Parker Brothers, the famous boardgame maestro responsible for games like Clue and Monopoly, dipped its hand into the growing video game market in ’82 with a number of successful licenses.
Although licensing film properties such as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for a game tie-in proved to be popular, they had also made a reputation for themselves in porting over arcade favorites such as Gottlieb’s Q-Bert and Nintendo’s Popeye to consoles such as the Atari 2600, Intellivision, and the Colecovision.
Konami’s Frogger, distributed to arcades by Sega in ’81, pulled in its own share of tokens and quarters by the bucket. Parker Brothers snagged the license to port it over to consoles creating another hit on their hands in ’82.
I loved Frogger in the arcades. It had catchy theme music and clever animation work that fed right into the challenging gameplay. The idea was deceptively simple – get your frog from the bottom of the screen who maneuvered via block-based movement left, right, up, or down, to the other side and into one of the alcoves at the top.
Death also arrived quickly whether it was getting squished underneath the vehicles on the road on the bottom half of the screen or by drowning if you missed a jump at the top half of the screen across the river. In a way, hopping across the river felt much like an early platforming game with an overhead view instead of from the side.
But if you’re a frog, why would you drown? Maybe you were a mutant frog that could only live on land? But this was in the early days of gaming where things like that only got in the way of good gameplay.
Like many of Parker Brothers’ other ports, Frogger was as much fun as the arcade version. Sure, the graphics weren’t anything to look at, but more importantly, the gameplay survived the transition intact providing hours of fun at home without worrying about whose hand was on the stick before yours. Or why the aroma of pizza cheese lingered somewhere close by every time you walked up to the machine.
Frogger was incredibly popular as a port as it made its way onto a multitude of platforms, either by itself or as part of a collection, from the Atari 2600 all the way up to the Xbox 360. And like a few arcade classics, someone out there thought it might be a good idea to remake it. Unfortunately, like the remake of Williams’ NARC, it didn’t pan out as well as the original.
For the Atari 2600, Parker Brothers’ ad in ’83 for their port copied the same playbook used for their version of Empire Strikes Back with plenty of art and a block of text that was more than what players had read in the arcade. It got the point across, though, as the artist drew up a few of the faces of Frogger death that one could encounter topping it off with a hand drawn screenshot. A great and challenging arcade classic that continues to live on, hopping from one platform to the next and avoiding the sad fate of the arcades in which it found fame.