I’m not sure what others see in this game as it’s incredibly short, unfunny, and boring. Perhaps I should look in a mirror, but I suggest looking elsewhere for a better game.
Genres: Point n Click
Developer: Grace Bruxner,
Publisher: worm club
Release date: 22 Nov, 2018
I only became aware of The Haunted Island, A Frog Detective Game (HIFD) when it showed up in a Humble Bundle monthly deal. The reviews were widely positive, and what I took from the game was that although it’d be on the short side, it’d still be a funny and interesting little mystery to play through. What I didn’t pay enough attention to was that quite a few reviews saw this game as a good candidate for children, to the point that it was primarily being recommended for their benefit than older gamers to enjoy. However, having gone through it myself, I wouldn’t suggest it’s for children either because it’s barely a game at all.
All that takes place in the game is speaking with the NPCs on the island, picking up a few items, and trading them for something else. There’s no need to think out what’s going on or why, you just walk around and interact with the items that have a highlighted ring around them until you’re done. By the way, that’ll only take a few minutes of your time, because the game is incredibly short. It’ll take a bit longer than reading this review, but not as much as you might expect from a $5 game.
With the game consisting of only movement and interacting with the environment with one button, I figured it’d have supposed mouse and keyboard controls alone. However, you can use a controller as well. Movement is controlled with the ‘L joystick’ while talking to characters and interacting with objects is done with ‘A.’ It’s also possible to slightly zoom in with the magnifying glass by pressing any shoulder button, but there’s no application for this at all, so I don’t see why the game bothered with it.
You play as an unnamed frog, who is the titular Frog Detective, sent out by his boss to an island where a sloth is freaked out because he’s hearing spooky noises. You’ll interact primarily with phony ghost scientists, not because they’re trying to cash in on an easy payday, but because everyone is really incompetent, which I guess was supposed to be funny. One character only showed up because they thought the position was for toast scientists, which I imagine only exists because it rhymes with ghost, not because any thought was put into it.
When even the NPCs act awkward and have a hard time talking with each other, that might be a sign that the humor is really forced, not that you’ve struck comedic gold. Anyone remember what the 2016 Ghostbusters was like? Another example of painfully unfunny writing stems from the sheep, who didn’t know that people turn wool into clothing. What a zinger. If there had been a cow, maybe they could have been surprised that people drink milk. It just writes itself.
The 3D graphics in HIFD do the job, though the models and backgrounds are rather simplistic. It does have a unique aesthetic that makes me think of a pop-up book, which is a neat effect. The unchanging expressions on the characters’ faces is a bit off-putting though, and were everything not so silly, could almost be creepy.
Matching the detective part of HIFD, the music does have a film noir vibe to it, as it plays a slow, moody jazz song. Since the game doesn’t take itself seriously, it doesn’t really fall in line with everything else though, as it’s too serious for goofy animal antics. With the game emphasizing spooky noises as part of its story, there’s a distinct lack of said noises to let players know what everyone on the island is hearing. I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase, “Show don’t tell,” when it comes to writing, and this is the same idea. Aside from the music though, there aren’t any other sound effects, which makes this stand out even more.
- Everyone seems so happy.
- My playtime in HIFD would be much shorter if I hadn’t hammed up my interactions for video content. It can be knocked out in a few minutes, without having to try to speedrun it. There’s simply that little dialogue and content.
- It’s overly simple and boring.
- Talk to all the NPCs, exhausting their dialogue options, then pick up the miscellaneous background objects. You’ll quickly know where to take them to advance in the game.
I think that those who recommend HIFD as a children’s game are mixing up something that’s child-friendly with what would be interesting to a child. It’s true that some games are overly violent and should be played by older audiences, but simply omitting violence or sexually suggestive material doesn’t mean a game is a good choice for children. The same also applies to a game with no way to fail, as an easy game doesn’t mean it’s suitable for kids because they can beat it. I’ve played games that I’d suggest for younger audiences, but it was an entertaining game first, and child-friendly second.
If I’d played this as a kid, I’d have finished it quickly, and had nothing further to do with it because there’s no value in going back to it. In general, games I’d suggest for kids would be something like sports or racing games, as they tend to be replayable and offer much more to do. HIFD, on the other hand, is something I’d expect to see for free on a gaming site, as more of a prototype to gauge interest and test gameplay mechanics than a full release. Seeing it priced for $5 is ludicrous. I need to hire Lobster Cop to try and figure out why this game got such accolades because it’s a mystery to me.