Game review: Farm Frenzy

12 Jul

Didn’t I say I would eventually review this game? Like, a year ago or something?

Well, better late than never I guess…

The thing is, although it’s been released quite a while back, Farm Frenzy still is one of the best casual/time management games out there, in my humble opinion.

I’m a pretty seasoned gamer, and I have either completed, or at least sampled many a time management game out there, and to be quite honest, at this point, I find the large majority of them to be either repetitive (like Diner Dash, which was dead fun at the start, until I figured out the never-changing strategy which allowed me to beat all the levels in expert mode), too easy to complete (like Flower Shop: Big City Break), or, more often than not, both (like Fab Fashion, or Babysitting Mania).

Farm Frenzy turned out to be one of the most challenging and addictive time management (which we shall call TM from now on) games out there.

The thing about Farm Frenzy (which we shall call FF from now on), is that each level throws you off; the strategy needed to beat level 2 is different from the strategy needed to beat level 1, and so on. That way, the game doesn’t get boring.

It needs to be said that FF has been designed to appeal to children, as well as adults; the graphics (not that I’m a specialist or anything), are cute, but naive. Geese, sheep and cows, as well as cats, dogs and bears are totally expressionless. The instructions also border on childish sometimes (see the: “This is a cat” bit. I could have figured it out by myself, and so could a 6-year-old. But here, I’m really just whining for the sake of whining, because these are about the only negatives I can come up with, if you even want to call them negatives, and they really aren’t a hindrance to the game playing.)

FF is in fact pretty damn awesome and addictive as hell. It doesn’t become repetitive, and definitely has the replayability factor.

In fact, now that I (finally) have a new computer (since Moonshine, my old one decided to give me a final finger before dying before my very eyes on a crappy Saturday afternoon, a few months ago… But that’s another story, which you can read somewhere else on this very blog, not that I personally recommend it, but anyway…)

Where was I again? Ah, yeah, the new computer, aptly named The Big Black Box… The one problem I previously had with FF, is that the game kinda ran slow on certain levels, on Moonshine; on some levels, you have quite a few animals, and on those levels, my machine was running infuriatingly slowly. So a few weeks after I got the new computer, I decided to give FF a shot again, and at the same time, check if it would run okay on the Big Black Box.

First of all it did.

Second of all, I hadn’t played the game for a few months, and I ended up finding it as challenging and fun as the first time around; even moreso, since there were no slow-downs on my new machine.

Unlike most casual games, there is no back story in FF; no evil corporate guy trying to run your little diner business to the ground, no office romance, no young lady moving away to help out with her grandparents’ flailing bakeries, nope, none of that.

And seriously, who cares. The only game in which I thought the backstory actually added to the game, and even directly related to it, was Miss Management. But that is one special game. It also is one tough game (one of the very few I didn’t complete in expert mode, and that is saying quite a lot about its difficulty level).

 

But back to FF, it starts off very easy.

You have geese, geese produce eggs. You’re following so far? Yes? Good. Then you have sheep, which produce wool, in case you’re an ignoramus who lives under a rock. Then, you have cows, which produce milk, and if you didn’t know that, then you’re an idiot who should get an education instead of playing games.

The goods produced by the animals can then be sold, generating moolah.

But that doesn’t stop here; then, you have buildings, which sometimes are present when the level starts, or that other times, you’ll need to purchase. The buildings process the goods, raising their value; for instance, if you sell an egg to the market, it will give you 10 shiny golden coins. However, if you process it in the milk solids building, then you’ll get… well, milk solids (apologies for my lack of vocabulary; I am, after all, French, so can it, OK?) Then, you can subsequently sell your milk solids for 20 shiny golden coins (which we shall from now on call “$”).

But wait, there’s more… You can also purchase another building, a bakery, in which you can process your milk solids, turning them into cupcakes, which you can then sell for 80$ each, and now, we’re in business.

Same goes for sheep: you can buy a spinnery, which will turn your wool into thread, which you can then process in the weaving mill, giving you bundles of cloth (looking strangely like razorblades for some reason, go figure), which you can flog for like, 800$ a pop.

As for the cows, this is where the big money is: 1000$ for a milk, which you can process into butter, which will sell at 2000$ a piece (expensive, I know, but you should know by now that food prices are increasing, and if you don’t, then you should be watching the news instead of playing stupid videogames.)

 

Anywho, for each level of FF, you have a goal to achive in a given amount of time. Actually, make that two given amounts of time: if you accomplish your goal in the shortest given amount of time, you get a nice shiny gold medal, which in most games translates as “expert level”. The second shortest amount will give you a silver medal. However, as long as you achieve your goal, even if it takes you the same amount of time than it takes me to travel from Montreal to Toronto (not that I would want to go there, but still), then you get to move on to the next level regardless.

The really cool thing which saves FF to be yet just another dash game, is that your goals always vary from level to level. For instance, on level 1, your goal may be to raise 20000$ in 3.30 minutes. On level 2, you may have to collect 30 eggs and 15 cupcakes in 2.40 minutes. Level 3 may ask you to collect 30 cupcakes, 30 bundles of cloths, and 2 cheeses in 9 minutes.

As you see, the goals, their number, and the amount of time given to you to achieve them always vary, keeping each level fresh, and forcing you to come up with a new strategy everytime, keeping you thinking and on your toes. And the seasoned casual gamer that I am, in spite of having already played that game a buch of times before, still had to replay certain levels quite a few times in order to earn that coveted shiny gold medal. So yeah, at first glance, it may look like a kiddie’s game, but give it a shot, and then you can email me your congratulations for actually completing this bastard in expert mode. FF is way more difficult than it’s naive graphics and equally naive tutorials make it appear; in fact, it’s safe to say that it’s pretty damn hard sometimes.

 

You get some really tricky levels, which are not about speed, but about doing things in a certain order, if you want that gold medal. I think everyone who’s played this game remembers the evil: “one milk in 1.40” level. I’ll be honest, I cheated on that one, but I won’t tell you (yet) where I got my tip from. You Google it, or better, you figure it out, then you can email me to call me a loser for not finding the solution by myself.

Another thing that keeps FF from becoming monotonous (not that it would otherwise be, quite certainly) is that the amount of time given to you to complete each level with gold varies a lot, like from 45 seconds to 40 minutes a lot. That’s quite a lot… However, it’s only on the last level that you are given 40 minutes to complete the level with gold; the others will take you from 45 seconds to about 10 minutes.

However, you may want to be aware that there are two versions of FF out there: one which is good, and the other one which sucks, and it sucks because in spite of still being good, there are two features that are really annoying:

-When you mess up at the start or in the middle of a level, you don’t have the “restart level” option available, which is a pain in the ass, because it forces you to everytime go back to the main menu, then select play, then say “no” when you’re asked if you want to resume your paused game, which you will inevitably answer “yes” to, once in a while, bringing you back to the main menu again, and need I go on…

-The biggest inconvenient, is that the second version does not allow you to win the last level with gold, nor silver for that matter, since it only gives you respectively 20 and 25 minutes to complete your goal, which is totally impossible, and you’re better trust me on that one, because I’ve tried and tried, and tried again before Gooling “WTF with the last level?” And then I tried again.

So basically, what I’m saying, is go with the first version, the one without bugs and which you can actually win. I downloaded mine from Gamehouse and it’s fine, but I’m pretty sure the version from Big Fish is alright, and I’ve played previously on the Reflexive version, which was also OK, although I read some comments from someone who was complaining that the Reflexive game ran slow on their computer. Now, whether it was the computer or the actual game, go figure.

 

Obviously, animals need to be fed to be kept alive, and on that point, the virtual ones are just like the real ones: when they’re hungry, they’ll start whining, following you around and trying to trip you on your way to the bathroom, but… Oh wait, my cat does that, but the FF animals don’t; they just make a lot of racket when you neglect them, which can be really annoying at the times when you’re rushing to collect your goods (goods will start flashing, and then will disappear after a few seconds if you don’t collect them). However, annoying, yes it is, but it adds to the gameplay in that it stresses you out, and why would we play time management games if it wasn’t to get somewhat stressed out, huh?

FF can get hectic at times, but it balances hectic levels with more strategic ones in a very clever fashion.

 

You also have other animals on your farm: bears will try to eat your farm animals, so you will have to encage them by clicking on them a number of times. Bears can be sold for 100$ a pop, which can be handy at the beginning of a level, if you need some cash to start off, and don’t have many animals or goods yet. However, bears take a lot of space in your limited storage area (which you can upgrade, I’ll get to that in a minute), preventing you from storing pricier goods.

You also have cats and dogs: dogs will keep bears at bay (sort of, because your farm animals are pretty thick, and will sometimes venture right into a bear’s grip, even if said bear is surrounded by four dogs, keeping it from moving around).

Cats will collect goods for you, or some goods at least; which is still very handy on the levels where you have to collect/produce a lot of goods, and have lots of animals on the screen, which will sometimes mask the goods to you.

You also have the shop. In the shop, you will have to purchase mandatory upgrades for your buildings. For instance, on the levels where you have to purchase your processing buildings, when you first buy a building, it will only process one good at the time (it will take in one egg, and give you one milk solid). If you upgrade it, it will cost you, but will process two eggs at the time, giving you two milk solids, and so on.

You can also purchase other optional upgrades in the shop, but in the end, they will prove necessary: like for instance, to feed the animals their favourite food, grass (not pot, you stonehead, just boring old grassy grass), you must fill your well, and then water the ground where the animals roam in order to produce grass. After five clicks, the well will be empty, and you will have to click on it to refill it, costing you each time a bunch of $, which can sometimes leave you short of a few coins in order to buy an animal or a building.

If you don’t feed your animals, they will die in a very non-dramatic, kiddie-friendly manner: they’ll just vanish with a wheezing sound, not too trauma-inducing.

Among the other optional upgrades, you can also purchase a better cage to trap bears in (meaning you have to click less times on a bear to trap it, which is tremendously useful).

You can also upgrade your storage space, increasing it, as well as the car that you use to transport your goods to the market to sell them, allowing you to transport more stuff on a trip.

 

So basically, I can only recommend Farm Frenzy, and rather strongly too. It’s a very good mix of the simulation and diner types, it keeps you on your toes, it has replayability. Its positive aspects more than make up for it for its few and far between negative ones. On that topic, I could perhaps mention the levels’ map. The map screen is cute, the levels’ trail snaking around colourful little houses; however, they aren’t numbered (the levels I mean.) So if you want to replay a level in particular, which you will want to do in order to get all the awards (I’ll get to this in a sec’), you’ll have trouble finding it again, unless you took notes or something.

Just like pretty much every casual game out there, FF has an awards room; you’ll get awards for buying 100 animals, earning 100 000$, capturing 50 bears, completing all the levels with gold and stuff like that, but in order to get some of the awards, you will have to replay certain levels, For example, you’ll get an award for having 7 bears at once on your screen, and for that, you’ll need lots of dogs, meaning finding a level where you start off with either lots of money, or lots of dogs, and there are only a couple of each, so good luck finding them with unumbered levels.

Personally, I don’t care, since I didn’t bother trying to get all the awards; all I wanted was to complete the game with gold on all the levels, and I can say that I accomplished that mission, and I had a lot of fun doing it, although the fun came with a fair bit of frustration and plenty of swearing. Which is totally the way it should be!

So yeah, I give FF thumbs up, high marks, a standing ovation, and a lot of credit for keeping blasé little me well interested and entertained and annoyed and cussing all the way through. Definately give it a shot, you can download a one hour trial version for free on many many gaming websites.

Happy farming!!! 🙂

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