There’s nothing like a good puzzle game, or a good open-world adventure game. Time on Frog Island is in those genres. It’s got puzzles to solve, a world to explore, and it has an adventure. The big question is though: is it good? It’s not a bad game, by any means, as it’s interesting enough to keep you going, but it’s not perfect. For this Time on Frog Island review, we’ll look into what the game does well and what it’s drawbacks are, and why you should consider spending Time on Frog Island.
Time on Frog Island is available on PC, PlayStation consoles, Xbox consoles, and Nintendo Switch.
Story – Glimmers of a Story Not Fully Told
The story of Time on Frog Island is a pretty straightforward scenario. A sea captain ends up becoming shipwrecked on an island due to a storm out at sea. His boat is wrecked and to get home, he must repair his boat by replacing the lost or damaged parts. The twist is, he ends up on a mysterious island inhabited by frogs. If he wants to fix his broken ship, he needs their help.
The intro cutscene that shows the boat in the storm started off promisingly, but then it suddenly cuts to the captain and his wrecked boat washed up on the beach. You don’t actually see the boat getting capsized, which is a shame.
There are other mysteries to Time on Frog Island‘s story that are never really explained. Why is there an island entirely populated with frogs? Does it have a name or a history?
The characters you get to meet don’t even have names. You just identify them as the artist frog or the fisher frog. They do have some character and personality to them, such as a frog being cheerful or another being a bit grouchy or another being laid-back. Each frog also has a distinct appearance to help distinguish them. This is as much as you get though. One guess is that with the lack of in-game text and spoken dialogue, there’s not much point adding much backstory to these characters. You just have an artist frog in which a guard frog has a big crush on. These little touches are nice, but it doesn’t go into as much depth as it could.
The Captain and His Potted Plant
There’s also the captain himself. You get a few hints at his backstory, told through images shown every time you go to sleep. You see the captain with a woman – but who is she? His lover? His sister? It’s never revealed, again another lost opportunity at expanding the story. There is one thing about the pictures, which is that it explains the significance of the potted plant the captain treasures so much. Again though, this is another thing that isn’t explored further.
The common pattern with the story it seems is that there is a lot of potential for storytelling, but it isn’t told, at least not fully, which is an opportunity that is lost. Perhaps the idea is to fill in the gaps yourself, but then again, if more details had been revealed about the characters and the island, it might be easier to invest into the story and its cast.
Gameplay – More Frustrating and Tedious than Fun
The central theme of the gameplay in Time on Frog Island is trading. The main goal is to fix your boat, which requires replacement parts. To get these parts, you need to reach out to the local froggy population on the island. They’re not going to give you stuff for nothing though. If you want their help, they want you to help them in exchange first. This ends up becoming a chain of item requests to get just one item for your ship. Altogether, there are about 4 items to get for your ship before it’s ready to set sail again. With this, you’ll need to talk to different frogs, give them items, and sometimes help them with a task.
There’s nothing wrong necessarily with the trading system. It’s a good gameplay concept – unfortunately, it’s held back by a few flaws. For a start, there is no spoken dialogue in the game, at least not in English or any other proper language. The captain and frogs jabber away as if they’re speaking Simlish from The Sims. Instead of subtitles, their dialogue is displayed as speech and thought bubbles with pictures in them. These pictures are what you are looking out for when working out what to do next. This is a good system, but it is a bit flawed. You have to really pay attention at what it’s suggesting and then work out what it means, and it’s not always very clear. You get a picture of a frog, but what frog, where? If you have a picture of an item, where can you find it?
This is a puzzle exploration game, which means you have to decipher these clues and go out and find the frog or item in question. You obviously can’t expect the answers to be handed to you, otherwise it would be too easy. The problem is, it goes the opposite way, becoming too hard. There are a few reasons why this game is harder than it should be.
For a start, the island you find yourself on is quite big, and quite easy to lose your way. You don’t have access to a map of any kind to help you, so you have to run around and find your way and hope you don’t get lost. There are also some signposts around, but it’s quite hard to read the picture on them to see what they’re directing you to. Also, while the island does generally vary in landscape, it can be easy to lose your way and stumble around until you get to the place you’re looking for. You’ll find yourself running around a lot, which can become tedious.
A Lot to Do Without a To-Do List
Going back to trading, there’s another flaw to discuss. With a lot of people to talk to, tasks to complete, places to go, and items to find, it would have been useful to have some way to keep track of everything you’re meant to do. The thing is, there isn’t.
A lot of games have some way of making a note for you what tasks are currently active, which is very helpful if you ever get stuck and don’t know what to do next. It’s a shame that Time on Frog Island doesn’t have something like this. Yes, it’s a puzzle game, but the only thing that ends up getting seriously puzzled is the player. You don’t want to spoon-feed the player, but then again, it would have been useful to keep track of what you were currently working on. For example, if you’d spoken to someone and they’d given you some directions, the pictures clues could have been saved to a task list for you to access any time. Instead, you have to run back to that character and speak to them to repeat the clues.
Working Day and Night…
One feature in Time on Frog Island is a day and night cycle. There’s no on-screen clock displayed. It simply shifts from day to night via subtle lighting. There’s nothing really wrong with a day/night cycle, since it adds realism, but there’s one annoying thing about this. When it gets really late at night, the captain you’re playing as starts complaining that he’s tired, which is annoying if you’re right in the middle of a task. In order to fast forward to the next day, you’re forced to set up camp and get some shuteye.
This tedious feature is somewhat saved thanks to multiple campsites around the island, not just near your shipwrecked boat, and all you need is to interact with a campfire to sleep and wake up into the next day. The only thing is that you have to manually construct the campfire by placing 3 logs or driftwood to create a fire, which again is tedious. Being forced to sleep and set up camp feels like a waste of time.
…and Rain or Shine
There is a good reason there is a day/night cycle in the game. As well as a day/night cycle, the game also switches between sunshine and rain. Each day, it could be a sunny day or a rainy day. Again, this adds realism to the game, but it also serves an interesting gameplay purpose. Certain things will appear or disappear on rainy or sunny days. For example, you can pick sunflowers on a sunny day, but when it’s raining, a different plant appears in the same spot. In another instance, crows will be absent from the fruit farm on wet days, allowing you to pick the fruit there. Unusually, this system doesn’t feel as annoying as some of the others in the game, and is actually quite clever. Unfortunately, many other things are just annoying and flawed.
Getting Things Done is Satisfying
So far in this review of Time on Frog Island, I have been very critical. I’m not saying it’s a terrible game, but for this review, I have to share my honest opinion on my experience with playing it, which means sharing what I found not-so-great with it. However, saying that, it does have some good points.
I can appreciate the concept of the gameplay as well as the story. I find myself feeling compelled to explore the island and discover its secrets, find people to meet, find out who needs help, etc. Even when I got stuck on a task, I had this feeling that I wanted to get it done, that I didn’t want to forget it and leave it. I wanted to complete rebuilding the boat. I wanted to find that item a character had requested or explore what that odd-looking gateway was or figure out what all those lilypads were for. In summary, while this game was frustrating and tedious at times, it did leave me wanting to play on and finish until the end.
It was also satisfying whenever I finally fulfilled a request for someone, even if it meant them giving me another tricky task to do. It was especially satisfying whenever I completed a request chain and finally got the boat part I needed.
Feeling at Home on Frog Island
There was another thing that I found satisfying while reviewing Time on Frog Island: helping the local frogs. While some of them had harder tasks to complete than others, I did feel this need to help them out, not wanting to give up until they were happy. For example, I felt bad for the fruit farm frog when all the crows were eating his crops. When he practically begged me for help, I felt I had to stop at nothing to do so. I went out and found all the heads he needed for his scarecrows, even working to get the one off that one frog villager who seem reluctant to let it go. This wasn’t to benefit me, but because they’d asked for my help.
Upon reviewing what Time on Frog Island has content-wise, there’s something for everyone. The main objective is to fix the boat, but this isn’t mandatory. There’s no time limit. If you want, you can go off and explore other things. You can check out the island, speak to different frogs, go fishing, brew some drinks, and complete races. There’s also the option to have your own house built on the island, with help from the carpenter, plus you can grow your own crops. You might have ended up on the island by accident, but there’s no urgency to leave.
Graphics & Audio – Pleasant to Look At and Listen To
If there’s anything positive that can be said in this review of Time on Frog Island, it’s the graphics and sound. You can’t really fault these.
The game has a cartoony graphic style, and it fits the quirkiness of the game perfectly. You feel like you’re playing out of a children’s story book, and it’s quite relaxing. As previously mentioned, the game can be tedious and frustrating at times, but there are moments when you find yourself slowing down and taking in the tranquil, colorful environment. While you ended up on the island by accident, it’s still a calming place to be. There’s no real urgency to hurry along as you feel compelled to explore what the island has to offer. There is lots to see, with the island varying in its landscape and contents.
The camera is fixed at a set angle at all times. There’s no way to zoom in or rotate, but this isn’t really a problem. There is room for improvement, such as the signposts being hard to read, but this isn’t a major drawback.
Speaking the Froggy Language
Throughout the game, the characters communicate with each other (and the player) via speech and thought bubbles with images. These are usually pretty easy to see and understand, which is important since this feature is a key component in the gameplay. If there is any confusion regarding the images, it’s usually down to figuring out what they mean and deciphering the clues.
A pleasant and gentle soundtrack plays throughout Time on Frog Island. There’s nothing irritating about it. The music helps you remain calm when you’re trying to work out a puzzle or find your way around the island. There are also some useful sound effects that play to indicate interacting with an object. There is spoken dialogue, and while it’s in gibberish and meaningless, it is at least better than having silent characters, and there have been worse cases of annoying random spoken words accompanying dialogue.
Time on Frog Island was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.