|Publisher Adult Swim Games|
|Developer Twinbeard Studios|
|Release Date Dec 24, 2016|
The original Frog Fractions seemed to come out of nowhere — the game itself, as well as the many things it did. It’s shrouded in comments like "just play it" and "I don’t want to spoil it", and for good reason; the most fortunate players went in blind, and that blindness allowed them to be taken on one hell of a trip. But generally speaking, folks who play Frog Fractions 2 are unlikely to be coming at it the same way. They’ll anticipate that same trip; they’ll expect all the swerves and derailments and randomness of the original.
That very anticipation puts Frog Fractions 2 into a dangerous position at no fault of developer Twinbeard Studios. After all, how do you surprise someone who’s expecting you to surprise them? It’s not impossible, but it’s damn near.
[Ed. note — Frog Fractions 2 is ... unique, in that it is not available by itself but rather inside a seemingly unrelated game released two weeks ago on Steam, Glittermitten Grove. If you're just trying to figure out how to actually access Frog Fractions 2, you can go here. If you're here to just figure out what on earth preceded the release of Frog Fractions 2, you can go here. If you know what Frog Fractions 2 is and you know how to get it, and you want to know what's in store for you once you're in then, read on!]
That may be why Frog Fractions 2 feels more concerned with its own irreverence than with being outright surprising. Part of the magic of the first game is how it seems to spiral deeper and deeper into its own random world, but Frog Fractions 2 isn’t really like that at all. Of course it’s not like it’s a stone-faced treatise on the perils of an invasive species of toads or anything equally dry, either. It’s still weird as hell in a way that’s fundamentally entertaining, but likewise in a way that feels safe (even predictable) in comparison to its predecessor.
When the credits ended more or less uneventfully I realized the unknown something I’d been waiting for wasn’t ever going to come.
This would wear out its welcome pretty quickly if not for just how much there is to do and find. Frog Fractions 2 may be best described as an absurdist puzzle game. At times it almost feels like a slower-paced WarioWare — a game meant to keep players constantly adjusting, attempting and adapting — but with the addition of an overworld and an appetite for fake Korn trivia. It’s difficult to describe too much in this area without giving away some of the game’s best tricks, but what I can comfortably say is that whenever I found something starting to get stale that meant it was usually just about over, or just about to change. As long as you don’t get hung up too much on what I’m going to vaguely call its "environmental puzzles" then things progress and turn over at a pretty good pace.
But while there’s a pretty decent variety of little vignettes and toys to play with, there’s something a little off about how they’re included. Most of them are isolated and set apart rather than being woven into the action. They feel disconnected, and while that doesn’t make them any less fun it does make the game as a whole feel somewhat disjointed. That might seem like an odd bit of criticism to level at this game in particular (especially when I’ve been throwing words like "random" and "absurdist" around as if they were confetti) but it’s a pretty crucial change. The original Frog Fractions was sort of a millennial’s Dr. Seuss book, and that’s not something Frog Fractions 2 ever arrives at in the same way. There are connections and throughlines to be made, lore to be wrung out of it, but in the end it feels more like a collections of ideas and riddles and lies and happenings than an actual story, nonsensical or otherwise.
Now, that can be fun in itself. The vast majority of puzzles and mini-games in Frog Fractions 2 felt satisfying to complete. While a few of them required me to butt my head against a wall for a certain length of time before I progressed, others demanded slightly more outside-the-box problem solving without being totally tortuous about it. That can be a tough balance to strike. These are the kinds of puzzles that gave me a little (or a lot) more than I needed, but not to the point of being overwhelming. Every wall I hit stood in my way just long enough to make me stop and think but never so long that I felt truly helpless or lost. I always had another place I could look, another lead I could pursue, and Frog Fractions 2 managed that without making those puzzles feel cheap or weightless.
But for as fun as working through these disparate components can be, I still find myself struggling to be truly enthusiastic about them or the game as a whole. I was actually sad when I realized I’d finished Frog Fractions 2, but it wasn’t the sadness of finishing something I’d long been waiting for. It wasn’t the sadness of being let down by something abjectly worse than I expected it to be, either. I left the window open as the credits scrolled at quadruple speed for a considerable length of time, waiting for something to happen. And as I waited I realized that while I was playing I‘d been waiting for something, too. That elusive, unknowable something. When the credits ended more or less uneventfully I realized the unknown something I’d been waiting for wasn’t ever going to come. I’d enjoyed myself, but it was over — and where Frog Fractions once left me bursting at the seams to share it with everyone I knew, Frog Fractions 2 just left me.
Frog Fractions 2 can't live up to Frog Fractions, but how could it?
I don’t envy the task of making a follow-up to a game like Frog Fractions because no matter what the sequel will always be at a disadvantage, destined to stand in the shadow of its older sibling. Approached like a smooth, comparatively mellow chaser to the original’s concentrated shot of "What the hell was that?" Frog Fractions 2 is fine. Better than fine, honestly! It’s just nowhere near the trip I wanted it to be.
Frog Fractions 2 was reviewed using review code provided by Twinbeard Studios. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.About Polygon's Reviews