I like weird games. There, I've said it. I've said it and I'm proud: I like weird and strange and different. Give me something I've never seen before and, even if the game sucks, I'll at least pay attention. Having said all that, I've got to admit that even by my standards, this is an oddball.
In Ribbit King, you play frog golf, or "frolf" for short. You put a frog on a catapult and smack it around a course littered with traps and point bonuses, and the person with the highest score at the end wins. There also appears to be a plot, so have a cheapo copy/paste off the official website:
Ribbit King Scooter must hurry to save his planet! Power supplies are running out and to save them he must win the coveted Super Ribbinite. Compete to become the Frolf Champion across 20 different courses on 5 different worlds. You must defeat all your opponents to win the Frolf Cup and the Super Ribbinite. Planet Hippitron is counting on you!
- Get your frog into the hole first to win!
- For 1-4 players!
- Story and VS modes
- Lots of wacky characters and their froggy friends to choose from!
- Unlock hidden characters
- Encounter many weird and wonderful items and obstacles in your adventures
- Collect items and points to improve your Frolfing skills
- Includes Additional Bonus Disc!
- Beat your opponent to unlock exclusive movie clips!
The PS2 playable demo takes place on Ribbitopia, the green "normal" (if you can use that word to describe any aspect of Ribbit King) world. The other four worlds are: Lavatron, the magma/fire world; Frosticle, the ice world; Techtron, the mechanical world; and Hypnotron, the alien world. If the game keeps up the variety of lunacy seen on Ribbitopia, then this should be an amazing slice of pure Japanese insanity.
Like in all golf games, you start off at the tee. Unlike any other golf game, getting to the hole in the fewest moves is a sure way to lose. Ribbit King is all about points, and points are gathered by all the things that happen to your frog once you've sent him on his way. Things like swimming, escaping from a snake, dodging an elephant, or getting bounced out of a spider web. The more that happens, the more points you get, and though you'll get a nice bonus by getting to the hole (actually a small pond) first, those points are easily made up by a few good combos on the slower player's part.
Gameplay itself is pretty straightforward. Put your target where you want your frog to go, mess around with the trajectory - setting things like how high the frog arcs into the air and whether he curves left or right (also good: making your frog land at an angle so he'll go through a few extra point bonuses a straight shot wouldn't have hit) - and fire away. It's a two-hit button combo, one to start and one to end. If you hit it when the indicator is right at the end of the meter then your frog will land exactly where you're aiming, but an early hit will make him land short. Oddly enough, it doesn't matter if your frog is flying as far across the course as you can get him or hopping the last foot or two to the hole, a full power swing is required to get him to the target.
In the above set of shots, for example, I first hit the water, getting a few points with each kick, swam through a few point bubbles, which award points just for breaking them, landed in a pterodactyl nest, got picked up by the nest's owner and flown for a bit, going through a few more point bubbles on the way, and was eventually dumped at a spot where my next shot was a choice between an easy 100 points and a warp pond that tosses me out who knows where. There are also all sorts of other nifty pick-ups on the way.
Scattered throughout the courses are balloons, with circles below of various sizes below them to land on. Land in the circle and get a prize, which you can then access later on to give your frog any number of powerups. In the above set of shots I sent my frog a bit left of the target, where it saw a fly in the air and hopped up for a quick snack. It then landed in a prize circle, getting the flying saucer bonus. It's actually a bit trickier than absolutely necessary but I was in a show-off mood at the time.
After the course is complete, four holes worth in this demo, the award ceremony arrives. A few point bonus prizes are given out for things like farthest drives and such, and the person with the most points, not fewest strokes, wins. And then you get a video, and things get even stranger. In the demo video, the Richard Simmonsesque judge went through a progressively creepier workout until eventually the participants quit. As you win more courses you'll unlock more videos, called Ribbit King Plus. Lets call them wacky rather than insane, it just seems politer.
Ribbit King is due out in June from Bandai, and should retail for $20 on both PS2 and GameCube. Though the demo had a few issues here and there I can definitely say that for sheer lunacy it looks to be a must-have game.
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· · · James Cunningham