When Mother Nature was handing out her various gifts to the animal kingdom, frogs didn’t do too well. Monkeys got ‘ability to throw feces at Sir Isaac Newton while merrily ignoring the laws of gravity’ and lions got ‘chase down and maul wildebeests.'
Frogs, well, frogs got ‘jumping and the ability to be delectable toon the French palette when accompanied by garlic-butter and melba toast.’
Hardly the sort of attributes any animal would choose for itself, so it’s high-time the humble frog had its moment of glory - which, happily, is exactly what Ancient Frog delivers.
Zeroing in on frog-kind’s lesser championed powers of stretchiness, Ancient Frog is a puzzle game where you have to distend a frog’s four limbs in order to manoeuvre it towards a tasty fly.
You simply drag and drop one limb at a time onto water droplets depicted on the screen. Each level has a set number of steps to match or beat indicated by a daisy in the top right hand corner of the screen.
For every move over the level’s step limit you make, the daisy sheds a few petals. If you can’t finish the level without hanging on to at least one petal, you won’t gain any points for your effort.
Graciously, however, you still progress to the next stage and you can always retry levels you failed to beat in the given number of steps the first time round via the game’s grassy hub.
It’s a disarmingly simple idea and rule-set that offers no hint at the scope it provides for lasting, satisfying challenge.
Moving one limb affects how easily you can replace any of the other three, meaning that choosing one move often eradicates more subsequent possibilities than it opens. Rather than make the correct path seem obvious, it's a cunning trick of hiding solutions among a thorny breach of dead-ends.
Were it not for the game’s beautiful organic hues and soothing orchestra of jungle chirps, croaks and tweets, Ancient Frog would be mired in this uneven challenge. It’s a fine line, and as it stands Ancient Frog finds itself only just on the right side of frustrating.
Interestingly, there is no title screen or game menu to speak of. Aside from the option to flick the screen to see which level you're on, or reset it, there’s merely the aforementioned grassy level selector, where each of the 100 levels is represented by a planted flower which, if tapped, takes you straight into that challenge.
This stark minimalism allows Ancient Frog’s addictive, original gameplay to speak for itself. Without extra modes or achievements to strive for, Ancient Frog lacks the enduring appeal of other left-field App Store puzzle titles cut from the same cloth.
Complaints aside, Ancient Frog is a great looking, original puzzler that presents a formidable challenge and will hopefully grow with some feature packed updates.