The object of Frogger was almost Zen-like: to get to the other side. But considerably less Zen were the many obstacles in your path: zooming cars, trucks and buses, snakes, alligators and unpredictable turtles. What started as the simple twist on an old joke (“Why did the frog cross the road?”) quickly turned into the world’s most dangerous commute.
Frogger started your daredevil amphibian at the bottom of the screen, separated from his five lily pad homes by a busy street and a cluttered river.
Using the joystick to hop up, down, left and right, you guided your frog pal up and around the speeding vehicles to the relative safety of a dirt median. Past that, it was all water, which for some reason killed this particular amphibian.
To stay alive, the frog had to hop from log to log and onto the backs of swimming turtles. Adding to the danger was the turtles’ tendency to dip down for an underwater swim.
If the red-backed turtles suddenly turned green, it was time to hop off or lose a life.
After a frog reached one of the lily pads (and you only had a limited time to get there), another would start at the bottom until all five slots were filled. Then a new level began, each harder than the last.
As the game progressed, the cars and logs got faster, and new enemies began to appear. Snakes roamed the median and the logs, and certain logs were replaced with hungry alligators. But if it was any consolation, female frogs and tasty flies would also sometimes appear, giving you a chance to earn a few extra points.
It was an instantly catchy concept, backed up with bright graphics and an unforgettable musical refrain. Like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and a handful of other games released around the same time, Frogger helped turn the video game industry into a genuine phenomenon, spreading into music (‘Froggy’s Lament’ made the Pac-Man Fever album), merchandising and even Saturday morning cartoons.
A rights battle between designer Konami and US distributor Sega/Gremlin kept Frogger from spawning as many sequels as some of its contemporaries, but the original game remains one of the most well-known titles in arcade history.