Frogun ENCORE review

More developers should be allowed to refine and experiment with spin-offs before committing to full-blown sequels or new projects. There’s often scope to implement ideas leftover from a predecessor and make tweaks based on feedback, while adding a new gimmick or two. That’s the deal here, with ENCORE being an extra helping of 2022’s well received Frogun. Better still, it’s a standalone release instead of DLC, meaning anyone can hop in and see what the series is about.

To reiterate and elaborate, Frogun is a cartoony co-op 3D platformer with a pixilated aesthetic, not dissimilar to the PS1’s Mega Man Legends and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne in terms of style. Our heroes Renata and Jake – out to stop an army of rampaging flies – are armed with the titular tongue-lashing gun; a grappling hook of sorts, that can grab items from afar, propel the duo across large gaps, whip shields off enemies, flick far-away switches, and so forth. Levels are of the boxy, cubic, variety; often a chain of islands and platforms floating over bottomless voids with backdrops that sprawl into the distance. Continues are infinite and checkpoints are well placed, emphasizing collecting a variety of gems and coins for a 100% stage completion. Additionally, each stage has a target time to beat, giving another reason to return.

Frogun ENCORE review

Frogun ENCORE features a bunch of new levels spread across grasslands and environments influenced by ancient Japanese, Greek, and Egyptian cultures. Each concludes with a boss battle taking place in a small square arena – most of which can be beaten using identical strategies – and every world also has a store to spend coins on new headgear based on fellow indie platformer stars, along with an unlockable artwork gallery. It shouldn’t take any more than 3-4 hours to see the ending credits, although being quite a generous package, there’s some end-game stuff to explore including a trickier bonus stage known as The Lab – which has electrified floors, narrow walkways, and its own boss. Thankfully, this battle is far easier than the one before it; the final boss took us around 40 attempts to beat due to their fondness for spontaneously changing attack patterns.

It’s clear the developers were able to work their newfound expertise into ENCORE. The difficulty level is pleasingly gradual, starting with small stages potentially beatable in under a minute, to examples that take closer to ten, featuring sprawling environments and many tricky platforming sections needing acute timing. The expanded move set and the responsiveness of the controls are, for the most part, suitable for the platforming feats demanded. One tricky section, requiring Renata to perform a few different jumps and grapples in quick succession, had us fumbling and cursing, but these examples were few. Often, it’s easy to appreciate how close the checkpoints are, appearing before the next set of acrobatic challenges.

Frogun ENCORE review

It doles out new interactive items often too – exploding blocks and bombs, flickable switches, shielded enemies, slippery slopes, boost pads, etc – and while they definitely help stages feel more involved, as opposed to mere obstacle courses to effortlessly leap through, they’re all rather contrived. It’s still, at its heart, a PS1 era throwback platformer; right down to the ability to skip some sections by using objects as makeshift platforms or grappling over hazards meant to be skilfully navigated. This does at least play into the time trial aspect. There’s the collectathon element to consider as well. Unique items are well hidden, and each stage has a bonus challenge to beat, but the coin quota quickly gets out of hand. The final stage has a frankly absurd 1800 coins to collect. Many are worth multiples of five, but still, to collect them all is a herculean effort. It’s easy to imagine many players giving up on this aspect quite early on.  

The presentation par for the course for something in the £10-12 bracket. The graphics are crisp and colourful, while the music is far better than expected being suitably upbeat, and there are a few extras such as a photo mode. There isn’t much in the way of cut-scenes though, restricted to just the occasional textbox before a boss fight, and the world map and menus are more functional than fancy. Being slightly cheaper than the base game while offering a similar amount of content does make it easy to overlook some of its shortcomings, and ultimately, the progressively challenging difficulty level and light-hearted nature make for a pretty good time – that pesky final boss fight notwithstanding.

Molegato’s Frogun ENCORE is out 25th June on all formats. Published by Top Hat Studios.