Review: Frogger (Atari 5200)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we hop our way through another classic strategy/puzzle video game that, arguably, launched a lot of remakes and appearances. Today, we check out the Atari 5200 port of Frogger to see if this version retains that timeless classic feel.

This particular port was released in 1983. While not the first version of Frogger, it’s certainly one of the earlier versions that was released.

The game is quite simple, control your frog to get across four lanes of traffic, then an equally wide river, to reach the other side. To get to the next level, you have to safely get five frogs across the river into the five homes on the other side.

This game is basically divided by 12 lines. The first line is the starting point. This is, to my knowledge, the only safe line for your frog. The second line up is the first lane of traffic. This lane contains a somewhat constant stream of bulldozers. The third line is the second lane of traffic which contains cars. The fourth line is the generally faster lane which contains formula 1 race cars. The fifth line contains another stream of cars. The sixth line is the somewhat safer divider between the road and the river. In earlier levels, this line is quite safe, but in later levels, there are deadly snakes that travel here too. In the seventh line are rows of turtles you can jump on. Some turtles will cycle between surfacing and diving. This is risky because if you fall into the water, you will die just like getting squashed by the vehicles from earlier or get eaten by the snake. In the eighth line are short logs. Ninth line contains longer logs. After a level or two, these logs do speed up. In later levels, this row is reduced down to one long log with a constantly moving snake on it that will also not hesitate to eat you alive. The tenth line contains another stream of turtles (which includes more turtles that will dive and surface on you) that speed up greatly in later levels. In the eleventh line are more logs. In later levels, there is the occasional alligator that appears on this line. While you can safely jump on its back, avoid jumping into it’s mouth or else you’ll end up being an alligator’s snack. The twelfth and final line is your goal – a line that contains five fixed holes. You have to distribute five frogs in each hole to complete a level. This line can see an occasional fly that gives you a bonus. On the flip side, an alligator head can also appear in one of the holes which will stop you from entering one safely. If you miss the hole you are aiming for, you die as well. To make things more complicated, each attempt is timed. If you fail to safely cross before the time bar disappears, you will die.

To navigate, you have to aim your frog in a particular direction and press a button to actually hop. Hopping is your only method of movement, so the controls add a bit of challenge to this game too.

There is strategy that is at play besides finding a way to safely navigate the treacherous ever moving obstacle course. For instance, there is a pink frog bonus that you can collect on the way through. If you safely land on the pink frog outline and then make it to one of the homes, you’ll get a bonus (for sure points, but whether or not the speed increases are delayed, I was never too sure). In addition, I try and fill each home from left to right because the time window to safely land in the first home is significantly more narrow that the one on the right. Since things gradually speed up, I try and fill that home as quickly as possible on each level.

As you make your way through each level, not only does things get significantly more difficult with each line speeding up one by one, but the colors also change as you advance as well. I found myself trying to find a way to accomplish controlled button mashing to safely avoid the cars more than anything else.

I have to say, it is really easy to see why a game like this took off. It’s a very simple to understand game when you’re actually playing it, but it also challenges you as you progress. This is something that seems to be very difficult for game producers to this day to get right. This game also has a fairly addicting quality to it as well because you can gradually learn new strategies crossing the road and river.

The graphics were good in this game. They weren’t exactly amazing, nor were they bad. You can certainly see what all is going on and what was what. In addition, you had the eye candy quality of a rather fully utilized space and the constant changing of color scheme with each level.

There was a jingle in this game that plays at the start of each level. After that, there was a basic compliment of sound effects. I’m undecided as to whether or not more could be put in or if it was fine the way it was. Passable in any event.

Overall, this is certainly a game worth checking out if you are interested in trying early 80s games. It has all the basic qualities of what game mechanics should be like. It’s approachable and challenging. It’s even somewhat addicting as well. Great game all around.


Furthest point in game: Level 5, no frogs successfully crossed on that level.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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