Farm Frenzy Review – EE-I-EE-I-Okay
Although Alawar Entertainment has published a couple of titles on PSN, this, Farm Frenzy, is their first Mini. While you’ve probably never heard of them, they are a fairly big player in the casual game market (I actually own two of their games on PC). Indeed, in casual gaming, Farm Frenzy is a very large game franchise, with there being no fewer than 10 titles in the series, counting sequels and spin-offs, the latest being set in ancient Rome.
This is a port of the original game that started it all. It’s part of the “Time Management” genre, which can be anything from a building sim to basically an arcade game (taking cues from BurgerTime), where you run around doing things to keep your business going. In this case, a farm.
I live in a rural area. I know first-hand that farming is not fun. It’s a lot of hard, thankless, backbreaking work. Yet somehow when translated to a video game, people can’t seem to get enough of it. I wish I knew why. The cartoon animals?
You plant grass for your geese (the game is from Russia; I guess geese farms are more popular there than chicken farms). The geese eat the grass and lay eggs. You gather the eggs and either process them or sell them by sending them off in a little truck. This is all accomplished by simply moving the cursor around with the analog nub, then hitting the appropriate button (usually X).
The main problem you run into is bears (again, apparently showing its Russian origin). Every so often one will pop up and try to eat your geese. So you have to cage him up before he does so. When you do, you can send him off in your truck for some money, presumably for a life as a dancing bear in a Moscow bar.
At first, they only come one at a time. But, later on, they appear in waves, wreaking havoc on your poultry before you can cage them up. While I know first-hand bears can be a menace (the only one I’ve seen where I live ate one of my barn cats), it does get a bit ridiculous at times.
Early on in the game, you can only process the eggs into powder, but then later you can buy a bakery and turn the powdered eggs into cupcakes. I’ve never heard of goose egg cupcakes before, but little quirks like this are part of what makes casual games so charming.
It’s a constant cycle of things you must do, sort of like a juggling act. And as you get further into the game, you have to do more and more, though this is somewhat mitigated by buying upgrades to help you. Better truck, bigger storehouse, dogs to keep away the bears. And instead of just geese, you can raise sheep and cows and turn their by-products into other goods.
There seem to be about 45 different stages or levels. Each one has a certain goal to accomplish—produce so many eggs or cupcakes or certain food product, have so many geese, etc. You are given a medal based on how long you took. Every so often the farm layout changes a bit, though in practice, it doesn’t affect gameplay much, as the bears seem to only appear at the top of the screen.
The graphics and sound are quite cheerful, even when a bear eats one of your geese. It autosaves, and you can also save a level in progress. There are also meta-awards you can earn, like finishing X number of levels without having any animals killed by bears.
It’s cute, and it’s surprisingly fun. But at the same time, I think it comes up a bit short compared to other similar games we’ve seen, Supermarket Mania and the oddly named Stand O’ Food. But if you are sick of those, this is well worth a look.