There are always certain games that hit at the launch of a new system that fly completely under the radar. Funky Barn is definitely one of those. Coming from developer Tantalus Media and publisher 505 Games, this cute little farm simulation tries to fill the Harvest Moon void on the system from Day One. The important question, though, is whether or not it is worth the £39.99 or not.
Starting its Nintendo life out on the Nintendo 3DS under the Ubisoft label back in September 2012, Funky Barn comes from the company formerly known as Tantalus Interactive, now going by the name of Tantalus Media. The Australian outfit is renowned for its porting of games to other formats, with Top Gear Rally on Game Boy Advance being one of the highlights, and one of the most recent being Mass Effect 3 for Wii U. It also develops certain games along the way, such as the massive hit that was Pony Friends on Nintendo DS. Now the team has updated its intriguing little 3DS game, Funky Barn 3D, for Wii U.
Dropping the '3D' part, Funky Barn puts the player in the role of a farmer starting afresh on one of three increasingly difficult farmlands, with the aim being to earn enough coin to expand considerably, bringing all sorts of animals and items to the fore and become a farming legend. This is hardly the Harvest Moon people may expect it to be, though, and neither is it particularly 'funky' in all honesty. What is on offer is quite a quaint experience, with the whole mixture of touch screen or button control play working extremely well, but everything else falls well and truly into middling territory on the whole.
Raise a wide variety of animals, keeping each type separated by purchasing fencing to maintain the peace (chickens are scared of sheep, for example), offer food and water troughs, ensuring they are regular refilled and eventually developed into large versions for when the in-game stalk bestows you with more and more livestock, and keep selling goods to bring in extra money, or even trade with local farmers to instigate more growth. Every action helps towards levelling up the current farm and increasing amounts of options open up the higher the level becomes -- but beware any natural disasters and pests that threaten to destroy the harmony. Manage that money wisely!
Whilst moving around the map, either by dragging the stylus on the GamePad or using the analogue sticks in tandem, there is also a hand icon that can be independently moved in order to grab items, animals or anything else that can be uprooted and placed elsewhere. The general interface works very well indeed. There is also the chance to use the GamePad as a nintendogs-esque animal caring tool, stroking animals that are unhappy to bring a little cheer into their lives, as well as customise them to your heart's desire. It all starts off surprisingly well -- apart from the lacklustre visuals and forgettable soundtrack -- and Funky Barn for a time shines, before falling back into that 'mediocre zone.'
After introducing the controls and options to the player, allowing them to become familiar with tending to animal needs by watching their thought bubbles to provide food, water, and even trees/plants to make the farm more appealing to them, in come the elements that remove the fun. It is not long before many automated processes can be brought in to allow prospective farmers to sit back and let things develop without much leg work. Milking cows, shearing sheep, collecting chicken eggs; all activities are fun to play around with, so when that aspect is removed the whole thing becomes rather hollow.
There are the SimCity-like parts that still grab the attention slightly, placing structures or vegetation around and taking pleasure in watching how development occurs as time passes and how animals react to the changes made. Additionally, zooming in for closer inspection and scouring the land also brings about hidden secrets. Funky Barn is by no means a complete disaster, but it hardly screams 'Buy Me Now!' at the launch of Nintendo's fancy new home console. Had it been a £9.99 eShop download, for instance, it would be easier to recommend. As it is, however, the asking price is just too high to justify buying it.
There are plenty of positives to take away from this, such as the ease of control and the range of options to play around with during the challenge of looking after the farm. Sadly a lot of the fun is removed by options that open up quite early on, taking away the manual work. There is also a distinct feeling of a lack of purpose to proceedings after a certain amount of time.
For the most part Funky Barn looks pretty smart for a first time effort on Wii U. Saying that, though, it is highly apparent that it was not exactly built from the ground-up, making full use of the hardware's power. At times it could pass for an early GameCube title.
Rather forgettable background music, along with some extremely annoying sound effects that threaten to ruin the whole experience.
With three farms to play around with and challenges to tackle that pit players against the clock to prove how good their management skills are, Funky Barn is not too bad in terms of length. However, it certainly does not warrant its retail price-tag of £39.99, or even the £32.99 that places such as Amazon have it listed at. This should have definitely been an eShop release.
Funky Barn had a lot going for it, and in many ways it works a treat thanks to some smooth controls and the farming element proving to be quite fun. However, when a lot of the processes become automated later on, the enjoyment factor starts to wane considerably. On top of this, despite having some pleasing options, the general amount included does not warrant its high retail price-tag, and it would have been far more palatable had it been a cheaper eShop download.
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