The Game: Long before Frogger and Frog Bog, there were simply Frogs, the original arcade amphibians. One or two frogs hop along a lily pad at the bottom of the screen, scoping out tasty flies to eat. When you’ve got a morsel in your frog’s reach, jump and try to activate your frog’s tongue at just the right time. (You’ll know if you’ve snared a meal because your frog will seem to ascend the screen in heavenly bliss.) Whoever has the most points at the end of the timed game is the supreme frog. (Gremlin, 1978)
Memories: Though the game concept would be more widely popularized by Frog Bog several years later on the Intellivision, this is where the two-frogs-catching-flies game began. If you’re wowed by the amazing graphics on this early game, don’t be – the colorful background was a piece of artwork set into the arcade cabinet, onto which the game’s graphics were “projected” by laying the monitor flat on its back and reflecting the computer-generated graphics of the frogs and flies toward the player via a mirror at a 45-degree angle. (The game’s graphics were actually generated and shown backward, so the mirror reflection would show letters and numbers properly.)
I’m not sure there’s a better example of that technique resulting in concise, easy-to-read game visuals, though. Warrior is a candidate for that category, though new players of that seminal swordfighting game were known to lose a “life” just figuring out the terrain. Frogs is pretty clear-cut – if you leap further than the edge of the lily pad on the artwork, your frog is going for a swim. It’s actually an interesting study in the evolution of computer graphics that just a few years later, home video game consoles would be generating the background graphics for themselves, and doing things impossible to achieve with static artwork, such as showing the progression from day into night.
Like most iterations of this basic concept, Frogs was good, clean, non-violent, easy-to-learn fun – a perfect example of what the arcade had to offer before a small but vocal group of social crusaders convinced everyone else that the arcade was a seedy, dangerous place that needed to be brightened up and cleaned up.