A few retro gaming characters have already made it to the shelves as POPs, but Funko have now gone all-in on the concept with a Mystery Minis line. There are 16 iconic characters from yesteryear in the series, but only 12 “arcade cabinets” in a case. Apparently each character is packed 1/12, so there’s nothing outrageously rare – but the two boxes I saw at my local hobby store seemed to suggest that each case has a random mix of characters, as opposed to the preset layouts that some of the other Mystery Minis series use.
Funko has some great designers working for them, but the Mystery Minis boxes are not typically very exciting – some control art, a title and not much else. But they’ve really stepped things up for this series; each character is housed in a box shaped to look like an arcade cabinet based on the game they’re from. It’s a great touch, one indicative of the care that Funko has put into the line*. Sadly the box is just a little too big for another Mystery Mini to use as an arcade machine. Nonetheless, they look so cool that it’s very tempting to keep it and incorporate it into a wider display. It would be great to Funko do more like this on future/other Mystery Mini series.
In the original game there are multiple Froggers (Froggi?), but this one is specifically based on the image on the logo strip atop the cabinet. He’s depicted with a tie and a briefcase, presumably on his way home from work to see his wife and frogspawn. It’s stylised HD Frogger, rather than a literal attempt to render pixels in plastic. He’s pretty cute, though he does look a little dead-eyed – I suspect this is because they’ve given him a croaking, half-open mouth rather than the closed-but-smiling expression on the cabinet. But those of us working desk jobs can easily relate to feeling dead inside, so it’s oddly appropriate if you decide to use him as a desk ornament.
Of course, some of the coolness is undone by the sloppiness of the paint. This is disappointing, as the Mystery Minis have typically had better paintwork than their larger Funko POP companions. But for a $9.95AUD collectible, it’s adequate.
I was born in 1985, so Frogger had kind of already come and gone before I even arrived on planet Earth. But I am a staunch video game history buff, and you can’t look too far into the history of the medium before you run across Frogger. It’s easy to see why it was a hit – cutesy design, combined with easy-to-play but difficult-to-master controls are a winning combo in any era, but perhaps never more so in an era when gaming was filled with thinly veiled Pong and Pac-Man clones competing for kid’s coins. And in the years since its release, Frogger’s pop culture influence has outstripped plenty of its contemporaries. It was even a central plot point on an episode of Seinfeld** which brings with it a level of fame that few games can ever hope to reach.
I don’t intend to go too deep with this line, but Frogger’s cutesy design and iconic status made him a must-purchase for me. And there’s still plenty of iconic retro characters to be made, so here’s hoping we see at least a series 2 in the near future.
*Of course, I had to go and spill water on mine, didn't I?
**And here’s a thought for you – that episode of Seinfeld is now older than Frogger was when they first filmed it. Double retro!