What is it? A Wild West mystery with a frog detective.
Expect to pay: £4/$5
Release date: October 27, 2022
Developer: Worm Club
Publisher: Superhot Presents
Reviewed on: RTX 3080 Ti, Intel i7-8086K, 16GB RAM
Link: Official Site (opens in new tab)
The Frog Detective series is distilled joy. Simple, brief, but extremely funny and occasionally heart-warming, they're the sort of games that defy you to feel blue when you're done. And Frog Detective 3: Corruption at Cowboy County is the best of the lot.
When we last saw our amphibious investigator, he'd just received a call from his supervisor, the contents of which were a mystery until now. Thanks to Mary the rhino and her top notch acting skills, a recap sets the scene, with Mary playing both the detective and his boss. It's Oscar-worthy stuff. Naturally, the phone call is all about a new case, this time in Cowboy County.
There are three things you should know about Cowboy County. 1. It was, until very recently, lawless. 2. Everyone is pretty nice, especially the outlaws, who just want to help people. 3. Nobody rides horses.
Now, before you get upset about the lack of equine antics, there is a silver lining. The main mode of transport in Cowboy County is the most noble of steeds: the scooter. And you'll get access to one right away, allowing you to speed around the tiny town and pull off sick stunts. This does eventually come in very handy, but mostly it's just a hoot, facilitated by small hills that turn the town into a skatepark.
Upon arriving in Cowboy County, you'll quickly learn what you're here to do, but also that the problem has already been solved. A sheriff was needed, but the best detective on the force, Lobster Cop, has already found someone to bring law and order to the town. Typical! He's a mole, he's called Mason, and he's extremely creepy. Luckily, the game does not end there, because there's another case that requires Frog Detective's skills: the town's hats have all gone missing.
If you've slipped into the presumably slimy skin of Frog Detective before, you'll be very familiar with police procedure. The town is full of potential suspects, and to uncover the truth you'll have to chat to them, solve their problems, and gather up items to help you find out where the hats went. You can't have a cowboy town without hats. That's illegal. And you're a detective, as you'll keep reminding people.
Among the residents of this lawless but simultaneously chill burg are Dusty the koala, a cowboy poet; Rhonda Dynamite, an outlaw mouse with a fantastic name who really wanted to be sheriff; and Craig, a bull who's sick of people asking him to join secret societies (except the secret ghost hunting society, which he'd love to join, if only they'd ask). Every conversation veers between absurdly silly and extremely clever, eliciting more laughter in a couple of minutes than most comedic games manage to tease out across their whole runtime. Yes, I'm looking at you, New Tales from the Borderlands.
There's the panda artist who's willing to illustrate Frog Detective's adventures for a measly "two million money", which our less-than-frugal hero thinks is a pretty good deal—though too expensive for his seemingly non-existent salary. Sticking with the artistic theme, you'll also have the opportunity to help create the world's best cowboy poem (it really is something special). And you might even learn a few things from the critiques of the criminal justice system or Frog Detective's terrible advice for securing your personal information. There's even a bit of romance! This game has it all.
While the puzzles are really just fetch quests, Frog Detective 3 never devolves into busywork and will keep you chuckling away for the whole 90 minutes. The only time it evoked even the hint of a scowl was when I was tasked with collecting four cactus flowers, which grow in abundance, only to discover that what I actually needed was four specific flowers, which look only slightly different from the rest. It still only took me a couple of minutes to find them all.
Really, these tasks are just a vehicle for more charmingly weird chats, though there are a couple of inventive ones—still not headscratchers, per se, but a bit more involved and surprising than the rest. And speaking of surprises, Frog Detective's final case is full of twists and turns, like a snake contortionist, and even reframes the previous cases while tying them all together in a more-than-satisfying conclusion. The whole thing is unexpectedly elaborate—or as elaborate as it can be while still maintaining its whimsical, leisurely vibe.
If I'm gloomy, it's only because there won't be any more Frog Detective. He's one of a kind, and I'll miss his lack of cynicism and upbeat personality just as much as his aptitude for crime solving. We need fewer hardboiled misery guts and more froggy goofs. But if the series has to end, this is a great way for it to go out.