Game Description: Scooter must hurry to save his planet! Power supplies are running out and to save them he must win the coveted "Super Ribbinite". Compete to become the Frolf Champion across 20 different courses on 5 different worlds. You must defeat all your opponents to win the Frolf Cup and the Super Ribbinite. Planet Hippitron is counting on you!
Writing here at GameCritics, we often strive to dig a little deeper in our review coverage. Settling for a description of "fun" isn't generally an option, given that it's a common crutch of the games media in general, and far too vague a word to do justice to the games or our readers. However, once in a while a game comes along that cries out for liberal use of the "F" word. There's really just no other explanation. Lacking complex characterization, an interesting story, impressive graphics, or deep play mechanics, there's no other reason I can think of besides "fun" to recommend Ribbit King…but recommending it I am. I may take some flak from the other Critics for this, but I'll be damned if the game wasn't a good time from start to finish.
In a nutshell, Ribbit King is a mutant form of golf with its DNA given a spritz of amphibians and a hefty dose of Japanese weirdness. The end result is something oddly familiar yet completely different. Forget your golf balls and nine-iron; the game's hero, Scooter, uses a mallet, a seesaw, and a swamp's worth of frogs to get his game on.
With such a drastic change in equipment, it follows that the rules of the game would undergo some creative editing as well. In Ribbit King, the point of the game isn't to get the lowest number of strokes, it's to get the frog in the hole with the highest score. Numbers are earned by thwacking a seesaw and launching your moist friends into points bubbles with various point values that litter the courses, but it's better to shoot for the scattered traps and gimmicks. Vaguely like a more interactive version of miniature golf, these "obstacles" can be anything from an angry mammoth to low-flying U.F.Os.
There are power-ups to buy and use, and the various frogs have different properties (one is lava-resistant, one's a strong swimmer, etc.) but the real key to the game is learning to read the course and plan combos between the gimmicks, all while keeping in mind the particular abilities of the frogs. In one example, my frog landed on a grassy slope after a long drive, and then slid down the hillside into a spider's web trampoline. Catching air, the frog then landed in a nearby pond and swam across to perch on the far shore in sight of a nearby fly. Leaping up to snatch the fly, it landed on a bonus item zone for both the item and a huge points combo. There's definitely a bit of luck involved in finagling these Rube Goldberg-like strings, but after some practice it becomes possible to score a healthy amount on nearly every stroke.
Besides learning how the game works and how to work the game, there's not a lot to it. It's a simple affair at heart—what you see is what you get, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The upshot is that it's very easy to learn and accessible to a wide range of gamers, including the little ones. It's also nice to play something once in a while that is so low-impact—FAQs are unnecessary, stress levels are negligible, and I really got into the strangeness of it. For those averse to short games (unlike me), rest assured that there are legs to the disc. It takes a lot longer than you'd expect to finish, and there are a number of things to do for completists including a match against a hidden boss, collecting trophies awarded by meeting specific requirements, and unlocking 28 humorous CG movies on the accompanying second disc, Ribbit King Plus!
It may not be a technical marvel or something that will keep you occupied for days on end (it's best played in 30-minute bursts, in my opinion), but it's hard to deny the energy and enthusiasm the game brings with its off-kilter PaRappa-style characters, a kooky sense of humor, and the welcoming playability that developer Jamworks has packed onto the disc. Besides, how often do you get a game that lets you whack frogs around an outer space golf course? It's so absurd and nonsensical that you have to love it, and at twenty dollars brand-new, it's easy to see that this game is not only a pure sort of fun, it's fun at an unbeatable price.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the GameCube version of the game.
Brad immediately dives into his review of Ribbit King by proclaiming that the game is fun, almost unspeakably so from the serious perspective of a GameCritics.com writer. I'm going to cover his back by agreeing with his assessment. Ribbit King is a bundle of silliness, with the sheen of loveable oddness that only quirky Japanese games seem to achieve. That sounds like an exclusive invitation to that group of gamers known as "hardcore," but I can assure you that is not the case. The wonderful thing about this game is that it is easily accessible to anyone willing to give its whimsy a chance.
The marriage of frogs and golf minus the nine-iron is a fairly accurate description, although the first thing that came to my mind when looking for an analog is the game of tiddlywinks.* The player launches a frog through space by pounding his mallet onto a tiny seesaw, which sends the willing amphibian careening through the air and hopefully landing where the player intends. As with similar titles, the player first aims, then chooses a power level to swing, and finally performs the shot.
Ribbit King is less concerned with modeling an accurate (albeit fantasy-themed) golf than it is about scoring points via mad intergalactic golf… er, frolf skills. This is accomplished via what the game terms gimmicks. The courses are loaded with gimmicks, and as Brad implies, combos of these are best for the all-important score. Bubbles are the most prolific and the least exciting. The discerning frolfer will learn to land his frog near a snow monster or pink elephant, since avoiding their ensuing attacks earns large points and launches the adventurous amphibian further along the course. Another convenient trick is to land a frog so that it can snap up a fly and fall into a warp hole. The frolf connoisseur might home in on techniques to utilize bottom-feeding fish or pterodactyls to score points and get a lift around the course. The timid and golf traditionalists need not apply!
For my review I focused on Ribbit King primarily from a multiplayer perspective. My gaming partner tends to dislike the complexity of modern game design, and as such is often loathe to play current generation titles. We sat down to Ribbit King without trouble, and I might add without reading the manual or going through the in-game tutorial. The only aspect of the game that we initially missed was to adjust our shot curves via the d-pad. There are two modes of play: most wins out of four matches, or most points scored over four matches. The game did a good job of raising our competitive spirits, and the straightforward mechanics kept us on a level playing field. The drawback is that all players have to get into the spirit of gimmicking, otherwise one player will finish quickly which leaves the others a few turns of puttering about, potentially unbalancing the game.
I spent a little time with story mode, although the story isn't one that matters. It's an excuse to play frolf. That said, I appreciated the aesthetic of the graphics utilized. I was immediately reminded of those old Rankin Bass holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, except with the stop-motion puppets replaced by computer graphics. One early scene shows the hero in a spaceship with his R2D2-like companion (who happens to be a wicker basket). Only the Japanese could produce such an irreverent take of Luke Skywalker! This immediately enforced the light-hearted enjoyment to be had from the game. Combine this with the overall fun and accessibility (not to mention the bargain price) and Ribbit King is a winner.
* That should explain why this reviewer enjoys quirky Japanese videogames.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the GameCube version of the game.
Parents, this is an excellent choice for kids of all ages. There's absolutely no sex, violence or questionable language. The graphics are bright and colorful, and learning how to play is absolutely effortless. Buy this one with no fear—it's one of those exceedingly rare titles that is not only completely harmless, but also very enjoyable.
Fans of crazy, kooky, and weird games can't pass this one up. They simply don't come any odder, and at $20, it costs next to nothing.
Golf nuts may be driven crazy by the lightweight laissez faire feel and the randomness of successfully activating combo gimmicks, but fans of putt-putt will likely eat it up.