Review: Fragger (Xbox Live)
Fragger has a simple storyline, and a lot of life has been put into the presentation of the website and screenshots. It has a lot of military imagery around it, with armour, bunkers and grenades. But when you take this away you discover that Fragger is another "throw things to kill things" game, albeit one which is done extremely well, with a lot of challenge and longevity. And, as I wrote before when it appeared on Symbian, all you have to remember is that this is not Angry Birds.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
It's hard to avoid thinking about the furious feathered ones when you have a game that has your soldier standing at one end of the playing area, and you set the angle and strength of your grenade throw, and your goal is to destroy all the enemy soldiers, who are happy to stand stationary as the explosions fall around them...
Any other similarities? You've got terrain to contend with so you can bounce grenades off hills and roll them through tunnels - there are crates and doors to explode to clear a path for your grenades to reach those soldiers... and you only have a limited number of grenades to use on each level before you have to start it all over again.
Let's put that all aside, because Fragger rates quite high on the addictive scale. It's not off the charts, and I did find myself dipping in and out of it rather than playing through a huge batch of levels, but this "snacking" on the levels suits a smartphone quite well. There's not a huge amount of scrolling, so the levels are quite small in terms of design and options available. This means that you'll quickly run out of angles and throwing strengths as the key to solving levels - instead you'll be rolling grenades carefully into gaps, drainpipes and other narrow spaces.
Which leads to my one big issue with Fragger - the control system has you touching the screen to change the angle of the throw, with a slide of your finger to set the strength. Rather difficult to describe but easy enough in practice. Except when you want to do the same shot again. In Rovio's bird game, you get the trace of the last shot to match up the catapult. No such guide here - the aiming arrow disappears and you have to take best guess... again. Which gets frustrating the second time, annoying the tenth time, and leads to exiting the game in frustration until it draws you back.
While I know it fits in with the game mechanics and level design, I do wonder why you can't run around the screen or die from the explosions - the grenades I'm used to don't have a hero shield built into the casing. No matter, it doesn't change the puzzle aspect of the game. You might think that you can't do much, but as you progress, those hatches that need to be blown out before you can get to hidden enemies, crates of TNT to magnify explosions, and the tunnels you need to bounce your grenade around to get under the floorboards of a building require some ninja game playing skills.
Perhaps too much. The accuracy needed as you progress through the 300 levels is almost pixel perfect - especially if you want to claim the three medals (definitely not 'stars', oh no...) you will be awarded for the best solution to a level - and the level design is exquisite torture in itself. There are also no frame rate issues or a slowdown in the graphics, and they remain clear and understandable throughout the game.
Fragger is a weird game. It has a lot going for it, and I can easily forgive the thought that it's heavily inspired by another title. But at the same time I think that the effort that's gone in making sure that it is distinctive enough from that other title has damaged the game's core concept, by promoting changes from an IP point of view rather than what's in the best nature of the game. It's still worth a look, there's a lot to like, and there's a lot of gameplay in here.
There we go, all the way through and never once mentioned Scorched Earth...
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at