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With all of Suda 51’s penchant for socio-political psychobabble, surrealism and punk-rock sensibilities, universal Frog Minutes is not the kind of game one would expect from his company, Grasshopper Manufacture. Frog Minutes is Grasshopper’s iOS debut, and when it was announced as a charitable project whose proceeds would aid victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami to hit the developer’s native Japan, all that was known about it was its name and amphibian-based logo. With Grasshopper’s pedigree and following, they probably could have released a game about navigating Japanese tax software and people would still buy it, and in some ways the quiet Frog Minutes is almost as mundane -- it’s an unexpected little app that involves, you guessed it, catching frogs.
A serene title that wears its idylls on its sleeve, Frog Minutes is just proof that’s impossible to tell what Grasshopper is going to come up with next. The view is a calm, hand-painted backdrop of a country spring. In the background you can hear the sound of birds and insects chirping over the bubbling brook. “Isn’t the scenery beautiful?” the narrator, a robotically relaxed female voice, may ask you. “Isn’t the sound of the stream nice?” It’s certainly odd, but there’s work to be done: a whole range of frogs are waiting to be caught and catalogued, and that’s not going to happen on its own.
Where you come is by collecting "critters," various forms of insect life that frogs like to eat. This is as simple as sliding the watercolor-esque view around with your finger and tapping any critters you find, from grasshoppers to flies. The more you catch, the more “critter hiding places” are revealed, which can be tapped to flush out any frogs that might be holed up there.
When you do encounter a frog (or toad), you have to stuff it full of enough delicious critters that it becomes full and thus unable to escape. Tapping a frog brings up a thought-bubble showing what particular critter the frog wants at the moment. As you drag critters from your inventory into the vicinity of the frog’s thought bubble, their flighty appetites will change to other critter types, so an ample supply of all classes is a must. Your rewards for capturing a full frog come in the form of educational profiles of the different amphibious species, as well as trophies and a picture that slowly forms with the more frogs you catch.
That's Frog Minutes in a nutshell. When you’re not collecting frogs you need to keep an eye on your critter supply, and the more you play, the more hiding places are opened up. In the later portions of the game, there are enough critters to always be collecting something, and tracking the frogs’ motions can sometimes be a mildly difficult task, making the game lose a little of its tranquility. It’s a goofy premise, but its educational value and surprisingly addictive record-keeping make this one a good purchase for both the gameplay and the cause.
The bottom line. If you like quirky, stress-free games (or are a fan of Grasshopper Manufacture) Frog Minutes is an easy, fun, and educational little purchase.
iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, 3rd- or 4th-gen iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 4.1 or later
The simple premise is bizarre and delightful, and the game is generally soothing. The proceeds from the game go to help earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. It’s a Grasshopper game, which will be enough for fans, and it has a fun educational component. Universal app.
The straightforward casual gameplay may turn some people expecting more of a game off.