Yesterday, Frog Fractions, the notorious 2012 browser game that is much more than it appears, came to Steam with a new Game of the Decade edition. There is also a new $US8 ($11) DLC pack that is, purportedly, just a hat. You will not be shocked to learn that it is more than just a hat.
For those who’ve somehow avoided the internet’s most pervasive game turned meme turned urban legend, Frog Fractions initially presents itself as a cutesy ‘90s-style edutainment game starring a frog who slurps up bugs until fractions come out. If you stick with it long enough, however, it blossoms into an absurdist pastiche of every game genre under the sun, from text adventures to Dance Dance Revolution. It culminates in the frog becoming President, to give you an idea how much it escalates within its relatively brief runtime.
In 2014, creator Jim Crawford Kickstarted a sequel, but with a twist: When the game came out, he said, it would not be called Frog Fractions 2. One-upping its predecessor, it would emerge from a different game entirely, like a surprise planned just for you bursting out of a giant cake at somebody else’s birthday party. This gave rise to a question that trailed every weird or unexpected game release of the following two years: “Is this Frog Fractions 2?”
At the tail end of 2016, after an expansive alternate reality game that spanned multiple other other games, fans finally found Frog Fractions 2 in a fairy-themed management game called Glittermitten Grove. The sequel, a dungeon-crawler with more elaborate systems than the first, was well-received, but it didn’t catch on like its more accessible predecessor. Plus, that was it: The internet had solved the mystery. The journey, it seems, ended up being more important than the destination. After that, Frog Fractions mania died down.
Four years later, it turns out that the Frog Fractions saga is not over. The Game of the Decade edition’s DLC Hop’s Iconic Cap begins like a standard run of the original Frog Fractions, except the frog is wearing a hat. But if you stick with it up to the point where things usually get wacky, they now get wacky in a different way.
The camera pulls back to reveal that everything you, as the frog, have been doing is happening in a theatre, and you’re being heckled by the only person in the audience: a faux-pro-consumer YouTuber named Content-Aware Phil. The two of you get into an argument, and your boss sends you home to your wife, a cat named Hatricia Hop-Meow, your daughter October, and a secret service agent named Ralph. You, after all, were impeached, so now you’re living a normal life while reenacting the glories of your heyday — a pretty sad fate, all things considered. Hatricia suggests you seek out a new adventure, and so you, with October in tow, do exactly that. The two of you go to a museum dedicated to your glory days. Before long, things spin characteristically out of control, and you end up on an actual new adventure.
The initial segment largely plays out as a literal point-and-click adventure, but before long, you find yourself sucked into another genre-hopping journey, this one touching on JRPGs, cult classic shoot-‘em-up Ikaruga, word scrambles, Dig Dug, and more Dig Dug. I won’t spoil any more of it because you should really just go play it, but suffice it to say, it’s much more reminiscent of Frog Fractions 1 than Frog Fractions 2.
Or at least, I would say that, if Frog Fractions 2 was really Frog Fractions 2. After I completed Hop’s Iconic Cap, I asked creator Jim Crawford if it was Frog Fractions 3.
“In my headcanon, this is Frog Fractions 4 and 5,” he told Kotaku in a DM.
Frog Fractions 3, then, is the friends we made along the way. OK, he did not actually say that. Instead, it’s really quite simple: Frog Fractions 2 is Frog Fractions 3.
“In my headcanon, Frog Fractions 2 was the Kickstarter/ARG, and Frog Fractions 3 was Glittermitten Grove,” said Crawford.
So, for all those years, when people were asking “Is this Frog Fractions 2?” they were, through the simple act of asking that question, playing Frog Fractions 2. And now they can play Frog Fractions 4 and 5, which may or may not also be Frog Fractions 6-12/37 — who can really say anymore? Anything is possible as long as you’re willing to break out of your old habits and take a running leap into the deep end every once in a while. And also you’re a talking frog.