Get ready to ignore that “For Ages 5 and Up" tag.
While Grand Theft Auto’s go-anywhere, do-anything gameplay certainly has a lot of appeal, its gritty subject matter prevents it from making strides in the younger market. However, with the release of Barnyard for the Wii, kids will be able to enjoy a watered down replica of GTA’s concept via a male cow (like, with udders) and a farm full of whacky animals that all walk and talk like humans.
At the beginning, players will be able to pick their cow type, afterwards being dropped on the farm and introduced to the prominent citizens, who’ll show you the ropes and equip you with your cell phone. Whenever your phone rings, it’ll be time to take on a new objective. Instead of sniping down rival gang members and sleeping with hookers, you’ll be making sure all the chicks get back to their mother before bed time, or stealthily spraying your own milk all over your peers (which is its own specific flavor of debauchery, if you ask me). Missions will vary based on the time of day, which is in a constant cycle.
By completing tasks, you’ll collect coins, which can then be used at the Gopher Shop to buy furniture or other furnishings for the nightclub you frequent. When the day in the game’s story changes, you’ll find all-new areas and objectives to play through. For a kid’s game, there’s actually a surprising amount of content to be found. My only real complaint here is that it’s staggeringly easy, but considering it’s a title aimed at children, that’s not a big deal.
The controls are also a pleasant surprise. You move around with the analog stick, but the camera is based completely around the Wiimote. If you move your reticule within a certain, invisible diameter, you can aim (for things like the aforementioned milk-squirting), but by moving it outside this circle, you’re able to turn around. Everything comes together pretty well, especially considering that lots of mini-games (like whack-a-mole), are perfectly suited to motion control.
As far as presentation goes, Barnyard is a mixed bag. There are a few lighting affects added to make the game look better, but the graphics are still pretty simple and don’t look much better than THQ’s efforts on the GameCube. However, the soundtrack is great if you like banjos and/or hoe-downs, and the voice acting isn’t too bad either.
At the end of the day, Barnyard is a great game for the little one in your life, and you might have some fun with it, too. While the kid-friendly themes and mediocre graphics might be a bit of a turn-off, it’s still worth at least a rental if you need to get your sandbox fix.