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.