By: Jess Castro
Six years after the launch of the Nintendo Wii, I found myself once again putting aside my skepticism and decided to give the Big N my money – I took a chance and picked up the Wii U. Titles have been as plentiful as I’d like, but there have been some standouts. This week, though, we’re traveling back to the launch window and putting 505 Games’ Funky Barn, a farming extravaganza of bubble-eyed animals and crazy gadgets, to the test.
Much like any perky farm simulator you’ve ever played, Funky Barn lets you live out the dream of a simple and earnest farm life without all the backbreaking labor or heavy manure smells. Just like in real life, you’ll start off with a baby chick, a plot of land, a small budget and a pipe dream of being the best damn farmer you can be. You’ll be interacting with animals and objects via cursor and trigger buttons on the gamepad as well as menu navigating with the touch screen. In Funky Barn‘s circle of life, you essentially feed the animals and plants, maintenance them to keep them happy and healthy, protect them from natural disasters, and then reap the rewards of your hard work. Chickens lay eggs, sheep grow wool, cows give milk and trees drop apples as long as you keep doing your job right.
Interaction with the farm is functional as animals are easy to pick up and move around and the menus are intuitive enough, but control wise, this barn doesn’t shine. There’s definitely missed opportunities with animal interaction seeing as how the touchscreen is limited to merely petting your animals. If you were able to actually perform tasks like milk cows or sheer sheep with a mixture of motion and touchscreen via the Wii U’s gamepad, this would make it more like… oh, I don’t know… a Wii U game. Instead, Funky Barn plays like a mobile or 3DS title that does little to showcase the system’s potential.
Speaking of not showcasing potential, Funky Barn doesn’t aim to do anything spectacular on the Wii U. It’s certainly cute enough, with adorable critters and creative gadgets that eventually fill the screen with a funky farm life. But the models, music and sound effects are passable at best, and the presentation is extremely minimalist. It’s obvious this is a low budget title, and it’s perfectly acceptable for a lower priced indie download. However, that this is placed in the price range with other retail titles is rather disappointing.
To be fair, Funky Barn doesn’t need to blow you away in the aesthetics – it just needs to be a fun, hypnotic multitasking affair. For the most part, it succeeds in this, starting off at a simple slow pace that you set for yourself. You click and drag eggs to a machine and maybe pet your chicken every once in a while. You buy a food pen and a coup within a few virtual days, and you’re already feeling like Farmer Steve. Once you master the harvesting of one type of animal or plant, you add as much as your budget allows you to. The more cash you make, the bigger your farm grows and the bigger the farm, the larger the chaos and fun.
Alright, Farmer Steve, let’s pick up those eggs while they’re fresh and don’t forget to build a water trough for those thirsty sheep, but, oh no, your chickens are spooking your cows and watch out! UFOs are stealing your alpacas and a twister ruined your fences! Now all your animals are roaming around going feral – they hate you and each other, life sucks and you wish you stayed in the city and never inherited this barn of funk from your gap-toothed hairy uncle. Damn it, Farmer Steve, no! Mama ain’t raise no quitter, so you pick yourself up and get back to building Purdue Farm quality real estate out of the three farm stages available.
Funky Barn is extremely manageable amidst the healthy amount of tasks given to you seeing as how simple they are. Even the most novice of gamers can plow through all of its offerings in about six hours, especially when there are gadgets that do all of the work for you. There were points of the game where I really just had to sit back and watch my farm operate on its own. Once again, it’s a fun little title, but it’s hampered by the missed opportunities stated in the control department; the game doesn’t take advantage of the ability to play independently on the gamepad, either. Since it’s not using the split screen to its advantage, why not tote one of the system’s niftiest features?
Wii U naysayers have ammunition with titles like Funky Barn. It doesn’t show graphical prowess and the gamepad is not utilized properly, making this a forgettable title. If this was on the Nintendo Wii U eShop for a few bucks, I’d be more gung-ho about it, but this is a retail title. It’s a cute bit of fun but certainly not for the price tag.