One of the most important aspects of a video game is fun gameplay, and that's what developer Dancing Dots delivers with their budget DSiWare debut QuickPick Farmer. It's a simple, accessible and original experience that will hook you and carry you away like so much wool.
The goal is to drag set quantities of differently styled sheep into corresponding lorries, then to fire balls of collected fleece into a barn above or at the prowling wolf who stalks the flock. There are two modes of play, 30 Days and Nonstop, the delineation of which should be obvious – one is split up into separate stages while the other is continuous. The game is controlled entirely with the stylus, and it feels accurate and fun - click and drag the lambs around and then pull back on the fur balls, releasing your hold to launch them.
While it seems like separating sheep by appearance should be a task without challenge, there's actually quite an array of alternately simple and devious sets milling about. While black sheep and white sheep with black faces are easy to find, it's tougher to pick between those sheared completely at one end versus the other, or those with white atop their heads versus bald-scalped animals. When things get more hectic it can be an especially trying task – as the game continues, they'll dash about faster, hiding behind other sheep that you'll have to drag out of the way if you can spot them in time. Stupid sheep! Don't you want to be saved?!
Speaking of which, they really do feel like a flock of dumb farm animals, and this ridiculous charm definitely adds to the game's entertainment value and ease of immersion. When you pick up a sheep, its surrounding friends skittishly scatter. They'll also spend a lot of time bleating and bahh-ing, which can add an extra challenge when you're trying to identify their faces and all that you can see are their noise-making mouths (though you can pick them up at random to see their scalps when this happens). It's also weirdly delightful to hear this idiotic, near-constant sound. Rather than getting annoying, it remains amusing throughout the experience. The rest of the presentation is similarly cartoony and amusing, from the silly soundtrack to the way the prowling enemy sneaks from bush to bush, and it altogether presents an entertaining and appealing package – even if that wolf does look disturbingly emaciated and out of breath at times.
The game's most challenging aspect is judging whether to launch your load into the barn for a higher score or to use it against the lupine terror who descends from above. Will you wait until your shot lines up and knock him back a spot or try to maximize your score? Are you being overprotective by overdoing the former, or are you being greedy with the latter? In 30 Days, the canine creeper will always appear in the spot at which he stood at the previous level's conclusion, so it's a continuous process from one day to the next. This also means that both modes are a bit too similar, which can limit replay value somewhat. Through it all, however, it's a ton of fun. You can begin to feel quite frantic as the clock runs out, your ability to find the right fleece becoming all the more dire, watching the wolfy menace walk all day, waiting for an opening in the grass to a field full of steam-heat and sheared sheep.
The difficulty slope feels particularly fair, starting out slowly but without dwelling too long on the easier parts. One of the game's downsides is that you aren't allowed to begin at a more challenging level, which might give you pause before beginning another game. Another flaw is the inability to save, which is even more problematic given how long a match can get if you learn well and become skilled enough. However, you are able to input your initials into a high score list for both modes, justifying all of that point hunting.
This is a very fun, charming and challenging release that's easy to pick up and hard to put down. While the inability to save mid-match or begin at a higher difficulty level are definite downsides, they're small flaws, though not small enough to keep them from slightly decreasing the replay value. Still, at 200 points, this simple yet original title is a steal. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it'll still show you a good time.