Farm Frenzy Review
Posted by Zach Kaplan
Running a farm is hard work – there are animals to feed, goose eggs to collect and bears to capture and sell to market. Such is the setting of Farm Frenzy, an agricultural time and resource management adventure. But is this a prize pig or should it be put out to pasture?
The small, symbiotic playing field divides between animals, buildings and your well, storehouse and truck. Geese lay eggs, which go to the egg solid plant and become powder, which goes to the bakery to become a cake, with similar processes existing for sheep and cows. You can sell any product including in-between stages, placing them on a truck and waiting for it to go to town and return with your earnings. You can spend these on more animals, or on upgrades to your buildings to enable them to run more efficiently and handle more material at once. And, of course, bears will drop from the sky to throw your animals far away. Rapidly tapping to build a cage around them does the trick, and from there you can wait and allow the bear to flee or tap it once more to load it up on the truck and sell it for $100, at what must be the most terrifying market stand ever. You'll also have to ensure that grass grows by drawing water from your well and keeping it filled, lest your animals starve and die, and you can purchase cats and dogs to help you collect objects and take care of predators.
There are two modes, Career and Unlimited. The former has you progress from level to level, working with certain buildings and available upgrades to meet simple objectives. Doing so within a time limit earns you a silver or gold medal, which adds an extra layer of challenge. Unlimited mode places you within one continuous stage with access from the start to all buildings and potential for levelling up, giving you objectives that progress to the next when you complete them.
In Career Mode, one of the biggest difficulties you'll face is space management. Both the storehouse and truck have a limited capacity, and you'll soon learn that wool, milk and bears take up quite a lot of room. The truck also takes a bit of time getting to and from town, and to earn higher ratings you'll have to manage all of this wisely. You shouldn't have much trouble completing the 60-odd levels, but that's far more challenge than you'll experience in Unlimited. Before long in this mode you'll earn upgrades to your storehouse and truck, improving the space available and the speed at which your products are sold, so it's a cinch to keep up with funding. You don't have to worry nearly as much about what to sell, what to keep and what to abandon if it's not profitable enough to take up the space; these are some of the only factors that keep Career Mode interesting.
In fact, Unlimited is so easy that you will witness its limit within an hour of playing – at one point the game goes through three objectives repeatedly. Once you have enough livestock and funding to meet them all when they come, the game will cycle rapidly through them until you quit, which just comes off as shoddy programming. That's not to say that the moderate but extremely gradual challenge of Career Mode makes this game worth playing – with so few animals, so little to do with them and such uncreative level design, you'll grow weary of it all before long.
Earning medals and the 16 achievements on offer adds replay value, but the rest of the game is designed quite poorly in this regard. Finishing levels without achieving the gold or silver in Career Mode keeps no record of your best time or any acknowledgement that you've accomplished anything. Unlimited is guilty of the same crime, which becomes worse as this is purportedly geared toward racking up high scores. There are no leaderboards, as there's no way to end the game without simply returning to the main menu, erasing your progress and any record of it completely.
You'll do everything with the stylus, which has mixed results, often feeling somewhat unresponsive and inaccurate. The presentation is cartoony but bland, while stylus control problems are exacerbated by issues such as upgrade buttons that are too close to the buildings themselves, so that in trying to access them you're likely to accidentally spend your money on levelling them up instead. There are also very odd graphical blips, such as the word objectif floating around the top screen along with an inexplicable number during Unlimited Mode – we assume the former is supposed to say "Goal", as the two words overlap. Career Mode occurs on a completely unnecessary overworld map that represents the streets of a neighbourhood. Some paths lead to dead ends, leaving out any indication that you've completed them if you do so without earning a medal, as no further level opens as a reward. The non-linearity of this structure also leads to an uneven difficulty curve, though as mentioned earlier the challenge is minimal, for the most part. The music is decent but generic and repetitive, but the cartoony sound effects are a nice touch.
On a final note, capturing bears and selling them at market hints at the developers' quirky sense of humour. If they had allowed themselves more creative freedom, Farm Frenzy could have proven a much more interesting experience, but regrettably the game is otherwise largely devoid of personality.
Farm Frenzy is a bland time and resource management game with limited content and flawed execution. There are plenty of similar, better options on DSiWare, so try one of those instead or you'll end up udderly disappointed.