The internet gave us a lot of important, life-changing abilities since its inception and we’re all thankful for it.
Being able to connect with friends and family miles away is a ground-breaking feature that a ton of people uses every single day. And while it's been an incredible piece of technology, it also ripped away an essential component of civilization:
Thankfully, the term AKA "Couch Co-Op" has made its return over the past few years, as an alternative to matchmaking and online gaming. To my relief. I was growing tired of checking the backs of game boxes, only to find a consistent lack of split-screens and local multiplayer modes. And rightly so. After all, why should our screens get bigger if our interactions with them were to grow anti-social?
Sure, PC gaming isn't the most suitable platform for multiplayer in the same room. In the past, a handful of studios clumsily tried to find solutions to this limitation; I've even seen games where one would control the left half of the keyboard while the other handled the right. Needless to say, these didn't sell all that well.
Some might even argue: that's why console gaming got as big as it did.
Unlike their expensive counterpart, consoles allowed friends to chill, on a couch with a controller in each hand, and fight each other or work together to reach a common goal.
Eventually, though, even that trend began to fade away. Consoles grew in power; split-screens became taxing on systems. And before we knew it, the split mode vanished into thin air, albeit a few extraordinary titles like Gears of War.
Who would I guessed that the PC community would be at the heart of its revival?
Developers feeding our habits came up with some genuinely inventive titles that revolve on sitting around a couch and playing together, in the same room; sharing laughs and anger - together. There were basic brawl-like games such as Battleblock Theater and Towerfall, and there were unique games with twists like Monaco and, a personal favorite, Crawl. All these required that human touch.
One especially stuck with my friends and me: Mount Your Friends. If you don’t know what this is, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s glorious. I haven’t laughed as much with a video game as I did with Mount Your Friends. It's a most satisfying mix of intuitive fun and bizarreness. It had you take on the role of half-naked men trying to scale each other in an attempt to get the highest position.
And what better way to up the ante, other than by replacing the half-naked men with half-naked frogs? Introducing: Frog Climbers!
Much in the same way that Mount Your Friends (or the infamous QWOP) controls, Frog Climbers asks that you trigger every motion of your character’s body. The left thumbstick controls your left arm’s movement, and the left trigger controls the left-hand grip. Similarly, the right stick and trigger relate to your frog’s right side. It’s initially intuitive, but quickly becomes a hassle that is less frustratingly annoying and more frustratingly hilarious. While holding onto a ledge, you must pull down on the stick to hoist your body upward and gain enough momentum to grab on tightly to the next ledge.
To what end? To reach the top, of course.
For single-players, this can be considered some kind of rock climbing simulator and, as frustrating as it may be, it remains somewhat rewarding. That's because there is a randomized element to each level, so each time you play, you'll get a brand new cliff to climb. There’s even a Daily Mountain challenge, offering a procedurally generated mountain that players can compete on, in their attempts to reach the top of the leaderboard.
Add multiplayer, and you've got yourself a simulated mayhem on your hands.
You’ll all be fighting to reach the top first. This means multiple frogs scaling the cliff side, grabbing not only rocks jutting out from the surface, but also each other’s hands and feet. Is someone above dangling their feet right above your head? Ignore the rocks and grab them. They'll provide the same adequate boost to pull you up, but they'll slow down your victim in the process as well. There's a limit to how long you can do this, though. Hold on to someone’s foot or hand for too long and you’ll start to hear the whistling of a kettle. That means your grasp is getting weaker, which is, (un)fortunately, a good way to balance the game.
It prevents too much grappling and screwing friends over.
That being said, a small tweak should be implemented to prevent players from “gaming the system." When you lose grip and plummet straight down beyond the limitations of the screen, you’re out of the game for a few seconds. Instead of being forced to climb the whole mountain again, the game launches you back onto the same area that everyone else still hangs. The issue with this is that Frog Climbers tends to launch you a bit higher than everyone else, which allows you to grapple onto one of the rocks above them, giving you an upper hand. Pardon the pun.
In a game where you must reach the top first, this is an excellent way to cheat the primary objective. In theory, you could play awful consistently, and, at the last moment, fall off-screen to be launched upward and get the advantage over everyone else. To be fair, dying is somewhat penalized: a total death score shows up at the end. Yet in the game's normal mode, the winner is who reached the top first, regardless of how he got there. Frog Climbers' "King of the Hill" mode does factor in deaths, but I can't help but feel like that should be accounted for across the board and for all modes.
Frog Climbers is a very simple game, but it's all you need for a social night of fun with friends. Its simplistic design and intuitive controls make for a solid Couch Co-Op experience and one that is tailor-made to frustrate and beat the living poop out of the fine folks you, all so kindly, invited over.