Consider the nature of rabbits and frogs. One is cute and fuzzy, one is slimy and usually green. One is an herbiforous mammal, the other a carnivorous amphibian. One loves to live on dry, grassy land, the other in wet, swampy conditions. They don't have much in common, do they, other than the ability to jump really high, which makes them ideal characters for jumping-style platform games. But when you are designing such a game, do you go for the cuteness of the bunny and risk over-the-top sweetness, or do you go for the frog and eschew pretty for functional? Well, if you are Dr. Siamese (who apparently works for Nitrome), you instead create a merge-o-matic machine which allows you to take a pretty bunny and a slimy frog and create a freak of nature which will immediately hunt you down for revenge. You also create a game like Ribbit.
Designed by Jay Smith and Aaron Steed of Nitrome Ribbit is the saga of the aforementioned abomination, frantically trying to track down the evil scientist while navigating an increasingly difficult series of platforms populated by some difficult and nasty bad guys. Movement of your odd little hero is accomplished with the left and right [arrow] keys. You see, since the natural born hoppers have been merged at the head, this affront to all that is holy bounces everywhere. Controlling him is a matter of tilting the character to the right or the left, causing it to hop in that direction. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well it is, at first. However, you will soon encounter areas that require you to master the art of twirling your character 180 degrees in mid-air, creating a super jump to get to higher platforms. And then you will soon need to master the double super jump, which causes the frobbit (my own term) to jump even higher, and gain the ability to destroy most of the enemies he will encounter.
Analysis: What this odd and unique movement dynamic will do is divide casual gamers into two camps: those who can master it will have a fun and enjoyable time frantically moving through the various levels in order to extract revenge from a scientist who just doesn't know when not to mess with mother nature; and those who cannot quite master the dynamic and who face an uphill battle with a lot of frustration. Much of the frustration comes from the fact that with only 20 levels, Ribbit has a steep learning curve. Seriously steep. Precipitously steep. Sooooo steep...seriously, one minute you've mastered the basics of movement, the next you will have to have figured out not only how to rotate the character to create the super jumps, but how to stop the rotation at just the correct angle to move him forward rather than have him ricochet off of the obstructive scenery. Difficulty after difficulty piles on so rapidly that those with slightly slower reflexes might want to play the game in very short bursts, taking lots of breaks before damage is done to monitors, walls, or whatever else is within arms reach.
Ribbit is designed by Nitrome, so expect all the bells and whistles that that implies. Cute graphics, kicking music, high production values, it's all there to enjoy. It would have been nice, however, to have a reset button that allows you to replay a level if you get stuck. On most levels, this is not a worry as mistakes will kill you and send you back to the main menu. However, mistakes on some of the pure block breaking levels can leave you stranded at the bottom of the screen, with no way to reset other than quitting out of the game and going back in. And a slightly more gradual difficulty curve would have been nice. When you first encounter the Rhino Beetle — for instance — if you mess up on that very first move you can be killed, making it more worthy of a level near the end rather than in the middle of the game.
Gameplay flaws aside, Ribbit can still be a lot of fun. Even if you can't quite master the movement dynamic quickly, you can still enjoy watching a thing-that-should-never-have-been smash itself on the scenery with ever increasing speed. And for those who can manage to make the little abomination go where they want it to go, there's a lot of fun action to be had. Beautiful to look at and surprisingly addictive, Ribbit is a fun time waster for anyone with good reflexes and an off-kilter sense of humor. Just track down that nasty scientist who created Something That Should Never Have Been Born and give him a good talking to.