Frog Detective Review
“I like to believe people are good. That being said, I’m treating everyone as a suspect!”
Stop reading this. What are you doing? Don’t you know that this is a game review? And if you’ve read a bunch of these in a row, that’s basically the same thing as reading a book. And, if there’s one thing that can be learned from “Frog Detective”, it’s that reading books is a terrible thing to do!
Welcome to my review of “Lobster Cop”! I’m just kidding, there is no “Lobster Cop” game. I’ve lied to you. That was a terribly rude thing of me to do, but I get rude when I have too much sugar in my system. And I have. Had lots of sugar today. Oh, by the way, I didn’t take the last slice of cake from your house. I haven’t left my house since quarantine. That’s a solid alibi, and I’m sticking to it, which means I’m not suspicious and you can’t accuse me of anything. And to prove it, I’ll present to you my review for “Frog Detective”, which I totally worked on instead of eating your cake.
An in-joke with the members of Arcade Theory has been about the game “Frog Detective”. Some¹ have praised it and spoken of it as if it were a modern classic, worthy of the attention games like “The Last of Us Part 2” and “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” have received. So, when a few of the writers on our team suggested that we write a review for this game, I volunteered to play the game and see what made it so special. I had no expectations going in, only cautious optimism over the game’s quality.
The Second Best Detective
At first, nothing appeared to stand out about “Frog Detective” for me. The debut game of developer Grace Bruxner functions as a walking simulator combined with a puzzle-solving game. In terms of the story, it’s simple, almost reminiscent of a “Nancy Drew” story:
The titular Frog Detective has been called to visit a small island which the owner (a sloth) believes to be haunted. The Detective interacts with each resident and visitor of the island, all of whom are animals, in order to solve the mystery. Each character has an important piece of information, but they’ll only part with what you need if you can provide them with something in return.
It doesn’t try to have innovative gameplay, there’s no AAA budget, and for a game that focuses on story it doesn’t exactly have anything to keep you interested plotwise. You complete “fetch quests” in the shallowest way impossible, but it doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. Instead, the game rewards you with quick, witty dialogue that people of all ages can find funny. Unless you’re a frog who struggles with wearing hats, you’re likely not going to come even close to being offended. And the characters have a ton of personality packed into them for having lines of dialogue equating to “Get me some mouth wash for my breath”.
Everything is completely kid-friendly: all of the characters are polite to each other and no one swears or calls each other names. And they’re all remarkably honest with each other and with themselves. I quickly discovered this during the game’s opening cutscene, in which the Detective talks with his Supervisor.
Supervisor: They need help, and they want the greatest investigator I have. So I said to them, “I’ll send my best investigator!” But Lobster Cop wasn’t available. So I’m asking you. The second best investigator.
Detective: I fully understand. Lobster Cop’s abilities far outweigh my own.
The Best Thing You Can Do Is Sit and Relax
It’s simple and brief, but at the same time, it’s these frank exchanges that got the most laughs from me. Everyone is remarkably innocent and straightforward to the point where it feels like a parody of the gritty and violent mystery films and games most audiences are familiar with. Rather than a gruff private eye who treats everyone with suspicion, our main character is a gentle, somewhat bumbling guy who just wants to do his job. Maybe I relate to characters like that a little too much, but I found everyone in these games to be endearing and refreshing when compared to the tough guys I’ve seen oh-so-many times in detective films and games.
“Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard”, the next installment in this series, takes place immediately after the first game. (Literally: the Detective says that he hung up on his Supervisor before he could get information about his next case.) The Detective finds himself investigating a ruined welcome party and parade for a neighborhood’s new resident, an invisible wizard.
It wasn’t until I started investigating this case when I realized that this was the other bit of brilliance from “Frog Detective”. Not every detective game has to be about a murder or a dead family member’s secret life. Even the last two detective games I enjoyed (“Kathy Rain” and “Whispers of a Machine”) fell victim to these predictable setups. Even though “Frog Detective” never investigates something as grisly as a death, the games still manage to be enjoyable. Yes, these are silly, short games, but the charming innocence within the characters is what makes the games memorable.
At the end of the day, the “Frog Detective” games remind us of what’s most important: driving responsibly, questioning the ethics of wearing wool clothing, and never reading books. Ever. Just don’t read in general! Why are you still here? Stop it, before your mind is corrupted with lies!
¹ The word some indicates a plurality of people that may or may not exist.
You can find the Frog Detective games on itch.io here.
You can also find them on Steam here.