The Amiga gave us many splendid things, and we have much to be grateful for. The Bitmap Bros crafted hit after hit, Indiana Jones adventure games ruled the roost, Walker flipped the shoot 'em up genre on its head and code wheels were the only form of DRM we had to faff about with. Oh, and Zool taught us that Chupa Chups were undoubtedly the gamer's sugary confection of choice. But for many Amiga owners - and PC gamers at the time - the era's proudest achievement was a little platformer called Superfrog. Team 17 demonstrated their trademark proficiency with small slimy animals to craft a seriously nifty platformer that still stands out as an innovative and unmistakeably British gem.
But has the inexorable passing of time been kind to Superfrog? Are our fond memories based on youthful rose-tinted lies? Well we've been able to find out without having to dust off our Amiga 600 again thanks to Good Old Games' recent Windows-compatible port. Not only are we going to take a retrospective look back at the original, but we'll debate whether or not it's worth buying again.
Of course, since product placement was the norm back in 1993, we're also going to quaff gallons of delicious Lucozade. Mmm, Lucozade. The hangover cure of champions.
Gamers tend to be separated into distinct species: those who love Superfrog and those who haven't played Superfrog. It's a simple rule, but one I find to be unerringly accurate. Team 17 warranted such devotion by creating a masterful platformer that wasn't afraid to put players through the wringer; requiring split-second reflexes and nerves of steel to survive yet never feeling cheap or unfair. It was a masterpiece of balance before the words Super, Meat and Boy were never found in all but the most bizarre of sentences. However, since you had to collect a certain number of coins to pass each level, Superfrog also encouraged us to explore and enjoy our surroundings rather than making us dash past it.
Mechanically speaking, Superfrog was excellent. Responsive without being twitchy, packing enough momentum to feel natural and realistic, the gameplay was exceptional and we're delighted that it still holds up very well indeed. By far our favourite mechanic - and sidekick, I suppose - is Destructospud, our stalwart companion who can take down hovering enemies and even scout for hidden passages if you obsessively blast him at each and every wall. By which I mean, I obsessively blasted him at each and every wall. Don't judge me. I just wanted some Lucozade.
Our hard work was rewarded by colourful, imaginative worlds stuffed with a hilarious assortment of enemies (my favourites being the grinning friendly space shuttle and balloon-supported biplaning bird), buckets of character and charm to spare. Collecting enough coins gave us the chance to try our luck at and end-of-level slot machine, which conferred extra points or the lusted after level codes that meant we didn't have to replay from the beginning. The gameplay may have been tough, but it was always a joy to fire it up time and again.
Superfrog is also liberally festooned with secrets, and I'm not just talking about frequent hidden treasure rooms found behind incorporeal walls. It was chock-full of easter eggs too, and we still remember the joy of discovering a secret passage in the ice caverns that lead to an unfinished scribbly doodle complete with abandoned pencil, as if Team 17 had drawn the entire game by hand and knocked off early on a Friday afternoon (look out for that one in level 4 of the Ice Caverns, if you're interested). Programming glitches were also rife, but they often worked in our advantage, such as giving us extra coins by exploiting mushrooms or allowing us to pick up invincibility powerups in the middle of a death animation. Once again, exploration was the key as opposed to blasting through as quickly as possible.
The Amiga version kicked things up a notch with Project F, a short side-scrolling shooter sandwiched between the space levels complete with its own intro screen. Team 17 couldn't resist parodying their own Project X, and the anarchic sense of humour help set them apart from other developers even before they started work on Worms.
We've also got to mention the graphics. Superfrog really was one of the best-looking games of its time and had a soundtrack to match. In fact, we've been humming the Enchanted Forest and Ancient Pyramid themes all day.
So, Superfrog was great. We can all agree on that. But the decision about whether or not to buy GoG's port is another matter entirely. Screen tearing is rife, there's no gamepad support and our readership have reported some performance problems depending on how powerful your PC is. GoG have a nasty habit of re-releasing games as hopeless DOSbox versions, and though it looks a damn sight better if you run it in a windowed mode, Team 17's classic arguably deserved a proper revamp.
But at the end of the day, do you want to belong to the segment of gamers who love Superfrog? Or the glum folks who haven't played it? The choice is obvious.