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Cult Video Game Essentials: Frogger (1981)

Frogger is an arcade game introduced in 1981. It was developed by Konami, and licensed for North American distribution by Sega-Gremlin.

The object of the game is to direct frogs to their homes one by one. To do this, each frog must avoid cars while crossing a busy road and navigate a river full of hazards. Skilful players may obtain some bonuses along the way. The game is regarded as a classic from the golden age of video arcade games and was noted for its novel gameplay and theme. It was also an early example of a game using more than one CPU, as it used two Z80 processors. Frogger is still popular and clones can be found on many Internet game sites. By 2005, Frogger had sold 20 million copies worldwide, including 5 million in the United States.

The player starts with three, five, or seven frogs (lives). The player guides a frog which starts at the bottom of the screen. The lower half of the screen contains a road with motor vehicles, which in various versions include cars, trucks, buses, dune buggies, bulldozers, vans, taxis, bicyclists, and/or motorcycles, speeding along it horizontally. The upper half of the screen consists of a river with logs, alligators, and turtles, all moving horizontally across the screen. The very top of the screen contains five “frog homes” which are the destinations for each frog. Every level is timed; the player must act quickly to finish each level before the time expires.

The only player control is the joystick used to navigate the frog; each push in a direction causes the frog to hop once in that direction. On the bottom half of the screen, the player must successfully guide the frog between opposing lanes of trucks, cars, and other vehicles, to avoid becoming roadkill.

The middle of the screen, after the road, contains a median where the player must prepare to navigate the river.

By jumping on swiftly moving logs and the backs of turtles, the player can guide his or her frog safely to one of the empty lilypads. The player must avoid alligators, snakes, and otters in the river, but may catch bugs or escort a lady frog for bonuses. When all five frogs are directed home, the game progresses to the next, harder level. After five levels, the game gets briefly easier yet again gets progressively harder to the next fifth level.

Softline in 1982 stated that “Frogger has earned the ominous distinction of being ‘the arcade game with the most ways to die'”. There are many different ways to lose a life (illustrated by a “skull and crossbones” symbol where the frog was), including:

  1. Being hit by or running into a road vehicle
  2. Jumping into the river’s water
  3. Running into snakes, otters or into an alligator’s jaws in the river
  4. Jumping into a home invaded by an alligator
  5. Staying on top of a diving turtle until it has completely submerged
  6. Riding a log, alligator, or turtle off the side of the screen
  7. Jumping into a home already occupied by a frog
  8. Jumping into the side of a home or the bush
  9. Running out of time
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Founded Cult Faction in 2014; previously crawled out of the Black Lodge in 1976, only to find himself in the Village.

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