It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.
Sequels are a difficult thing to make. The audience wants more of what they liked from the original, but they also want something different enough to justify its existence. Depending on the medium, that can be a new narrative conceit that challenges the protagonist’s growth from the original story, or it could be new gameplay systems that alter how the player experiences the game. Or in the case of the sequel to Frog Detective, it could be when a welcome parade for a mostly invisible wizard gets ruined.
Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard picks up right after the events of the original game, The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game. In a lot of ways, the games are very similar. Both are first-person adventure games starring the titular frog detective — named Frog Detective — and both are mysteries, much in the same way a knock-knock joke is one. (When done well, you don’t necessarily know where it’s going, and that can be pretty amusing.)
There also isn’t much that’s new, gameplay-wise; you’ll mainly be reading Frog Detective’s conversations with various people about the case and how they might be involved. That leads you to end up engaged in a chain of trades with the different suspects / witnesses that is fairly nonsensical. For instance, in the first game, you need to get a rope to go in a hole. But to get the rope, you need to trade someone a banana. And to get the banana, you need to trade someone else a rock. It keeps going on like this.
However, there is also a new mechanic in the sequel: a notebook. The notebook, which you get to personalize with assorted stickers, acts as both a place where the game keeps track of your progress and also as a helpful resource for what people want for the trade chain. It also adds a new avenue for more humorous writing. It provides a glimpse inside the mind of Frog Detective and what they think about each of the suspects and their possible motives. That includes incredibly informative notes such as:
– Insists she is not suspicious.
– This makes her much more suspicious then she realizes.
While this all might seem relatively pointless in a game about a detective where you don’t really do any detective work, that’s really not the point. Frog Detective 2’s appeal is, essentially — like hyper-realistic fake food — how much it isn’t what it’s supposed to be. It’s an absurd interactive short story disguised as a game. But that’s also what’s great about it.
All of the mechanics are just excuses for you to interact with the writing as much as possible. They’re how you learn more about the strange logic of this world of lobster cops, wizard eBay, and lions who watch too many pirate movies. It’s a great way to spend 90 minutes — especially if you need some time alone to unwind this holiday season.
Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard was created by Grace Bruxner and Thomas Bowker. You can get it on Itch.io or Steam for $4.99 (Windows and macOS). It takes about one to two hours to finish.