Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard
The original Frog Detective made a powerful case for charm carrying an entire game. As a simple, compact experience, it was the unbelievably earnest writing and the unique, zany characters that formed the compelling core needed for success. That sort of accomplishment left me with high hopes for the sequel, maybe too high all things considered. I’ve now solved the case of the invisible wizard and while it’s got the same lovable hero, colorful world, and wonderful writing, it doesn’t seem to really meet the standard set by the first Frog Detective outing.
Frog Detective 2 picks up literally where the last left off, with the characters even acknowledging such. The Supervisor has a new case for the second best detective in the world, a mysterious hullabaloo in Warlock Woods centered around the arrival of an invisible wizard. The town’s warm welcome has gone really quite wrong, and it’s up to the Frog Detective to figure out what happened. He’ll get some support from Lobster Cop on the way out the door, but ultimately you’ll have to help him interview suspects, find clues, and piece together the mystery of the unseen sorcerer.
The opening of the game definitely hits exactly the right tone, picking up with the humor and adorable observations from the very start. Lobster Cop is also good for more than just tips and insecurity, as he gives you the big new addition of the sequel: the journal. Here the Detective will keep notes on the people he meets and the events that transpire, all written in his impossibly charming voice. But more importantly, you’ll get to decorate the cover with stickers when you first receive it. There are loads of cute stickers to use any way you want, and you’ll even have some helpful ones show up inside the journal during your adventure, like the “SUSPICIOUS” one you slap on pages of characters that seem a bit shady to you.
After a brief jaunt in a magic cart, you’ll arrive at Warlock Woods, site of the pertinent mystery. It strikes me as smaller and more open than the island of the first game, being just a ring of houses you mostly can’t enter and their residents milling about outside. You’ll ask each of these friendly folks very similar questions, find a few items laying around, give those to people for more items to give to people, and eventually chain your way to the very heart of the mystery. Where the first game had some interesting twists like concocting an explosive and counseling a character on dance moves, this one doesn’t seem to offer anything quite so memorable. The investigation follows a much more predictable arc, and all of your interactions end up feeling very similar.
I want to make it clear that Frog Detective 2 still has loads of charm, and more than you’re liable to find in most indie games. But in never seems to reach the same heights as the first, and that’s on a number of levels. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments early in the game but they seem to thin out as you near the ending. None of the characters are as remarkable as Fresh X or MysteryMonkey, and even a day later I struggle to remember some of our conversations. And as I mentioned, the story doesn’t take any of the neat turns the Haunted Island did. For a series of games that already feel quite small, Frog Detective 2 manages to feel even smaller than before.
Still, I feel pretty confident saying that the worst Frog Detective game is better than the majority of games out there. You simply can’t get characters as lovable as these anywhere else, and even at its worst, the writing is still singular in how delightfully earnest it can be. Frog Detective 2 at least seems to have more talky bits, which led it to be considerably longer than the one hour it’s advertised as. As far as look and feel it’s just as good as the prior installment, with vibrant colors, precious characters, and a magnifying glass you can pull out at any time. I wish I could give this one a more ringing endorsement, but it just feels like a little step down from the first, rather than any kind of step up. Hopefully the creators don’t trip over any more stairs, because I’m still looking forward to the next one, with hopes that it might learn a thing or two from this particular outing.