I cannot sum up my feelings on this game in a teaser sentence. There are darker forces here which decry such summary.
It’s almost down to a formula now. You have a CG talking animal movie, in this case Nickelodeon’s Barnyard, and what comes next? Easy. Licensed video games! And the quality of such material ranges from the absolutely atrocious to the effortful above average. Barnyard unfortunately belongs to the former.
I will get to the game itself in a minute, but first there are a few things that bother me about the movie/game’s concept. You won’t know this until you select your character (who you get to name because you aren't playing as anyone in the movie), but apparently every single cow has udders, even the bulls. Now, I now, you are probably rummaging through your animal anatomy textbooks as you read and finding out that, yes, this is impossible. The udder, by way of blasting out milk, is the main weapon in the game. I’m sure for the bull characters it is some sort of prosthetic udder with a suitable lactate-substitute, but you dear readers have something much cheekier in mind, no doubt. Gender-bending farm animals aside, the weirdness of the game’s concept is only just beginning.
First off, this farm that houses all of this livestock apparently does not have an owner. That is to say, there is no farmer. He shows up later, but only in the way of “oh dear, the farmer is unconscious." At no point do the animals talk to, or even about the farmer. He remains enigmatic and elusive, possibly due to the obvious whacked-out genetic testing he is involved in. Hermaphrodite cows must produce some tasty beef to go to all this trouble even to hide the farmer from the player, much less the outside world in the game.
Now, the idea of farm animals standing upright and conversing is strange enough. Yes, I understand that they only do this when humans aren’t around, and that is a premise of the movie. And when they stand, a cow such as Otis (the main character in the movie), would gain a considerable height advantage over a typical human. And several hogs on the farm, if big enough on four legs, would compare to the average height of a man as well. However, one of Otis’s friends is a ferret named Freddy. He is about as tall as Otis when he stands, which would make him the Ferret God. Seriously, I can just see him waiting for the right moment when no human is around to rapidly expand his matter to eleven times that of a normal ferret and continue his reign.
Somewhere in the plot of the movie, poor Otis’s father, Ben, another walking, talking bovine, dies at the hand of the local junkyard coyotes that roam the farmlands in search of bipedal livestock. They make quick work of the father, apparently, as their “attack" is depicted as a lubberly gait away from the dead cow lying on the ground. Not to be outdone, Otis buries his father that night and in the morning is already making somewhat of a mournful recovery. This is a sequence that lasts scant seconds in the game. To summarize:
*Scene of Ben’s Death*
1st second: Coyotes shamble away from Ben like there was a mild unpleasantness about him.
2nd second: Otis runs up and Insta-Mourns.
3rd second: Fade to black.
4th second through 6th second: Grave site of Ben with full procession of farm animals whose names are easily forgotten.
7th second: Fade to black.
8th second: Game resumes!
I’m sure Ben will live on in their hearts.
I think you’ll notice by now that I haven’t said much about the game itself. And that’s easy to explain. There isn’t much to discuss. The game is basically Animal Crossing without the community. You walk around the farm with your cow avatar and do errands for people and play mini-games. A few story events pop up here or there, and that’s it. Well sure, you do earn “Barnyard Bucks" to spend at the Gopher Underground (the store, basically) but by way of some glitch other unexplained phenomena, any purchase made there never actually registers in the game. For example, I bought several items to upgrade what is apparently an upgradeable room in the basement of the barn, yet they never actually materialized there, and I remain as yet unsure exactly where they are. They seemed to have disappeared into a black hole, never to be seen again.
The mini-games range from mildly amusing (the raccoon-tossing one in particular) to dreadfully boring and bad (the fruit sorting game will be a frequent nightmare for me, I am sure) and the overall quality is unfortunately tilted towards the latter. Nothing in this game is fun. I could prattle on about the laundry list of problems with this game (the graphics, the irritating, repetitive music, and just the general overall lack of substance in Barnyard), but I don’t think you would appreciate that very much.
You know, I think I’ll take this moment to ponder why I review these games. It could be to test my hypothesis on the correlation between the number of corporate logos on game startup and how terrible a licensed game is. Or, I could seriously be attempting to find those rare hidden gems that have either unwillingly been saddled with a license or actually attempt to expand said license in a meaningful way. But, in any case, I have to be prepared for the reality that my work is meaningless. The window for those whom my opinion would reach is quite narrow. Enthusiasts are already disinclined to purchase Barnyard, and thus would not need to read this review. Yet on the other hand, anybody who is inclined to get Barnyard for whatever reason most definitely does not read reviews about it. This is quite a conundrum. My only hope is that you, dear readers, are actual fans of my reviews. And if you are, I thank you. Seriously, you make writing these articles worthwhile.