Pix Arts is synonymous with trash. Namely asset-flipping trash that they flood the eshop with, hoping that some poor sucker will come along and actually buy some it. Quite how Nintendo lets them do this is beyond me.
On the other hand, solo developers making passion projects find it near impossible to get their work on the store. Work with actual effort put in has a harder time getting by Nintendo than zero effort shovelware.
As such, it came as something as a surprise to me when I learnt that Pix Arts of all people had picked up Dallen Larson’s Frog Ball Rerolled to get it on the eshop. They used their publishing power for good rather than evil, and I really have to applaud them for that. Let’s see if their effort was worth it.
HAVING A BALL
As you have probably gathered from the name, Frog Ball Rerolled is heavily inspired by Super Monkey Ball. Taking control of the titular frog in a ball, your goal is to navigate 35 stages set across four different worlds. There’s a variety of different gimmicks scattered around that will make your journey harder, but your primarily objective is to enter the goal ring any way you can in order to proceed to the next level.
Controlling Mr Frog is as simple as moving the analogue stick. There’s no camera controls, no jump, just you and a ball. Whilst the simplicity will be refreshing for veterans of the genre, controlling your croaking comrade isn’t quite as easy as you’d expect. No doubt you’ll expect the camera to be the main issue, but that’s actually not particularly problematic the majority of the time. The difficulty actually lies with the game’s physics, which end up being so basic that it makes things way harder than they ought to be. Oftentimes, you’ll find that the ball just goes where it wants to once you’re either at a certain speed or airborne. A lot of times you’ll feel out of control and even something as simple as turning a corner can end up being trickier than expected.
Visually, the game is a little bit of a mixed bag. It’s clear that the game was made with a shoestring budget, as many of the texture look either simple or don’t fit well. It’s functional and does the job, but it gives off some MS Paint vibes a lot of the time – especially with the simplistic hud. Some of the later levels fare a little better, particularly in the lava world, as the simplistic textures are used to better effect and help hide the simplicity. The music that accompanies each level is solid for the most part, but also sounds extremely familiar. Some tracks sound like remixed medleys of tracks from Super Monkey Ball games, but I don’t think that they’re the same – just inspired by them. It’s really hard to tell as the music plays at such a low volume that it’s hard to hear it, and you can’t turn up the volume either on your TV as the announcer is obnoxiously loud by comparison. An option to tweak music and announcer volumes would certainly have been welcome.
Where ball rolling games live or die though is with the gameplay and the level design, and thankfully this is where Frog Ball Rerolled shows its true potential. There’s a real mix of levels here, from your standard ‘hold forward to win’, to more gimmicky levels such as a level with rising and falling bubbles that block your path. Not all of them are winners, but there are some neat ideas scattered throughout. The game never sticks with a single gimmick for a world, instead using ideas only once or twice throughout the course of the hourlong game. The main issue is just how badly the level placement is. Instead of ordering levels from easiest to most difficult, instead they’re seemingly placed at random. You can encounter tricky levels early on, and then easier ones towards the end. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. Some of the hardest levels in the game are about two thirds of the way through the game, but they’re followed by some levels that would be at home in the beginner mode of Monkey Ball. All levels are unlocked from the start, however, so if a level is providing too tough for you then it’s quite easy to skip to the next and come back later if you feel so inclined.
And that’s basically the game. It’ll take you less than an hour to beat, and there’s little reason for you to come back. You can unlock cosmetics for your frog, but considering you can barely see him in the first place it seems like a waste of time. There’s no tracking of best times, and the lack of a restart button further prevents any desire to try for faster times. The game is cheap, for sure, but it still feels like it is still a little overpriced for what you’re getting- especially if you’re not a fan of the genre.
Frog Ball Rerolled is a good effort from a young amateur developer. He clearly has a lot of love for the Monkey Ball franchise, and it shows. There’s some good ideas in the game, but the dodgy physics and uneven difficulty stop this from being a solid recommendation. That being said, it does scratch that ball rolling itch and if you can pick it up on a deep sale then I’m sure there’s something here for the Monkey Ball aficionado to enjoy.