Missile Command, for tadpoles…
It’s not too uncommon for a relatively unknown iPhone game to feel similar, perhaps incredibly so, to an existing well known property. Frog Orbs, from Ballpit Monster Studios, is very clearly aimed at fans of Missile Command. Monsters of all kind will slowly creep down the screen to attack your orbs, and you, as the Frog Wizard, will stand on a base in the center and fire magic spells to stop them.
While Frog Orbs may closely resemble Missile Command, there are a few key ways that it differs. Part of the charm of Missile Command is that it is difficult almost as much due to its control scheme as to its design. Having to control a cursor with a joystick is unwieldy, and it makes the game harder. Frog Orbs simply requires that you touch the screen where you want to fire, and doesn’t penalize you at all for “tap mashing”, making it incredibly easy to spam the playing field. Even worse, it doesn’t take long before you can buy an upgrade that allows you to fire more frequently, making it even more difficult for enemies to get through. The game does eventually get harder the more you play it. If you play a single game for longer than ten minutes you will start having difficulty fending off the enemies, but it takes far too long for this to happen. Likewise, once you’ve put enough time into the game to unlock more areas, the game does become incrementally harder, but it takes too much time for the game to be challenging.
Another way in which Frog Orbs differs from the arcade classic is that instead of having to protect your bases, you merely have to protect your “cannon”, which in our case is a frog who casts spells using a wand. In addition, you can withstand three hits before failing, and most of the enemies aren’t even aimed at you. The bases are replaced with orbs that allow you special attacks, giving you even more weapons against an underpowered set of enemies. These special attacks can be leveled up to become even more powerful; they start out pretty useless.
Progression is done via achievements, all of which are fairly easy to obtain. In fact, the most challenging part of obtaining each achievement is due to the fact that the achievement is only unlocked when the game ends; since the game is so easy, it’s not too difficult to play for 15-20 minutes after unlocking an achievement, only to have the app crash and that bit of progress lost. I found myself intentionally losing games after unlocking an achievement simply because I didn’t want to lose the record of that achievement. Most of the achievements are things that would happen during the normal course of play anyways, such as “Survive 10 minutes” or “Use the fire spell 5 times”. The more achievements you unlock, the more stars you get, which are automatically applied toward unlockables like new areas, new enemies in old areas, or changes to old areas.
The game has a charming aesthetic. The cartoon style graphics are a lot of fun, and the animation is passable. The music is unremarkable, but it was frustrating that the game didn’t remember my choice to disable the sound so I could listen to podcasts while playing. Every time I turned the sound off, closed the app, and went back in, the sound had returned. This kind of sloppy design makes it hard to want to play the game.
Frog Orbs isn’t a bad game, but it’s incredibly unbalanced. If it’s been your lifelong dream to feel like the most badass frog in history, then Frog Orbs is probably right up your alley. If you’ve been itching for the perfect Missile Command experience on your iPhone, you will probably want to keep looking.
Frog Orbs is out now for FREE