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Published February 25, 2013

Frog Fractions was released on October 25th, 2012 by indie developer Twinbeard Studios. Shortly after release, the game received positive word-of-mouth across Twitter, Reddit, 4chan, and all the usual Internet suspects. I missed the initial launch entirely and had not heard of the game until recently, when I stumbled upon it through an offhand reference by a friend and his fervent recommendation that I play the game.

If you have not played this game, do yourself a favor and go play it right now before reading the rest of this article. Frog Fractions is an experience very akin to the 2012 film Cabin in the Woods1 and as such it is best to have as little knowledge as possible about the game going in.

Ostensibly, Frog Fractions is a spoof of educational software that teaches children how to do mathematical operations with fractions. The mechanics are extremely straightforward, and they involve a frog and the frequent appearance of fractions. Your frog eats bugs and accumulates fruit for upgrades that allow your frog to interact with the world in other ways. The game continues from there, and be warned that the rest of this article will contain significant spoilers. You have one last warning, go play this game if you haven’t done so already.

 

Lesson One: Player Discovery and Exploration

Eventually one particular upgrade, the warp core drive, transforms Frog Fractions into a completely different game. An element of exploring the limited game mechanics is required on the part of the player in order to unlock the warp core drive, and I won't precisely spoil how exactly one acquires enough fruit to afford the upgrade. Figuring out that portion of Frog Fractions is logical, hilarious, and a even a little mind-blowing.

This is where I can start to make an extremely tenuous connection with EVE and other games of its ilk. The games we play and write about revolve around rewarding player skill and creativity. Similarly, the moment in Frog Fractions that changes absolutely everything is rewarding because you, the player, are required to figure out the logic of the world on your own. Frog Fractions, in this limited scope, makes a strong case for why player discovery is so important and fun.

 

Lesson Two: Style Trumps Everything

There is an obvious second lesson to be learned from Frog Fractions; chiefly that style and sheer chutzpah can trump inadequate and simplistic mechanics. The fact that the controls for Frog Fractions are less-than-ideal when you are flying through outer space on a dragon is irrelevant because of the whole novelty of the ordeal.

Frog Fractions doesn’t stray far from a path of parody and sheer absurdity. The game never dwells on one element or gag for too long, and as soon as a theme becomes a little too much, the game switches gears and becomes something completely different. Those elements of style and humor make the game to something far greater than the sum of its parts.

 

Lesson Three: Penalties Don’t Matter

The most bit of fun and challenge I had with Frog Fractions was completely unrelated to the actual difficulty of the game. I may have struggled for a couple minutes longer than I should have when I was trying to repair the spaceship, and not because the UI was complicated or difficult or broken. My mind, however, was not particularly prepared for a homage to old Infocom games, and it took my imagination a couple of minutes to kick into gear by exploring the environment the game presented and pushing the little browser engine to its limits.

I think it is worthwhile to note that a game you can't actually lose or that doesn't have any mechanical sophistication can still present obstacles to overcome that are actually rewarding. I felt pretty psyched about the fact that I figured out how to repair the ship after a little bit of thinking. A game that is perceived as 'punitive' is not the same as it being 'challenging', and I’m inclined to suspect that systems like clone skillspoint caps in EVE are just downright punishing and add little of value to the game.

 

Final Sales Pitch

If you still haven’t played Frog Fractions, go play it. I’ve already spoiled too much, and it’s worth the experience, take an hour-long break and go have copious amounts of fun!

[1] If you have not watched Cabin in the Woods and have not had it spoiled for you, go watch Cabin in the Woods. For shame.

 

Hoots
Drewson Houten, known by friends and corpmates alike as "Hoots," is a member of TEST alliance through a little corporation called Alea Iacta Est Universal (AIEU).