Rollercoaster Tycoon. That used to be one of my favorite games. I spent hours upon hours building a theme park, managing resources, building up a loyal base of customers, and creating cool rides for them to try out. The simple yet addictive mechanics of a resource management game are just flat out appealing to me, and while I’m aware that Funky Barn on the Wii U is aimed at a younger audience, I still wanted to give it a try.
If I could describe my experience with Funky Barn in one word, I’d use oversimplified. It’s certainly a good thing to make a game accessible, particularly when said game is meant to be played by kids, but even they will get bored when a game tells them exactly what to do without giving them any sort of freedom. Painfully, that’s what the game does. It strips away all the freedom you could have managing your own farm, leaving you with a tediously dull experience.
“It’s insipid, boring, and nearly broken.”
Ten minutes after I popped in the disc, I started seeing Funky Barn’s limitations. It’s just a never-ending tutorial! Your “instructor” tells you exactly what to do from the get-go. That’s actually useful at first, as I was glad I had someone explaining to me how to navigate the sometimes confusing and poorly designed menus, but by the time I got used to them, it got boring quickly. If I decided to take matters into my own hands, the game punished me. I quickly ran out of money and things became chaotic. Animals destroyed fences, valuable tools broke down, and I completely lost control of the farm!
Initially I thought the game was too hard. That was until I gave it another go, this time closely following the instructions. The problem I ran into the second time I played was that the game became way too easy. As soon as the instructor left me alone, the farm basically ran itself! I had nothing to do but pet animals using the clunky in-game rubbing mechanics. It was pretty inane stuff, even for young children. Where’s the middle ground then? How do I play the game with a comfortable and enjoyable difficulty level? Simply put, you can’t. You will either play by the rules or you don’t. You can’t even turn off the tutorial and, while following it, it only takes about an hour to get a perfectly autonomous farm on its feet. From there, the game becomes a repetitive bore that most will want to drop and never touch again. Of course kids will want to play with the animals once the farm is set up. Unfortunately, the only meaningful interaction you can have with them is a strangely poorly implemented feature that lets you rub them and fill up a happiness bar on the right side of the screen. The only problem is that there is no animation or reaction from the animal as you scratch up your Gamepad’s screen, making it particularly unsatisfying to do so.
The flaws don’t stop there, however. The game could have been an enjoyable distraction to pick up in a bargain bin, but it actually managed to become worse than the previous paragraph suggests. Aside from the obvious lack of depth and content, the game also lacks any sort of charm or personality that could separate it from something like Farmville - a game you can play for free on Facebook. It’s visually bland, unappealing, riddled with glitches, and clunky to control. Instead of taking advantage of the Gamepad’s touch controls, the game turns the feature into a disadvantage. Having to touch the edge of the touchscreen to navigate the area is a pain, and the spotty responsiveness makes things worse. On top of that, constantly having to switch between looking at the Gamepad and staring at the TV feels like an unnecessary chore, something I’d prefer to avoid.
On the positive side of things, Funky Barn does have a wide variety of things you can build, resulting in the possibility of designing farms in somewhat creative ways. Another positive is the inclusion of random events that can disrupt peace at your farm. By “random events” I mean tornadoes, poisonous mushroom infestations, and foxes. These at least succeed in spicing up the micromanagement you have to do to keep your animals safe.
If it was offered as a low-price downloadable title, Funky Barn would barely be worth your time. At a full retail price, the game is insulting. The targeted demographic often seems to become an excuse for developers to offer little content and oversimplified game mechanics, but any parent that wants to offer something their kids could enjoy on their brand new Wii U should think twice before investing in this title. It’s insipid, boring, and nearly broken. The Wii U has the perfect interface for this type of game, so it’s sad to see it had to start out this way.
Release date : 2012-11-18
Publisher : 505 Games
Developer : Tantalus
Gameplay : Family
Here we are. The next generation of consoles is among us and it is finally time to start thinking about finally unplugging our beloved current-gen systems. Could there be a better swan song for one of these systems than taking a trip back to Rapture?
Let’s face it: buying digital games is significantly more convenient than buying from a retail store. You don’t have to put pants on to go outside, nor do you even have to go outside. You don’t have to drive to the store, nor do you have to wait in line at said store. On top of that, the price is generally the exact same, if not more for the physical version.
Let’s face it: staying in just your underwear, FTW.
Despite the overwhelming advantages of buying digital, I still can’t fully commit to it. While I understand I am more in the minority with each day that goes by, I truly believe I have a legitimate case about buying physical copies of games.
In some sort of cosmic twist, I have seen the future. No, I didn’t find out where/when/why I’ll die, nor did I even find out what I’ll have for breakfast tomorrow (I hope it’s pancakes). But I assure you, I have seen the future.
The future of video games that is. I recently got to test out Morpheus - uh, I mean PlayStation VR - Sony’s answer to the ever-growing interest in virtual reality. Although the headset is currently far from completion, it’s also far from shotty.
Whether it’s a rainy day, a sickness, or some other reason not to go outside and enjoy the beautiful summer air, video games are the perfect way to spend your time - that is, if you can find a game to play. In terms of releases, summer generally isn’t the most fruitful of seasons, and this year is no different. So what games could/should you be sinking your teeth into during the dog days?