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Frog Detective Review (Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 & PC)

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Frog Detective promotional art

Never in a million years did I think I’d find myself teaching a mouse how to breakdance, let alone muster up the courage to impress a lab coat-sporting monkey that goes by the blog name of “MysteryMonkey49.” Little did I know at the time, of course, was that this was merely one of the many, many unusual escapades I’d have the pleasure of attending in Grace Bruxner’s Frog Detective trilogy. Turns out, there was plenty more where that came from, and even now, in the aftermath of my successes, I still can’t for the life of me understand what it was I was doing, or how I came to be won over by a frog with a magnifying glass. But, there you go — it happened. Do I feel weird about this whole situation? Yes. Do I sort of want to go back and relive it all again? Absolutely.

For those who don’t know, or have simply yet to dive into the lily pad-loving detective’s cartoon realm, Frog Detective recently found its way over to consoles and PC as a full-fledged three-piece collection. Needless to say that, as something of an amphibian-adoring oddball, I for one couldn’t help but throw myself at the bundle the moment it set up shop on a multitude of platforms. What’s more, I also couldn’t help but convince my wife—yet another frog-obsessed collector who, to my knowledge, has somewhere in the ballpark of thirty-seven frog plushies and counting—to join in for the ride. She obliged, of course, because, you know, frogs.

Having spent a short while hopping from one location to the next as the famed Detective, I can safely say that my time in the indie world has been nothing but joyous, and even quite rewarding, all things considered. But hey — baby steps.

Just Go With It

Frog Detective on scooter in Western town  Frog Detective is definitely one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played — and that’s coming from someone who just so happened to stick their nose up at the likes of I Am Bread for being too, I don’t know, vanilla. Suffice to say that, in spite of everything, it was really a frog in a turtleneck sweater that wound up being the thing to tickle my stubble. Go figure.

To give you an idea of what it’s all about, Frog Detective is a first-person mystery series, and one that—you guessed it—puts none other than a frog with a knack for solving crimes at the heart of its story. As the ever-intuitive detective, you are invited to embark on three relatively short but equally punchy and memorable tales, each of which contain their own unique characters, items, and local issues. To start, you must exchange some witty remarks with your Supervisor—a penguin, of all animals—and then set out to visit a region where an underlying mystery remains unsolved. Simple enough, right? Right.

The first of the three tales in the Frog Detective book transports you to a remote island—a miniature paradise in which an alarming and ghostly sound has forced its inhabitants to employ “Ghost Scientists” to investigate. However, due to their sheer lack of competence and resources, they’ve called out to you, a frog with a magnifying glass, to venture out to the island to connect the dots. Easy enough, right? Well, try telling that to Larry the Lobster, who only wants to combine toothpaste with wool to make dynamite. Don’t ask.

Don’t Stop Hopping

Frog Detective on phone with Supervisor

To progress in Frog Detective, you need only talk to one resident, and then hop along to the next, all while taking notes of their specific needs and wants. If, for example, one islander wants a Shell, but is happily willing to exchange a Magnifying Glass for it—an item that you will need to acquire Pasta (again, don’t ask)—then you’ll essentially need to daisy chain a few requests together and swap stories with several others. Eventually, you’ll come to obtain all the right tools needed to create something that’ll usher you into the next portion of the mystery. Again, all rather straightforward, and hardly anything to get worked up over.

Gameplay-wise, there isn’t a whole lot to write home about, as it’s more or less the case of searching one area, and then interacting with another character for the sake of establishing context for the mystery at hand. That said, due to the dialogue being not only humorous, but also rather playful, I for one couldn’t care less about having to rerun through the same motions a dozen times over. If anything, I often found myself willing to go that extra mile, if only to spark up another debate with a penguin.

All in all, Frog Detective isn’t the lengthiest of games in the world; you can sweep it under the rug in two hours or less, to be fair. Also, it isn’t exactly hot on replay value, either, as there are no collectibles to obtain, secrets to unlock, or hidden areas to unearth, for that matter. Rather, it’s a one-and-done sort of gig — and one that, thankfully, brings just enough to the table to make you feel satisfied, though barely full.

Where Art Thou, Frog?

Frog Detective with lantern in Warlock Woods

After combing through those three cutesy tales as the Detective, I actually went on to find myself checking the library to see if I had somehow missed a chapter. Truth is, I could’ve done with a few more mysteries to fully quench that thirst for answers and amphibian-centric stories. But alas, it was all short-lived, and just as I had warmed up to the whimsical world of Frog Detective, it presented me with the final curtain…and then booted me out the door and back to the helm of a bog-standard RPG. Sad times.

When all’s said and done, it wasn’t the walking, searching, or dancing that made Frog Detective the joyous puppet that it was, but more the dialogue and camaraderie between its characters. Even Lobster Cop—a rival of Frog Detective’s—made an impression on me after barely securing twenty seconds of screen time. And so, to that I say, thanks, Grace — you literally made me catch feelings for a lobster. And not just a lobster, but an entire web of weird and wonderful characters across an entire network of species, to boot.

Visually, Frog Detective is, for lack of a better word, okay-ish. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, as its choice of design was more or less intentional on the developer’s part. Simply put, it’s as if an eight-year-old got ahold of Windows ‘98 and got a little giddy with the pre-programmed Paint application. And yet, in spite of its simplistic art style and choice of environments, it actually works. Sure it’s simple, but as the old saying goes — there is indeed a certain beauty in simplicity. And so, to that end, I can’t really complain all that much.

Verdict

Frog Detective on phone with the Supervisor

I’m certainly not going to beat around the bush and say that Frog Detective is an amazing game, but I’m also not going to shoot it down as anything significantly less, either. Truth is, I did actually enjoy every second of the overall experience, and it was mostly thanks to its clever writing and witty humor that I wound up wanting to stick around a little while longer — even after the post-credits portion sent me straight back to the beginning. Sure enough, I wasn’t prepared to revisit the three short mysteries I had already solved, but I was, in the weirdest of ways, wanting another batch of cases to come rolling in to alleviate that post-victory blues. But unfortunately for me, one can never have too much of a good thing, as made clear by Grace Bruxner’s habit of crafting stories that barely topple the twenty-minute milestone.

So, to answer the initial question, is Frog Detective worth playing? Yes, it most certainly is — and more so for those who’d happily retire a full-fledged action-RPG for something a little more digestible, and not to mention much easier on the eye, too. Granted, it isn’t the lengthiest game in the world, but if you’re looking for something to help scratch that itch, then you’d be a fool to pass up the opportunity to sink some hours into this happy-go-lucky, albeit somewhat unorthodox series. Yes, it’s weird — but then, aren’t all memorable indies?

Frog Detective Review (Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 & PC)

Froggin’ Fun

In spite of its gameplay mechanics being next to non-existent, Frog Detective has more than enough charm, heart, and charisma to alleviate its shortcomings. Sure, it’s a little odd, but that just means I’ll remember it. And if there’s one thing I can say about this lucid dream of an experience, it’s that frogs, no matter their profession, always leave an impression when embellished with a turtleneck sweater.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.