October 27, 2022
worm club, SUPERHOT PRESENTS
Grace Bruxner, Thomas Bowker
Frog Detective is an adventure series that’s been garnering some love and attention in the past four years. Born and bred right here in Melbourne, the delightful amphibious investigator is something of a brainchild from Grace Bruxner and Thomas Bowker. The last two entries have brought a lot of joy to the indie scene, along with creating something of a mascot for Australian games.
So, when it came time to close the series out with Frog Detective 3: Corruption at Cowboy County, it’s understandable why they wanted something a little more ambitious. That ambition is reached in Corruption at Cowboy County, creating the best of the trilogy and going out with a bang.
Frog Detective 3: Corruption at Cowboy County kicks off near immediately after its predecessor. We go on a trip to the sun-drenched desert town of Cowboy County. A new mystery here awaits in the ominous disappearance of all the locals’ hats. That’s just no good for this cowboy town. Who’s at fault here? Where did these hats disappear to? Our amphibian friend is on the case.
Like earlier entries in the Frog Detective series, it’s a brief albeit cozy and warm coat of paint for the adventure series. Every other character is anthropomorphic, whether that’s your case assigner supervisor penguin or Lobster Cop, the officer that is always upstaging you. Everything is brightly coloured and minimalistic in design, with a lot of the environment and cast being low poly.
Backing it all is music by the wonderfully talented Dan Golding of Untitled Goose Game fame. This includes jazz pieces with a heavy emphasis on soft-tempered drums, piano and saxophone as you explore your offices at the start, sounding very much like you’re in a noir film. On the other side of the spectrum is clever musical cues when you interact with objects and people. Real western immersion is also prevalent as you walk around the main strip of the desert town with whispering winds echoing as you pass by tumbleweeds and shops. Then, whenever you enter Cowboy County’s saloon, typical upbeat piano music that you’d find in such an establishment kicks in.
All of this helps to establish a friendly and whimsical experience that’s fun for all ages. There’s a lot to be said about games that solely use the idea of being a “wholesome” game as their entire marketing, though Frog Detective always felt a little more than that. Every part of each game felt deliberate. You’d walk around the given environment with your magnifying glass, look at a person or object, and get a hearty chuckle and even a sense of wonder out of it. Sure, it’s funny to talk to a koala character and then see their face blown up in proportion when you look at them through that lens, but something is seriously going on with that tiny smiling spider you keep seeing pace around. What is their secret? What are they hiding?
Helping maintain this whimsical image is Frog Detective 3: Corruption at Cowboy County’s storytelling and writing. Your main goal is that some initial work with Lobster Cop leads you both to believe the stolen hats lie somewhere in the graveyard. Before you’re allowed to investigate this, you’re given a checklist of items in your journal. Find a map of the crime scene, a tool typically used to commit crimes, the key to the graveyard gate, and a hearty meal for Lobster Cop.
So off players go, completing a series of quests to obtain the needed items to proceed. These quests are charming reworks and parodies of typical item-hunting and puzzle-solving you’ll find in point-and-click games. Some of these escapades include helping one of the bandits that frequent the town foster his softer side as he writes a poem. Complete this and you’re given pen writing tools that will be used to help another of the bandits write a resume for a co-sheriff position, wanting to retire from the criminal life.
“…a friendly and whimsical experience that’s fun for all ages.”
The humour found throughout Corruption at Cowboy County is undeniably simple but smart. You’ll finish a quest for one individual and remark on how needless that task was, referential to the fetch quest formula. Frog Detective, typically a law-abiding do-gooder, helps Susy Rabbit, a cheeky individual breach a security bank by using a fake I.D. but only because she misplaced her own and is obtaining her own items in there. Another instance has our protagonist willingly give out his address to a character he just met because “how else are they supposed to find me?”. What follows is a silly but hilarious PSA that perfectly encapsulates the tone of the game.
There are delightful oddities and fun storytelling everywhere you turn in Frog Detective 3. The last act in particular has some brief tonal shifts and moments that occur out of the blue but totally gel well with the world and character relationships established in the prior games. As a whole package, it’s a tight experience that’s really hard to fault. The ending of the game was predictable. Still, that doesn’t really matter. You’re here for a fun and vibrant investigative experience, filled with laughs. Corruption at Cowboy County more than delivers on that front.
The first two Frog Detective games were released back to back in 2018 and 2019 respectively. This finale took a little longer. I can only imagine at least half of that was due to the addition of a ridable scooter to explore Cowboy County with. A simple press of shift jumps the game away from first and into third-person perspective as you roll about. It’s joyously a little unwieldy. Leaping between blocks of land, gapping over cactuses, and briefly wall-running the surrounding canyon walls is a delight. Just don’t expect tricks or Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater level of handling. Cowboy County is larger than the previous entries’ environments but not drastically. They didn’t need to necessarily add a whole scooter-riding mechanic but I’m glad they did. Adding an atypical mode of transport because, well why not?
I don’t have kids, but if I ever do I’ll definitely want to play through the entire Frog Detective series with them. On offer is an oh-so-pleasant and humourous adventure that I imagine won’t fail to charm anyone. Cowboy County is no exception to that, offering a neat little bow to the series as a whole. I’ll miss but hold closely in my heart the Frog Detective franchise, and I can’t wait to see what the team do next.
- Clever but simple humour and punchlines in its dialogue
- Colourful minimalistic world that is a joy and easy to manoeuvre
- Dan Golding is at it again with another fantastic soundtrack
- Neat and sweet ending to the franchise
- They went and added a ridable scooter
- The ending is predictable, even if that doesn't matter too much
Frog Detective 3: Corruption at Cowboy County is a sweet ending to the investigative series. Playable by all audiences, it’s a clever, humourous experience that plays with and parodies the adventure genre tropes incredibly well. Plenty of whimsical characters and interactions await thanks to the writing chops provided. This is further exemplified by true mood-setting in the colourful environments and masterful music work from Dan Golding. The final reveal may be a little predictable, but who cares? The series’ final chapter is closed ever so intricately and they even managed to add a ridable scooter. Farewell Frog Detective. I’ll miss you.