Crazy Frog Racer 3 When Crazy Frog Racer 3D slid through the letterbox at Pocket Gamer Towers, something surprising happened, or rather didn't happen. Against all expectations, nobody swallowed their cyanide pills.
Later, during an emergency meeting to discuss the practicalities of whole-team residential psychiatric care (since the failure of our pact was clear evidence of insanity), it struck me: Crazy Frog has finally worn us down.
The 'nding-nding' noise and the tedious sprite some twerp conceived to gibber it was torturous for a while, but, like mothers who carry on conversations in restaurants while their children scream at the next table, we've finally become impervious.
If you're not quite there yet, Crazy Frog Racer 3D might just win you round a little, not because it's a great game, but because it makes a serious effort, and self-knowingly refers to its own central character as 'the annoying one,' as though atoning.
A product of the Mario Kart template, this game sees you racing against seven cartoon opponents on tracks littered with power-ups. It's incredibly formulaic and part of the most consistently disappointing sub-genre on mobile, but Crazy Frog Racer 3D manages to stay afloat in the poisoned chalice of cart racing nevertheless.
How? Well, partly through looking good. Not only are the menu screens polished and visually impressive, with each of the eight characters rotating in polygonal glory when you go to check their stats, but the racing itself takes place in a fully 3D environment, with crisp backdrops pinned to the far distance.
Looks aren't everything, though – particularly not when you're a frog – and Crazy Frog Racer 3D acquits itself just as well in the substance department as it does the style.
There are four game modes in all, with Single Race and Way of the Frog available from the outset, and another two – Ultimate Challenge and Crazy Story – available once you've completed the career mode. There's even an online high-score table.
Behind the wheel, the steering is smooth and fluid. You auto-accelerate by default, of course, and the car handles with satisfying heft. Different characters have different attributes, meanwhile, so that taking 'the annoying one' for a spin is palpably different from going for a drive with Ellie, who has a fair top speed but crumples much sooner than some of her counterparts.
On which subject, Crazy Frog Racer 3D is one of the few cart racing games in which taking knocks actually reduces your health to the point that you can 'die', and along the spectrum from robustness to death your speed is tied up with your condition, so that being low on health actually slows you down.
The problem is, for all that the game is packed with detail and bulging polygons, the actual racing just isn't very good. To take one example, crashing into an opponent (or, even worse, having an opponent crash into you from behind) brings your car to a complete stop, after which it takes you several long seconds to get back up to speed.
The AI drivers are subject to the same rules, so there's no real competitive disadvantage to these abrupt and unforgiving stalls, but it's nevertheless an ill-conceived mechanic that takes far more away in freewheeling thrills than it gives back in perfectionist tension.
Progress around the track is extremely sluggish, and while it's possible to cite handset limitations as the reason, more impressive 3D visuals have featured in mobile racers before, and with perfectly serviceable results. Although you can take your driver up to 168 kph-odd, it never really feels like more than 50, and when you factor in that the acceleration is creaky and damage reduces your top speed, Crazy Frog Racer 3D is appallingly slow.
But it tries. This isn't a great game, but nor is it loathsome or cynical. It's immediately obvious that a lot of work has gone into rendering its flashy 3D models and environments, and there's no shortage of races to work your way through. In short, it's a proper game with problems, rather than the unctuous vehicle you might have been expecting.
Of course, this won't be the title to turn you all from frog-haters to frog-kissers, but it may just persuade you, after all this time, to find another use for your cyanide pills. For Crazy Frog, this is a major step in the right direction.