Back in issue 104, games™ spent some time with Grasshopper Manufacture, marvelling at just how many projects it had in development at once. With four games – Shadows Of The Damned, Sine Mora, Codename D and a currently unnamed collaboration with Kadokawa Games – the studio certainly has its work cut out. And the last thing we expected was for Grasshopper to sneak out a fifth release before any of the aforementioned titles were complete. But then Suda51’s studio is full of surprises as the subject matter of this unexpected iOS release proves.
Frog Minutes is completely unlike anything Grasshopper has ever made before. There’s no violence, no lunatic protagonist and no highly stylised art style. But it’s still, thankfully, a little bit weird. Set against the backdrop of a beautifully painted lakeside setting, it has you tapping the screen to collect the butterflies, snails and other creepy-crawlies that inhabit the area and then using those critters to feed the frogs that you discover in the bushes and trees. Feed a frog enough of the things it’s hungry for and it becomes bloated enough that you can pick it up and keep it. And from there the only aim is to discover and catch every type of frog in the game.
Mechanically, Frog Minutes is far from sophisticated. It really is just a game of tapping insects and then dragging them over a frog. It gets slightly harder as you go along, the frogs move a little quicker and express hunger for rare food, but other than that it’s a fairly undemanding game. But then perhaps its supposed to be, the title of the game and the tranquil setting suggest that this a game to take you away from it all for a few seconds and not something that you work hard to complete.
Frog Minutes is genuinely relaxing to play, thanks largely to its well-considered presentation. Not just the painterly art style but also the voice over, which we’re almost certain is provided by the same woman from Out Run 2, who gleefully commentates on your achievements and takes the time to educate you on every new species of frog you happen to discover.
On an objective level, Frog Minutes is hardly the sort of game that’s going to establish the iPad as a hardcore games console, but it does have a strange hypnotic charm that makes those minutes tick by rather enjoyably. And there’s also the point that if the miniscule 59p price tag isn’t attractive enough to you, then the fact that all proceeds go to the Japan Red Cross – to help victims of the Tohoku earthquake –definitely should be.
[Editor's note - Frog Minutes isn't the only Grasshopper project hoping to raise money toward helping survivors of the Tohoku earthquake. In-house composer Akira Yamaoko is currently preparing a charity album alongside several other well-known videogame composers. The wider games industry is auctioning off some of its rarest booty to help raise money. And even if you don't want to buy anything you can still, of course, just make a donation directly to the Japan Red Cross. The earthquake may have happened several weeks ago but thousands of families were affected by the disaster, many are now homeless and it will take many months, if not years, for the country to recover. Please do whatever you can to help, even if it is just spending 59 pence on a silly iPhone game about frogs.]