When it comes to the second generation of consoles, there was one major element that had been emphasized excessively back then that I had for the most part ignored. That element was multiplayer. AI wasn't sophisticated at that time; in fact, it wasn't until the last couple of console generations that a computer could come close to mimicking a human being. Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, there were lots of games designed specifically with multiplayer in mind. One of the best was Frog Bog on the Intellivision.
Frog Bog is a simple, arcade-like contest for two players where the goal is to catch the most flies than your opponent before time runs out. Sure, one player could play alone, but the artificial intelligence is an absolute pushover. Playing with another human is the only way to get any kind of challenge.
There were a staggering amount of options at the time, though it's nothing compared to what we see these days. Day and night games are available, and the two players can set their own independent difficulty levels out of three options. The easiest sets the frog jumping in fixed arcs where the frog will automatically lash out its tongue if it gets close to a bug. The medium setting keeps the tongue automatic but allows manual control over the frog's jumping angle. The hardest setting turns off the auto-tongue, requiring the use of the controller's fire buttons.
Unfortunately, the controls aren't quite up to snuff. The control disc on the Intellivision controller can detect sixteen different directions as opposed to the eight allowed by a 2600 joystick (as well as modern D-pads). While that allows for plenty of precision, it's a fine line between hitting right and being a little too high. Setting to medium or hard control can lead to too many misjudged jumps, sending your frog past the lily pad and into the water. Many players prefer the port on the Atari 2600 titled "Frogs and Flies" since its control is tighter.
However, Atari's presentation comes nowhere close to Mattel's. Frog Bog is a stunner for the system. The frogs are well-animated right down to their tongues lashing out. The location is well-drawn with high grass and cattails making the bog look real. All of the bugs are distinct and impressively animated. I mentioned a time limit, but you will never see a clock in the game. Instead, the day-to-night transition is so smooth that there is no question how much time is left. While the sound effect used for the tongue lashing can be a little annoying, most of the other sounds bring home the atmosphere of a quiet day at the pond. In fact, the nighttime crickets are just about perfect! This game is truly a technical showcase for the Intellivision.
Frog Bog is just inches away from being the perfect two-player contest for the Intellivision. It's simple to pick up, has plenty of options, and aesthetically impresses even today. It's just a shame that the controls aren't as polished as the rest of the package. Overall, it's still a good choice to pull out on a quiet, lazy afternoon with friends.