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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Ribbit King (Gamecube)


By Michael Palisano

What happens when you combine golf with frogs? You get "Frolf", the unique sport featured in Bandai's Ribbit King for the Gamecube. This is an entertaining and light-hearted game that should please gamers looking for something different. With its distinctive Japanese style, the odd character designs and abundance of smiling objects gives RIbbit King a surreal style all its own. The gameplay itself is rather simple, instead of hitting a golf ball, you smash a mallet and your frog jumps. Ribbit King isn't deep, but the enjoyable gameplay makes for a fun, experience.

In Ribbit King, you take the role of Scooter, a construction worker from Hippitron who's been dispatched by his somewhat crazy king to his castle. Apparently, your planet is being drained of its essential elements, and the only way to save your planet is to play in a "Frolf " tournament. Luckily, your construction background gives you good hammer skills, which is very important if you want to become the Frolf champion. Playing Frolf involves hitting a hammer behind your pet frog who then jumps across the course. The play mechanics are similar to golf, and you have to hit the frog when your power-bar hits the full stage. The closer you are to the end, the farther your frog will jump. This doesn't sound that exciting, but each course is full of obstacles, bonus items and monsters. If your frog lands on a spider web, he'll bounce off it and go further, but hitting one of the monsters means he'll be eaten. At this point, you have to wiggle the yellow control stick back and forth so he can escape. You can also earn more points by triggering an event in the game, and multiply the points further by chaining several of these events together. When your frog hits one of the bonus balloons, he'll earn extra points and you can also earn more by eating one of the flies hanging out nearby. Like in golf, your main mission is to make your frog enter the hole or well at the end of each level in as fewest hits as possible. The fewer hits you take, the higher your score. Your ultimate goal is to master the game and get a Frog-In-One for a huge point bonus.

Setting up your shots is simple, requiring you to point the cursor over the area where you want the frog to end up. While you can go for a straight line and avoid as many obstacles and traps as possible, this isn't always the best strategy. As in real golf, you'll have to watch out for other variables such as wind direction and angle which can affect your shots. You'll have to take advantage of the gimmicks and bonus items frequently. As you discover which gimmicks offer the most points, you can create events that chain together for the best combos leading to higher scores. This is important, especially during the later rounds, as the bonus points on a course can easily exceed the regular Frolf points you can earn. However, there are also negative events and gimmicks which can make you lose points. Landing in an obstacle or hitting a tree will cause you to lose points, as will going off the course. When you land on a challenge obstacle, the results depend on your actions. After each shot, you'll see a closeup of your frog, which will tell you what condition they're in. A happy frog will be more effective on the next hole while a lethargic or hurting frog won't have the accuracy of a healthy one. Landing your frog in the fewest holes doesn't always guarantee a victory. Each game is divided into four holes to make up a complete game or round. At the end of each round, the weird judge will appear and randomly assign points to either one of the players. It's usually not a big deal, but can make a huge difference in close matches.

During each match, the players can use a variety of special items such as Frog Fuel to help them along. There are several types of special objects in the game including Beta-Ribbotin, Power-Fuel, extra frog eggs and more. You can select a limited number of objects before each game, and can also purchase items at the vending machine between certain matches. The game offers two main modes of play: Single Player and Story modes. The single player game allows you to practice on any course with any character, letting you get the hang of things. The Story mode is more elaborate and allows you to earn more items as you progress through the levels. Ribbit King offers 20 courses on 5 different planets, along with several characters that you can play as. Additionally, Ribbit King offers both single and multi-player modes, which adds to the fun. As you defeat opponents, extra unlockable items and content you'll be able to access. The coolest of these are the short movies that can be played using the game's second disc, labeled Ribbit King Plus. This cool and rather unique idea adds to the fun and gives you a reason to keep playing.

Ribbit King's surreal visuals feature brightly colored worlds filled with strange objects and odd characters. The anime-inspired visuals give Ribbit King an appealingly off-beat edge with an immediate appeal. The straightforward approach to the gameplay is enhanced by clever camera angles and occasionally funny sequences that show your frog being bounced around the levels. Quirky music and voice-overs add to the game's strange feel and make for an appealing experience. It looks great and has an appealing light-hearted approach, but the gameplay is just as enjoyable. While the computer opponents offer some challenge later on, the early levels are basically cake-walks to help you get into the game. Competition really heats up as you progress, making for a somewhat harder difficulty level. However, the game is relatively easy to beat in the single player mode, thanks largely to the comparatively small number of levels and opponents in the game. There isn't a lot of depth but the simplicity of Ribbit King's controls and design makes it very easy to pick up and play. Playing against friends should further the game's longevity, as does the challenge of unlocking the bonus movies. Obviously, this fun, comedic game is going to please younger players more, but older gamers with young hearts should find plenty of enjoyment in this entertaining niche title. Ribbit King may not be the deepest or most challenging game out there, but it's unique visual look, off-beat gameplay and entertaining gameplay make it a decent choice for gamers looking for something different.

Ribbit King is also available on the Playstation2 console.

Grade: B+

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