One of my favorite things about scouring Itch.io and Steam so often is finding hilarious darlings like The Haunted Island, A Frog Detective Game. I’ve followed its development by 3D artist Grace Bruxner on Twitter for some time now, delighting in the many dancing frog GIFs and humorous drawings she’s posted, and it’s exceedingly easy to say I was not disappointed by the final product.
Before The Haunted Island even launches, it demonstrates its dedication to silliness, hiding the lyrics to ‘Get Low’ by Flo Rida in its quality settings menu. If you consider such a joke dumb, this game may not be for you, but if this is exactly your brand of humor (as it is mine) then strap in for an hour-long point-and-click adventure.
You start off in Detective Frog’s laughably sparse office, only a picture on the wall and a desk for decoration, and soon get a call from Supervisor Penguin — your supervisor, if you couldn’t guess. He’s got a case for you and ‘It’s a pretty spooky one, so hold on tight’.
Martin the Sloth (have you noticed a naming pattern yet?) has been hearing ghosts on his island for weeks, and even the ghost scientists he hired can’t track down these rascally spirits. Martin’s begged your supervisor to send his best investigator, but since Lobster Cop was busy, you’re on the case! And Detective Frog has solved every mystery he’s ever tackled, except for the one of how to put a hat on his weird-shaped head.
The game cements its faux-noir aesthetic in its opening cinematic, introducing each of the island’s residents with jazzy music and title cards like you’re about to watch a fifties black-and-white film. The cast of talking animals intentionally look like rough drafts of 3D art projects, all simple shapes with slightly horrified expressions, and each of the small island’s flora and fauna bear similarly goofy-looking faces.
Armed with your trusty magnifying glass, you’ve got ghosts to find and puzzles to solve, and this island adheres to a logic all its own. Martin’s convinced his island (he declared himself king when no one else was there) is infested with ghosts because he read most of a book on them once. ‘Anyway in the book it says that most ghosts can’t be seen. And get this…I haven’t seen a single ghost yet!’ Plus, weird sounds are coming out of the island’s many holes, which it has a lot of for some reason; what else could it be but paranormal?
To get to the bottom of things, you have to help a mouse woo his fellow ghost scientist, convince a bear that you’re not a secret agent (and neither is he) and make a bomb out of ingredients like wool, toothpaste and pasta. ‘Just the standard explosive recipe’, as Detective Frog says. And it all ends in a fantastically choreographed dance-off that you get to pick the winner of!
Everything in The Haunted Island is dedicated to making you laugh from beginning to end, from the dialogue and the goofy art to its occasionally over-the-top commitment to the noir aesthetic. While I don’t expect it to win any game-of-the-year awards, it delights in its silliness, something I found incredibly refreshing and valuable in its own right, and something we could stand to see more of in the often oppressively serious culture of video games. If you have an hour to kill and are looking for a great laugh, you could do a lot worse than A Frog Detective Game. It also promises to be an episodic adventure and, personally, I can’t wait to dive back in once it releases.
The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective game is available on Itch.io and Steam for $4.99.