Spoiler Review: Glittermitten Grove/Frog Fractions 2
Originally posted on 26th January 2017 Written by: Avery
[Retrospective 2020 note: I genuinely cannot remember if we got a review key for this one. I think we did. This review is kind of a mess, honestly. Regardless, spoilers are within, so be warned.
Glittermitten Grove is the facade game for Frog Fractions 2, a game that has been in development and continually teased via a pretty ridiculous ARG for about 3 or 4 years now. The ARG is definitely a thing to check out, and I’m sure someone must’ve put together a complete timeline of events somewhere. But anyway, back to the main course.
Glittermitten is a casual resource management based game, wherein you manage a small little gathering of faeries. It’s your task to make sure they’re set up with everything to make sure their life is pleasant and enjoyable, be it via providing places to sleep or through planting enough food trees. The catch being that you can only place things in trees, regardless of if it’s food or wood storage or if it’s a beacon of light that increases your field of view in the surrounding area. Because, for some reason, your area of play is incredibly limited unless you place beacons around to see around your “home” as it were. But that’s not all. Not only do you have to put up with the limited space to place things, but you also have to balance them on said trees. After all, you can’t just go around crowding 5 houses onto a single tree, as it’d cause too much stress on the poor thing. And, for me, this is where the problem was.
As much as I’ll admit that I’m bad at resource management type games, they usually provide some kind of gimmie that allows one to continue playing with relative ease, even if they bugger it up really early on. Glittermitten doesn’t. You have pretty limited resources to begin with and, for me, I had about three trees to work with. Sure, I could plant more trees, but that would not only cost valuable resources, but it’d also mean chopping bits off my existing trees in order to make sure it has enough sunlight for it to grow. Sure, I could use a spell to make the tree grow regardless, but then it could end up overshadowing my other trees and killing them. For a game that’s mostly about keeping somewhat of an order of balance, Glittenmitten has a bit too much going on for one to actually maintain said balance. It’s far, far too easy to completely balls up your game early on, either by not strategizing enough or by playing the Twat’s Way of video games wherein you merely click on stuff and see what it does.
So, with that brief bit of bumbling around done with, I decided to dive straight into the actual meat of this game, aka the promised Frog Fractions 2.
There are three possible ways to enter Frog Fractions 2 (hereby referred to as FF2 because I’m lazy), the first two involve going up to the highest or lowest possible places in Glittermitten; the third you merely type “Butts”. I’m still not sure I fully understand what the relevance of that is, even now after the ARG has been “solved” as such. Regardless, as soon as you do any of those three things, you are sent into the world of FF2. Wait, did I say FF2? Sorry, I meant ZZT. Wait, no, I definitely meant FF2.
So yeah, a large portion of the game appears to be set in this faux ZZT like gameplay area, complete with the player character being a little smiley face. It’s very true to how ZZT actually is, though I’m not sure if some of the things it does are completely possible to recreate in it. Honestly, I’m mostly fine with these parts. They’re fun little exploration type places that don’t take too long to roam around in. There’s three main bits of interest in these areas, the first being soapstone messages, which I believe (as in, I don’t know if it’s true or not) are left by other players, made by picking premade words and phrases a la Dark Souls; as such, they’re largely useless things that don’t really make you do anything except go “...what?”. Thing number 2 are these lovely little Sokoban-esque puzzles that are dotted about the place. I honestly quite enjoy these little things, as much as I despise Sokoban. And finally thing number 3, also known as the The Worst Thing, is/are the enemies. Now, generally they’re not that bad, as all they really do is just boop you back to the last exit you came out of, but by gosh are they annoying as hell.
Now you may be thinking, “Avery, what in the fuck is the point you’re trying to make here”. And I agree, what is the point? Well, the point are these “mind stones”, placed in various areas of the game. These things take you into special mini-games which you have to complete if you interact with them. As in, all but one of the stones I interacted with didn’t let me go back to the ZZT playfield until I completed whatever it wanted me to do in the minigame. The first one I encountered has you playing a cross between a clicker game and a Flappy Bird clone, wherein you have to balance out the temperature of a flying toaster through the pipes, get this weird artefact (which appears to move closer every time you flummox the game) and then intentionally crash onto this cracked bit of the floor, upon which you finally get the item and exit out of it. But the thing is, that item is a sword. The sword allows you to slice through enemies and shrubbery alike with relative ease, except the catch now is that you have to rotate it around yourself in order to actually fit into corridors. And because this is a ZZT-like playfield, you are completely fucked if you wanna get into an area that’s accessed through a very small curved corridor. Annoyingly, this meant I missed out on getting another two possible items; including one that’s located on a screen which was now rendered completely inaccessible to me.The second mini-game I encountered was possibly even worse. It starts off with having you enter your age via a one-arm bandit type slot machine. Sure, it’s a funny joke, but it refuses to let you into the actual game unless you manage to land yourself a sensible age. After many repeated attempts, I finally was able to land on 33 in it. To which it then proceeded to ask me several questions in order to prove that I was, in fact, 33. I’d honestly find this more clever/amusing if I wasn’t completely exasperated from the dumb slot machine bit. Much googling later, I got past it, and I’m left with the feeling of wishing it parodied old piracy prevention methods instead. The game itself is actually a cute little point n click puzzler wherein you have to mildly irritate your roommate, who is inexplicably a xenomorph called Todd, in order to make him not be your roommate for whatever reason. I honestly quite liked this, it was cute and goofy – though I am very puzzled as to why you would try and rid yourself of a chill ass xenomorph roommate. Interestingly, I still got the item from this mini-game, despite actually failing to get rid of Todd. Shrugging, I plodded onwards further into the game.
Now, I will say, all this rabid item collecting is rather questionable in itself. The game never actually tells you what these items actually are, merely spouting the symbol back at you and saying that you now have it. I have no idea if missing one of these symbols is bad or not, especially since I definitely missed quite a few. After completing the xenomorph roommate mini-game, I re-entered the ZZT world to find myself having lost pretty much all of my items, and that all the doors that I had previously unlocked were now locked. Exiting out of the area, I had found that it was now apparently nighttime in the world. And now, there were police roaming around the area. If you went near to them, they make a beeline toward you and put you in jail. Jail, in this case, meaning a small room off to the side of the level that you can easily get in and out of. I blindly stumbled around the area (it being nighttime, it’s very dark, as one would expect). I found myself another mind stone after some time, and having nowhere else to go, I jumped in. It was at this point that I gave up and closed the game. See, this mini-game is chess. It’s not just chess, it’s chess with active time battle. No, seriously. But the problem is for me, I don’t fucking know how to play chess, and more to the point, it’s a really weird version, wherein I have a full set of pieces, but the other side seems to only have a handful in random positions around the board. I don’t really know about you but I don’t exactly have the time to sit down and learn how to play chess in order to get any further in a game I’m not exactly enjoying 100% to begin with.
As much as I wanted to enjoy this game, Frog Fractions 2 is a game that feels far too hard for it’s own good. And if it’s not too hard, it’s far too esoteric and against the player for no particularly good reason. Sure, there’s funny jokes here and there, but they’re small little chuckles I have on occasion, versus the honestly quite bothersome and tiring gameplay itself. Perhaps the 2 is meant to denote something else. Perhaps, this game would be better if you’re playing with another person. Regardless, I didn’t particularly enjoy my time with Glittermitten nor FF2. Maybe I’ll try it again later on, possibly when my mood is a bit higher than normal, but for the most part I didn’t feel it was worth it. It’s just missing that constant hint of intrigue and interest that the first game had going for it; the charm and hook. And Frog Fractions without charm or hook, simply isn’t Frog Fractions.
There. That should do it.