What's with all the cute frog-centered indie games right now? A Frog’s Tale, Schim, Frog Detective, Paradise Marsh, Olliefrog Toad Skater, Teacup, Frogsong - it feels like we're in the middle of an (incredibly adorable) frog uprising. Not that I'm complaining, I'm more than happy that our amphibian friends are getting the love they deserve and one such game is Time On Frog Island, a cosy adventure where you play as a gruff sea captain who has been shipwrecked on an island that is chock-a-block with, you guessed it, frogs.
When your humble boat (no bigger than a dingy) crashed on the island it got majorly busted up. To get the parts needed to repair your vessel and sail home, you need to trade items with the friendly frog locals by navigating a spaghetti network of trades and scavenger hunting quests.
Seems easy enough, but there's a slight hitch. You don’t speak the same language as the frogs, so they communicate what they want through pictures instead of dialogue. If a frog wants a strawberry, a speech bubble with a picture of a strawberry will pop up above the frog’s head. Other times, they’ll show you a string of multiple images, and you’ll need to try to work out what they mean. Some sort of round, shiny object? A pint glass with a snowflake symbol? It’s up to you to bounce around the island, figure out what they want and get it for them, because they’re cute and you want to make them happy.
So, out you go explorin’ and what an island it is to explore. It’s a slice of paradise and a decent size too, complete with beaches, woods, and snow-capped peaks all open to having a poke around in. When you’ve found the right object, you pick it up and hold it above your head, your comical little arms carrying items that are almost the same size as your entire body. There are some small details that I love, like how items bounce when you’re holding them as you bound around the island, how bushes rustle as you race past them, and how water has a satisfying plop as you dash through it. It's great how something as simple as running around can feel so satisfying.
There’s more to traversing the island than using your seafaring legs. Grab a flower from the ground and its petals will start to spin and propel you forward, doubling your speed. Picking up a mushroom and planting it in a dirt mound will make it grow into a giant, super mushroom that can act as a trampoline, making those hard-to-reach places more accessible. And (my absolute favourite) are the giant leaves. Pluck one from the ground and then jump off a ledge and you’ll gracefully glide until your feet touch the ground. Frog Island is far from being flat, and with plenty of hills, grassy slopes, and rocky cliff edges zipping around the island is a whole lotta fun. You’ll be re-treading a lot of ground as you dash back and forth, but I didn’t mind in the slightest. If the sailor happened to own a Fitbit it would definitely be going nuts.
We’re not done with traversal quite yet, though, as developers Half Past Yellow decided to include even more ways to explore. Visiting the local tavern gives you access to a machine that lets you brew your own concoctions. Putting in the right ingredients and drinking what seeps out gives you permanent frog abilities, like having a long sticky tongue that can grab objects, and a frog leap that extends how far you can jump. When you’re finally done dashing around, you can sit by a campfire and go to sleep to begin the next day and the sailor’s dreams reveal why they first set sail and how they got to the island in the first place.
If you’re feeling a bit bogged down with the never-ending shopping list of items your amphibian friends have given you, there are little surprises and mysteries to discover elsewhere on the island. Jumping on a string of lily pads in a pond will make a musical scale, which is curious. And an ice cube I brought down from the mountain melted away to reveal a mysterious frog statue, which surely must fit somewhere? In the same vein as A Short Hike, there are a handful of mysteries to solve, many of them inviting you to experiment with the island’s items by using them to reach tough terrain, or moving them to certain locations.
There’s always something to do and each day brings new possibilities. After I found the carpenter’s hand saw, he began to fix a bridge that needed repairing, and the next day he cut down a bunch of trees that revealed the entrance to a mysterious cave. It’s nice seeing the frog residents just go about their daily business. They’re always wandering about the island and even if I was in the middle of my most frantic dash, I'd always stop and say hello if I bumped into one out and about. There were often times when the frogs would request something and I would recieve nothing in return, but helping them was rewarding in other ways.
One time, I was passing love letters between two frogs, the guard and the artist, who were situated on different ends of the island (juicy, I know). After the last letter was received the two started to hang out together, the guard watching the artist paint during the day, and then the two would stargaze at night. It had absolutely nothing to do with fixing the ship, but it made me feel great. I just wanted the lovey-dovey frog couple to be happy! Whoop!
For all its wholesomeness though, I did encounter some slightly frustrating glitches. The Blacksmith, a frog with huge forearms and a pair of goggles that make his eyes look comically big, was running around in a panic because his tadpole pup had gone missing. After finding the cheeky fella in a ditch and returning him, the Blacksmith thanked me but then proceeded to run around as if still looking for them - even when I threw the pup full force at his head. This glitch meant that the chain of trading got cut off and I could not progress. Only after closing the game and restarting it did the game magically get back on track.
This wasn’t the only time something like this happened and having to close the game and reboot to set everything right is far from ideal. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed with a small patch, as, even though it happened a couple of times, I didn’t come across anything that properly broke the game.Apart from those hiccups, my visit to Frog Island has been nothing short of delightful. Clocking in at the 3–4-hour mark, Time on Frog Island is a bite-sized adventure that doesn't outstay its welcome and could easily be played in a single, cosy sitting.