Review: Frogger II – Threeedeep! (Atari 5200)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we check out the Atari 5200 version of Frogger II – Threeedeep! We find out if this deliberately misspelled puzzle sequel leaps over it’s predecessor.

The Atari 5200 version of Frogger II – Threeedeep! was released in 1984. It is the sequel to the original Frogger which we reviewed earlier.

This sequel takes on many characteristics that made the original Frogger so interesting. The frogs are still attempting to cross a gauntlet of dangers to get to their homes on the other side. This game, however, puts an interesting twist to the process.

The first level features a constant stream of predators flowing from right to left at different speeds. Some rows feature fish which, while they do not harm you, will affect your positioning as you attempt to cross the river. This is all being taken place under water (as you might be able to note by the occasional air bubble which grants an additional 100 points if you collect it on your journey). So while the initial impulse is to hop on top of the various creatures backs thanks to what you know from Frogger, this level actually has you avoiding most of them by hopping around in the blue areas instead (much like how you were hopping around on the road in the previous game). The added bonus is that you can hitch a ride on the turtle that is swimming around on screen. If you hop onto the turtle, you can safely pass through whatever enemies you go past without being harmed. The downside is the fact that you can’t control the turtles movements, so you have to jump off at some point while it’s safe in order to safely continue your journey. In later levels, you’ll also encounter a black vine-like object that appears from one of the three bumps in the mud (an eel?). While you are quite safe in the starting position, jumping onto it will kill you. To make matters even more complicated, there are tides that go both ways. So, you may have to compensate for that from time to time to avoid flowing into the jaws of, say, one of the deadly fish that is swimming by. When you get to the other side, you have two options. The first option is to jump into the home, completing one of the “berths” you have to make before advancing onto the next stage. The alternative is to jump onto the log beside the holes to jump up to the next portion of the game – above the river.

This portion features both moving and still portions. Again, the starting position is the safest place to be when not in one of the homes. While the lily pads don’t move, jumping off of one will cause it to disappear, so don’t plan on being able to backtrack onto that same one on the same attempt. Past the crocodiles, you have a choice. If you plan on completing this portion of the level, you’ll want to jump on the white ducks. If you land on them, they’ll make an interpretation of a quacking sound. If the other bird catches you while on this portion, you’ll die. From there, you just hop your way to the sailboat. The frogs homes are on top of the life preservers. The good part about this level is that if you slip and fall off into the water, you don’t die like in the previous game. Instead, you are immediately transported back to the starting position of the underwater portion. The bad news is that you get no additional time, so on later levels, it can practically be a delayed death depending on which berths you completed. On later levels, you’ll have to content with a shark that randomly selects a line to fly through. This shark is the fastest object in this area, so don’t count on outpacing it by sitting on the right line. The whale also randomly dives and surfaces on later levels which does complicate things furthers.

If you chose to try and go to the third portion, try and hop onto the single birds back just past the crocodiles. The bird will flap its wings for a moment and transport you to the final part (I do note that I ran into the occasional glitch where I die while on the birds back for no reason. While you transport safely to the third portion if you encounter this, you will still have one less life). You’ll be transported to the over the top sky level with planes (on later levels), birds and a dragon. There is only one dragon and the dragon is the only thing that can kill you, but your movement on this level changes dramatically to cause this to still be one of the more complicated levels. You start on the cloud level. To move up to one of the rows of birds, you’ll have to push and hold up on the joystick. This will allow your frog to treat the cloud like a trampoline. You can either jump higher by continuing to hold up or jump sideways by pushing the joystick left before you land. One you land on one of the birds, you can treat the rest of the level like a normal Frogger level by hopping to the (or one of the if you are on a later levels) cloud homes. You get some added maneuverability because if you hop back one row and there isn’t a bird in the previous row, you’ll simply fall down to the next row. If there is nothing but the cloud below you, then you’ll fall back all the way and bounce on the cloud again. Just remember to try and avoid the dragon if you can help it. Both the head and tail will kill you. You gain bonus points for collecting one of both of the low flying butterflies in this area. If you make it into the cloud home, you’ll gain the most bonus for a completion of a berth that makes it to this part.

There are only a certain number of berths per level. If you complete all of the berths, you’ll advance to the next (and trickier) level. You can’t put more than one frog in each home, so for every level, you’ll have to make it all the way to the cloud area at least once. I personally never saw more than three homes in the first portion, but the number of homes in the latter two levels gradually increased. I assume the number of homes in the first portion might increase sometime after there is 9, but I don’t know because I died before I found out. So, keep an eye on where you need to eventually send your frogs.

To add to the complexity of all of this is the fact that there is a time limit for each berth. Whether that berth is to ta home on the cloud or the home under the water, you get no time extension by attempting to complete longer berths. So, the strategy is to attempt to shoot for the furthest point first before settling for a home earlier on in the level to maximize your chances of making it further into the game without worrying too much about the time limit.

Personally, I found this game to have a bit of a learning curve to it, but once you understood the basic mechanics of this game, this became quite an involved, yet interesting game. It isn’t some of the other Atari games where the levels are extremely simple and you can spend all of a half an hour to get a fairly complete understanding of how the game works. You have to build your strategies around the different aspects of this game. I thought this increased complexity made this game more interesting than difficult. Having said that, I thought that the bouncing part of the cloud portion of each level was somewhat out of character for this game. I don’t mind it’s over the top nature, but timed bounces like the ones to get to the birds made this game feel a bit too different from what to expect in a Frogger game. I get the need to put something new into an existing game, but I wasn’t too sure of what to think of that element. Having said that, this game made me feel like I was playing something that went beyond a simple 20 minute novelty like other Atari games. Other games I’ve played were a case of “spend 5 minutes figuring out what you should or shouldn’t do, another 10 minutes to perfect your gameplay, then spend the last 15 minutes seeing how far you can get before dying” This game had a lot more to chew on which I thought was nice to see. Well done on that part.

The graphics were interesting to judge in this game. While there wasn’t a whole lot in the way of improvements over the previous Frogger game, there was a vastly expanded library of different characters added to this game. Instead of a few cars, turtles, a crocodile, and logs, there was a lot of different bad guys being depicted which are too many to list. So, because there is more in the way of art, I would say this game is an improvement graphically over the previous game. To add to this is having three environments that fill entire screens instead of two environments split over one screen. So, well done in this department.

THhe audio was nicely done in this game as well. Instead of having a simple jingle or two like other Atari games I’ve played, there was actually two full fledged songs put into this game. These songs were actually nicely produced too. Impressive what can go into an Atari based game when you think about what went into this game. The sound effects, however, were about average. Some thought certainly went into it, but there wasn’t a whole lot of variety to be found.

Overall, if you’ve been finding that Atari games don’t take long to play, give this game a try. There’s actually a lot to work with in this game. It really broke away from other games I’ve played and offered a nice complex world to navigate through – even if it is considered little by today’s standards. Overall, this was actually a great game.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Level 6 and lost my last life to the black vine thing getting off of the starting area. Was too busy timing a jump with something else to notice it slither up to block my immediate path.

General gameplay: 21/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 84%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85



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