Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard Review

One of 2018’s surprise Indy hits was The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game by Grace Bruxner. A (very) simple point-and-click adventure that was more of an interactive joke than a game. Bruxner followed-up her sleeper hit in December 2019 with the release of a sequel, Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard. Much like its predecessor, Frog Detective 2 may be light on gameplay, but is swimming in so much harmless stupidity and innocent charm that it makes for a fun little game that’s worth an hour of your time if you just want a good laugh.

Like the first game, Frog Detective 2 is short and sweet point-and click game which essentially revolves around a simple trade quest: Talk to the characters in the game, find out what each one wants, figure out who can give you what, and enjoy all of their nonsense along the way.

Our hero – the simply-named ‘Detective’ – is on a very tough case: In the small town of Warlock Woods, a new resident has moved in. This new resident happens to be a wizard. A wizard who’s invisible! To commemorate the arrival of the titular Invisible Wizard to their town, the people of Warlock Woods planned a welcoming parade. The night before the parade, however, someone destroyed the floats and decorations. Thus our (Frog) Detective has been called in to investigate the scene and figure out who wrecked the parade. That’s right, The Case of the Invisible Wizard isn’t about the Invisible Wizard themself, but their ruined parade.

Yep, this certainly is a Frog Detective sequel.

I have to emphasize that, under different circumstances, I probably would not care for a video game that has so little in the ways of gameplay. I’ve played more than my share of Indy titles that try to mask their lack of substance and depth as “minimalism,” or that try to claim that “games don’t need to be fun” as a lame excuse for their lack of actual game. But what wins me over about the Frog Detective titles is that Grace Bruxner uses this same lack of ‘game’ as the basis of a joke. I’m not sure if she intends Frog Detective to be a commentary or parody on the often overly self-important attitude of the Indy scene, but it works as such nonetheless.

There’s an endearing quality to the innocence and stupidity of the Frog Detective games that make them easy to love. They may not be what I would traditionally consider to be “good games,” but their sense of humor and charm are undeniable.

“New gameplay features include: Putting stickers on a notebook… and that’s about it.”

Though Grace Bruxner promised this second Frog Detective game would have “more gameplay” than its predecessor, that in itself is also part of the joke, since the only additional gameplay elements this time around are decorating a notebook with stickers at the beginning of the game, and picking up pies as part of the game’s aforementioned trading quest. Otherwise, the game is – once again – all about the silly dialogue provided by the characters. The non-stop, innocuous humor is complimented by simple, cartoony graphics and an equally simple, jazzy soundtrack.

Bruxner’s writing is delightfully absurd, and is reminiscent of early 2010s cartoons like Adventure Time and Regular Show, or internet comics like Axe Cop. It’s void of that self-aggrandizing YouTube humor we see far too much of these days. Instead, Frog Detective just feels like a showcase of its creator’s personality.

Like the first Frog Detective Game, The Case of the Invisible Wizard can be completed in about an hour, and the end blatantly informs us that our (Frog) Detective will return in another sequel. We even get a hint that there might be an overarching villain at play (though I can’t imagine anyone could be too villainous in this game’s world). I do kind of hope that by the time the third title comes out, the Frog Detective games can add a little something extra to the proceedings. But even if they don’t, Grace Bruxner’s unlikely Indy hit series is a uniquely charming experience.

 

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The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game Review

 

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”

-Willy Wonka

 

The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game is an indie title by Grace Bruxner released at the tail-end of 2018. The first entry in a planned series, this point-and-click adventure is something of a parody of the genre in which the hero is a frog detective simply named…Detective.

Detective is assigned a case on a small island owned by a sloth named Martin, who claims the island is haunted by a ghost. Strange noises have been heard on the island for about two weeks, and Martin hired a group of ‘ghosts scientists’ to try to find the apparition, with no luck. So Detective is here to find the source of the mysterious noises by investigating the island.

The game more or less revolves around a single puzzle. The mysterious noises are emanating from a cave, but the entrance was caved in. So in order to find a means to investigate, the frog detective has to blow open the entrance to the cave, which one of the ghost scientists conveniently can do for you, but he requires the proper ingredients to make the dynamite to do so (toothpaste, wool, pasta and gold, naturally). So Detective has to talk to the other scientists on the island, as well as Martin, to figure out ways to get those ingredients.

That’s really all there is to The Haunted Island. You simply have to talk to the island’s inhabitants and figure out who can help you solve one of the other inhabitants problems and reward you with the ingredients. And usually, the characters make the answers to their problems completely obvious. It’s a single puzzle game in which the puzzle requires almost no thinking. It’s as bare bones of a point-and-click game as you can get, and is more of an interactive short story, than anything else.

Normally, I might hate a game for being so empty on the gameplay side of things (especially in the case of indie games, which seem to get a free pass for “not being games”). And yet, I’m going to be a hypocrite and give this game a pass for the simple reason that the dialogue won me over with its innocence and stupidity.

“This character is protective of their collection of tiny shells, which are so tiny you can’t see them. Once you give them a normal sized shell, they will reward you with a magnifying glass, since they no longer need it to stare at tiny shells.”

The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game is funny. It makes up for its lack of depth by being downright silly. The characters each have their own weird quirks, and they all talk about their own brand of nonsense. It has a silly sense of cartoon banter that reminds me of Adventure Time, and the dilemmas the characters find themselves in are so stupid it can’t help but put a smile on your face. The koala character is slow, and requests that you bring them a magnet so that they can latch onto a boat and move fast, for example. Meanwhile, Martin first became suspicious of a ghost after reading (some of) a book that stated you can’t see ghosts, and since he hasn’t seen a ghost, surely there must be a ghost.

As you might expect, the game is incredibly short, and it even advertises itself at being only about an hour long (in fact, after I watched the epilogue my Steam account claims that I spent exactly 60 minutes with the game). But it’s also incredibly cheap on Steam so you don’t exactly feel shortchanged.

“My favorite running gag in the game is that Frog Detective is constantly reminded by his boss that he’s only on the case because their best agent – Lobster Cop – is already on duty elsewhere. Rather than object, Frog Detective vehemently agrees that Lobster Cop is his better.”

Look, The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game is not what I’d traditionally call a ‘good’ game. But it is a good slice of some harmless stupidity that is worth an hour of your time if you just want some giggles. I guess maybe after being exposed to a number of indie games that feel like having a pretentious, artsy attitude makes up for a lack of gameplay (it doesn’t), I just find it a little refreshing to find one that uses that same lack of gameplay to be the basis of a joke.

 

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