Moove over chickens, this cow's coming home to the Barnyard. In this game inspired by Nickelodeon's 2006 movie, you take the role of "the new cow on the block," and must form alliances, accept challenges, take part in sporting events, and explore the environment that is the Barnyard. Customize your cow's spots, horns, and more to be a beautiful bovine, or a haggish heifer. Herd your cow through areas such as Walnut Woods, or Dankweed Pond, and experience changing game play and environment as the days pass down on the farm.
I grew up in the country, and spent many years on farms. Thanks to the new Nickelodeon movie Barnyard, I now know what goes on when no human is looking! In the computer-animated film, you get to see what happens on a farm full of rowdy and expressive animals when the farmer is away. In the THQ game of the same name, you now get to control what happens during that time!
Most games spawned from movies involve you reenacting the plot of the film. Here, however, you get free reign to explore and play games while just having down-home ... fun. It's kind of nice and refreshing to play in a more free-form mode and be able to steer the action in directions you want to take it. It's not an elaborate quest such as Zelda, but there is enough terrain to cover to keep you entertained for quite a bit of time. Along the way, you get to play some cute games, talk to loafing furry/feathered friends and generate silly stunts at your whim.
As part of the setup, I created a cow character and named him "Bud" (a tip of my hat to our modern day story-teller Bud Luckey). I then set my Bud loose on the farm. I talked to friends and fowl, while smashing objects and generating quiet chaos. I never knew there were so many goodies hidden in ordinary objects. There is nothing new to this form of smash-and-grab object gathering, but I don't think I have ever done it as a COW, before. I also had the chance to fill some milk jugs - which looks somewhat lewd from the player's perspective. My udders, in other parts of the game, can also be used as weapons. In some sequences, the white lead comes out in bullet-time, which is just ... strange. Take that, Rambo!
It is a game of games. There is not one sole way to play it. It has some high jinx, dancing, BMX and Golf. You know, the typical stuff you'd do if you were a farm animal with mischief in mind. If you want to get some goodies, take a crack at winning tokens from gophers (which run the black market in the film) in one of the many chances to step aside for a quickie game. That's one of the winning strengths of this title - the layers of mini games seamed with a chase-around exploration game. That gets lost in many games like this, but THQ manages to keep things clean and fresh with this model. There is a lot of depth; which lends a free feeling of space in which to wander. You can have your fun indoors or out. Within the barn, you can mix drinks or decorate. That, dear gamer, is diversity!
The movie's CGI is very nice. Likewise, the game takes many of the strengths of the film's look - and uses them here. Sharp lines and brilliant colors make things pop out and get your attention. There isn't the need to squint and try to figure out what (most) things are. Some of the non-moving accent objects are minimal, but that's an acceptable loss to ensure the playable objects are clean and clear. Nice skies and equally depicted bursts of dust. While you're talking to other animals, they blink and react more than I am used to seeing in such situations. They don't stand rigid like a prop or painted cardboard cutout.
I found the music to be somewhat annoying, which surprised me considering the movie's soundtrack stands out as fresh and "hip." That is the only time I felt like this game was unrelated to the movie. Instead of using material from the film to enhance the game, it is as if there was a separation in the teams. Otherwise, the environmental sounds were lively and well placed. No stray city noises or other such sloppy sound glitches. Some of the speech is rigid, but less so than when live action movies are made into games.
In a season where animated films are cranking out almost weekly, their games are coming in just as quickly. The majority of them poorly try to make you part of the movie and/or action, but Barnyard takes you in a different direction. While catching the spirit of the movie's anti-hero, Otis, you are able to explore and have his kind of fun - without the life-learning lesson at the end. It's just silly fun ... for fun's sake.
The mini games thrown around in the mix are easy to pick up and learn. There are many to choose from, so it helps that they don't each require a large learning curve. The game is simple to pick up and start playing by use of simplistic directives and cartoon diagrams. Some of the games are merely virtual versions of things you'd see at a carnival, but others are variations of things you may have already played on another game - now with a lovable animal twist to it.
It's sharp when it needs to be, but toned down to ensure it has as much substance as it does style. The game encompasses two CDs, so there's quite a bit of data to use.
The only barn in this package was the audio. My gripes are minimal, though. Unless you have seen the movie, you can't appreciate how different the game "sounds." The film has some large musical acts to move the story along. They accent the party-feel of the movie, but are MIA in the game. Still, it remains fun and quirky without those features. The rest of the sounds are nice and accurate. It's always a plus when chickens don't sound like broken accordions.
The game has some challenges that are beyond the abilities of a very small player - but it is not unfairly hard. The game takes on more layers of fun as you accomplish more missions, but some of the things offered are not game-enders. Some things are purely operational and you will not "lose" if you are unable to play them well. Taking off that kind of pressure enhances the game's fun factor - without making it a joke.
The elements and sub-games within this game are familiar and well-worn. But, there is enough cosmetic work to make them feel nice and give them a nice look - even if all you're playing is a glammed-up game of mini-golf.
It is inevitable to have a game follow the release of any animated movie. No other film genre has this kind of "given." Animated is usually geared towards kids, who are also the largest players of games. The trick is to create something that will offer something for the people that drive the cars (to the theaters) or lay out the plastic (credit cards in the game stores). If you get the kids - yet still manage to create something that others will like, you have a winning title. This game offers a lot of wholesome fraternity silliness. Slapstick humor mixed up with hip, crazy characters makes for some relaxed playtime with no pressure to beat the clock or otherwise kill yourself with insanely difficult quests. Once in a while, it's good to let yourself play something for the sake of having fun without a hitch. The pricing is very reasonable considering how many games within games this title offers. Just be an animal and let yourself go for a while. Just don't do when humans are watching. That's the only rule in the Barnyard!
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