The original name of indie sandbox adventure Time on Frog Island was Trading Time. And after playing it, I can see why. As a tiny, gruff sea captain, I've been shipwrecked on a colorful little island after a storm, and the only way to fix my busted ship is to help out a bunch of giant frogs. If I give a frog something it wants, it'll give me something in return. It's all about trading up.
What those frogs want, and what they'll give me for it, is often a puzzle. No one speaks in words on Frog Island, only in pictures. The pictures can be simple, an identifiable object shown in a word bubble. Or it can be a little trickier. A frog asking for a sunflower is easy to understand (though where to find the sunflower itself is another story) but another shows me a picture of a mug, then a snowflake, then points at the local pub. Clearly he wants a cold beverage, but I'm just a tiny sea captain—how can I make him a cold drink, and what will he even give me for it?
And so I go exploring and trying to figure out what everyone wants and how to get it. When I find an object I can pick it up and run around holding it over my head. It is, frankly, adorable, running around the island on my little legs, picking stuff up and trying to make a frog happy with it. Even if no one wants the item I've found, it's still plenty fun sprinting around with it, from flowers to fruit to angrily buzzing beehives. Cue the montage:
Not every frog you help directly leads to fixing your ship. One frog handed me a giant love letter (I knew it was a love letter because little hearts floated above it) and I had to figure out who to deliver it to. I knew it was for a green frog, but there are no shortage of green frogs on Frog Island. When I finally got the letter to the correct frog, I was sent back with a reply letter. The letter storyline had nothing to do with fixing my ship, but it made two lovely frogs very happy, and seeing happy frogs makes me happy.
Frog Island is a big place, too, with lots of areas to explore, from beaches to forests to mountains with snow-covered peaks. There are puzzles to solve as well, items I need to carry not to a frog but to a particular place to make something happen. Objects can also change depending on where you bring them, or the weather, or other factors. There are also a few timed challenges that had me racing around frantically, trying to get where I needed to be before time ran out and figuring out shortcuts and ways to travel more quickly.
Sorry if I'm being vague about most of this, but discovering these puzzles and figuring out what sorts of puzzles they even are is part of the fun of exploring the island. Just like the frogs themselves, the game doesn't really tell you what you should be doing. It's up to you to find out by experimenting, and that's been so rewarding that I don't want to ruin it for anyone else. It's a game I find myself thinking about even when I'm not playing it. "Well, what if I brought that item… to that place… maybe that would…" Then I rush back to my PC to try it out.
There are all sorts of enjoyable details in the scenery, in the frog's homes and their personal habits and personalities, and there are even yapping dogs in the form of tadpoles that will chase after you then run away when you try to chase them back. And late in the evening when my sea captain begins to yawn, I set up a fire at a campsite and sleep, each night learning (again, though pictures) a bit more about my own past and what brought me to Frog Island in the first place.
Frankly, I'm not sure I actually do want to fix my ship and leave this cute island filled with lovely, friendly giant frogs. Repairing my broken rudder and replacing my sail are not all that high on my priority list at the moment. There are still puzzles to solve and mysteries to figure out and frogs that need help getting happy. And I'm happy to help them do it.