad reaches a certain number a warp appears and you zip off to the next level, stopping momentarily to choose a random power-up in between. This might sound easy, but it’s not, because everything is trying to kill you all of the time. From every direction.
The crux of Froglike is constantly avoiding being killed while also trying to maintain a stationary position on the large lily pad long enough to trigger the next level warp. Adding to this, there’s a multiplier effect where the longer you’re able to stay on the lily pad uninterrupted the faster your score rises. “Standing still real good" and “avoiding a constant barrage of attacks from all sides" are pretty diametrically opposed goals, and it’s this push-and-pull that makes Froglike such an entertaining experience.
This strong concept and core gameplay loop is held together by the glue that is an engaging progression system. There’s a ton of interesting power-ups to unlock and upgrade, and a whole mess of cool unlockable skins for your nameless frog hero. These things are unlocked by achieving certain milestones or using “Crowns" which is the in-game currency. There is no IAP in the game, only opt-in video ads for doubling rewards or reviving after a death and the occasional interstitial ad, so everything is earned through playing and if you want the ads are pretty easily ignored though an IAP to remove them would be very welcome.
Froglike checks off most of the boxes for what I consider a darn-near perfect mobile game: It’s easily played in portrait with one hand; it can be played for a few free moments at a time here and there or for long focused sessions; it has a progression system that sees you always working towards something meaningful, even if you have a couple of “oops I died immediately" rounds; and it has the ever-clichéd “easy to play but hard to master" factor. It also looks awesome, sounds awesome, and is filled with humor. This game has some major personality. It takes a few rounds for everything to click, but once it does Froglike is very sticky, and since it’s free there’s no reason you shouldn’t be trying it out for yourself.