We are in a frog-themed renaissance in gaming, with so many frog-related experiences announced for 2022 and 2023. However, they are scattered across all genres, from RPGs to sports games. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Time On Frog Island, a guy just living his best life among frogs? Farming crops? A simple walk-and-talk sim? It’s a little bit of everything focused on open-ended exploration, cryptic resource gathering, learning by doing, and a small amount of farming. Perhaps the best way to describe it is Tunic for fans of A Short Hike, all the mystery without the brutal combat and twitch reflexes.
“The island is incredibly open, allowing you to see its entirety in any order.”
After a storm wrecks your sailboat on uncharted shores, you are tasked to find ways to repair the vessel’s broken parts: a rudder, rigging rope, wheel, sail, and hull. But you are not alone on the island. As the title suggests, the island is inhabited by a complex frog society of artisans, laborers, and loners, and there’s even a hierarchy of sorts. There is no dialogue or story in a strict sense. Conversations are back and forth pictorial thought bubbles displaying the state of the frog and what they want or don’t. Every night you are also treated to the backstory of the stranded sailor you play as and what brought him here in the first place, which I won’t spoil here.
There are no tutorials or instructions besides pictures of what you need to repair the ship or what a frog wants. The island is incredibly open, allowing you to see its entirety in any order, with some sidequests and main objectives also being non-linear. This is how the game creates a puzzle. After some exploration, you might find a frog willing to give you a rope, but they want a feather. But these are no simple fetch quests as you are at most given a vague hint through the image to where that object is. You must use your mental map, as there is no map, to figure out where that object could be, what it is, and if you’ve seen it before.
“These riddle-like instructions replicate the frustration of communicating with no common language“
These riddle-like instructions replicate the frustration of communicating with no common language, as I can only assume the player character cannot speak frog. Some of these quests are optional or even contradictory in hilarious ways. But they all work to imbue some basic character into the frogs of the island, along with the unique and lively frog designs.
While traversing the island, you can find numerous ways to help speed you through obstacles or even break up the walking. There are leaves to glide, mushrooms to bounce on, and flowers to give you a boost. Even the default walk cycles are beautifully animated, bouncy, and with squishy physics that exaggerate movement and impact.
In addition, with the help of a frog cook, you can gain frog attributes like a spring jump or a tongue to pull objects close or to grapple to ledges. And you’ll need some bonus skills to conquer racing challenges and secrets on the island. But of course, the cook will need the ingredients first.
“Time on Frog Island requires patience and diligence to find objects and solve some of its challenging problems.”
This is the sticking point, Time on Frog Island requires patience and diligence to find objects and solve some of its challenging problems. Sometimes you must wait several in-game days for an easy solution to pop up. There are almost always ways around such occurrences, but they are not always obvious.
Perhaps the clearest mechanical misstep is the requirement to a light fire every time you need to sleep. Eventually, watching the same story slides (loading screen images) you have already seen removes their emotional weight. This is alleviated halfway through the game, but only if you complete a sidequest. Likewise, a better fast travel system is badly needed as the current system feels tacked on and incomplete. This could help with backtracking and transporting eggs (you’ll know what I mean).
“Despite a less character story-focused experience, the game maintains your engagement with a vibrant reactive world.”
Time on Frog Island is a little rough on PS4 in some areas, with some limited resolution textures and lighting. But given its solid performance, it is acceptable. Its strong art design also carries limited visuals with thickly lined characters and objects, vibrant green beachy colors, and various locations, from snowy peaks, to sleepy towns and ancient ruins. Mellow mallet-based instruments and glossy synths also set a relaxed tone and feel as you explore.
Exploration is the puzzle in Half Past Yellow’s Time on Frog Island, and it rewards patience with the discovery of new abilities and progression. Despite a less character story-focused experience, the game maintains your engagement with a vibrant reactive world, colored by gentle music, a strong art style, and the draw of exploration.
Time on Frog Island is available on all platforms, click here to check it out on Steam.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PS4, code was provided by the publisher.