Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Funky Farm 2: Farm Fresh Review

Funky Farm 2: Farm Fresh, developed and published by Sortasoft.
The Good: Straightforward interface, significant budget strategy, variety of animals and actions, pleasingly chaotic in later games, quick games reduce tedium
The Not So Good: Accessories carry no gameplay impact, extraneous untimed mode
What say you? A slick combination of click- and money-management: 7/8

As technology has increased, the agricultural industry has seen a decline in popularity. It used to be that everyone worked on a farm (as least that’s what Green Acres taught me), but now the wide open pastures are becoming more of a novelty than a reliable way of life. Personally, farming is too hard and too dirty (please insert your own joke here) for my tastes. It would be a whole lot easier if a computer did all the work for me, and all I had to do was click the mouse. Coincidentally, that’s exactly the premise of Funky Farm 2: Farm Fresh: it’s like I knew that before I started writing the introduction (weird, I know!)! This sequel is even funkier (probably because of the smell) and farmier than before, although since I didn’t actually play the original, I’m just surmising. In either case, I have to blame that smell on something.

Funky Farm 2: Farm Fresh features 2-D graphics, but they are well-designed and evoke a positive setting. Honestly, doing a game in this genre would be difficult in all three dimensions, so I have absolutely no problem with the presentation. The animals have distinctive models, although they can be difficult to spot when things become crowded. The world is animated enough to seem alive; even though the game elements are very obviously 2-D sprites, Funky Farm 2 does have a nice cartoon feel to it overall. The game does have some very informative visual cues when animals are hungry or ready to “process,” which makes playing the game that much easier. The resolution is fixed (at 1024x768), which can be windowed on higher-resolution monitors, and things can get quite small and require some squinting if you choose this route. As for the sound design, we get the basic notification effects and some background music that is not annoying (always a plus). The animal sounds are actually sporadic; I suppose this was a positive design decision, as too much ruckus would probably turn irritating quickly. Overall, I was pleased but not amazed by Funky Farm 2: exactly what you would expect for a budget-level casual game.

Funky Farm 2: Farm Fresh features a funky farm (which may or may not be fresh) where you must earn a specified amount of cash each day by maintaining animals. There is a thirty level campaign that progressively unlocks new items or bonuses along the way. You can choose from several missions at a time, aiming for the bonuses that will help you more in future missions. The thirty levels go by quickly, thanks to the quick time limits (which is actually a benefit), and Funky Farm 2 can be completed in a good day or two of solid play. After you are done, you are left with an untimed mode that simply lets you play forever: not an exciting feature. Funky Farm 2 does not contain any additional game modes, including multiplayer or any kind (some competitive multiplayer would be cool, or having one player as the wolves snatching animals). The amount of content is comparable to most casual games, though.

Gameplay basically consists of three actions: placing animals, placing food for those animals, and then harvesting them. All of these actions are done with icons that slowly scroll across the bottom of the screen; they are presented in a randomized order, which increases apprehension while playing (where is that darn pig?). Funky Farm 2 comes with eleven animals (and one crop): more than enough to crowd the screen and keep you busy. In addition to the harvesting items, there are “special powers” like VCR controls to speed up or slow down the scrolling items, fences to keep animals segregated, incubators for eggs, feeding troughs, and wolf repellant (plus others). Most animals come with several options to make money: cows, for example, can be milked for a small amount of cash, or killed for a big profit. Usually, an animal’s value increases over time as they eat, so it pays to wait until near the end of the day before slaughtering everyone. Of course, you will probably not have enough cleavers to go around then. At the end of the day, surviving animals can be lassoed into the corral for a money bonus. The profit you earn past the day’s goal can be invested into accessories you can dress your animals with (hats, shoes, wigs, et cetera). While this certainly does make your farm funky, there is absolutely no reason to do this; it would be nice if they had a strategic benefit (such as killing animals with accessories netted less money).

Each level of Funky Farm 2 lasts just the right amount of time, giving you enough time to meet your goal while not letting the game become tedious. A common problem with casual games is repetition, but Funky Farm 2 gives you just enough to keep you constantly busy during the short games, so repetition is kept at a minimum here. There is an interesting amount of strategy with Funky Farm 2, far beyond the typical click-management game. How many animals do you need? When should you kill them? How many should you kill (too little means it's harder to lasso them all at night time)? Which animals make the most money? The game seems to be pretty well balanced, with animals that make a large profit (cows), those that require constant supervision (pigs), and those that just mind their own business (chickens). Luckily, keeping animals fed is an easy chore assuming you have the icons available: the AI is smart enough to find food within close proximity. While the difficulty of Funky Farm 2 does increase as you progress through the campaign, it never becomes too difficult, although I always welcome adjustable difficulty options that Funky Farm 2 lacks. The bottom line is that Funky Farm 2 is far more interesting than your typical click-management game thanks to increased strategy.

Funky Farm 2: Farm Fresh is more than a simple click management game: the budgetary concerns elevate it to a higher status in the genre. The click-only interface makes the game perfect for novices and the game includes a wide variety of animals and tools to use. As more content becomes unlocked, the game becomes more chaotic (in a good way) and an overall strategy is a must in order to succeed without becoming overwhelmed. Watching your money and reaching your goal takes some planning and skill, beyond simple reflexes required by most click-management games, and this is what separates Funky Farm 2 from the rest. The quick game time makes the title less tedious (that’s good!), but also makes the campaign short (that’s bad!). The lack of meaningful content beyond the campaign (multiplayer, for example) makes the short nature of Funky Farm 2 a little more painful. Making your farm funky is fun, but I’d like the accessories to actually mean something instead of being eye candy (putting heels on a cow: priceless). In the end, people looking for something beyond a basic click-management game should check out Funky Farm 2.