previews\ Jul 4, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Barnyard - PS2 - Preview

It's not easy being a cow. If you're not being ground up into hamburgers, you're being tipped by aspiring 'cow-tippers.' They poke, they push, laugh, and have fun. Meanwhile you're lying on the ground, hoping to get back on your feet just so you can yell at the scientists who say cow-tipping is physically impossible - nothing more than a myth. And even then all you could say is "Moo!" 

This summer, cows are rising. They'll have their day and get revenge on The Man (and his little boy, too) when Barnyard hits theaters. Gamers will be able to join the fun when THQ brings its interactive adaptation to PlayStation 2. Set in the film's fictitious environments, Barnyard is an adventure geared toward younger players. But don't let that fool you. These cows mean business, and the missions they're about to embark on could satisfy more than the average six-year-old.

Pick a cow, any cow, and the story begins. None of the real-time movie sequences have yet to be completed. The parts that have been finished range from amusing to downright funny. Later on the game takes a darker turn, which I assume is to reflect the events of the film. It's nothing you haven't seen in early Disney flicks, but it was a bit surprising given that this is based on a comedy flick, not a drama or action/adventure.


Chances are most kids will skip the story, and with good reason. The game starts out slow (after all, you're controlling a cow), but quickly advances to the ranks of other adventure game classics. I picked Archie, a cow who really doesn't say much. He has the ability to run on two legs, ride a bike, collect ingredients to make delicious desserts, and successfully compete in a number of wacky cow games. Technically the entire experience is comprised of mini-games, but that could be said about any game where you explore a world to acquire new missions. Luckily, and very unexpectedly, most of the mini-games are very good. They're worth playing more than once, and the game's not even finished yet.

Some of the cow games you'll encounter: bicycle racing, car racing, milk squirting, gopher golfing, and chicken launching. One of my favorite events is the child shooting gallery. Those little buggers sneak out at night, hoping to tip your friends. They're evil, and they need to be dealt with promptly. But, the thing is ... they're still kids. And you can't hurt kids. But you can throw tomatoes at them! The result is one of the most amusing light gun-style shooters ever created. This scenario is particularly noteworthy for its graphic detail - some of the best in the game. Tomato power-ups let you launch bigger tomatoes, lock-on to targets (the children!), or shoot repeatedly with auto-fire.

New missions (events / mini-games) are indicated on your cow radar with an arrow. Follow the direction of the arrow, talk to the cow (or other barnyard fellow in need) and get to work. Since cows can ride bikes in this world, navigation is a much quicker and more entertaining experience than it would have been if you had to walk to every location. Though the world seems small when compared to other open-ended games, namely Grand Theft Auto, Barnyard is a relatively large game.

Hidden within the world are coins and recipes. You'll need coins to purchase new items for your night barn. That's another thing – Barnyard has a night/day cycle. The clock isn't exactly real-time, but it's constantly moving forward. You can choose to sleep to advance time, a task you'll be doing a fair amount in this game. Some missions can only be played during the day, and some at night. The gopher shop (which houses all items available for purchase) is only open at night. Stuffing the night barn with decorations, furniture, and other nice non-interactive features makes it more appealing to the NPCs (non-playable characters). As the night barn gains popularity, you'll gain extra items, coins, etc. Those items – if in the food department – can be turned into delicious drinks and delectable desserts.

And that's where the recipes come in. Recipes are hidden all over the world, and you can't make a meal – even if you already know the ingredients – without them. The game keeps it simple by limiting each recipe to only three food items. For example, to make a birthday cake you'll need one stick of butter, one egg, and one jar of honey. To get an egg, all you have to do is kick the hen house (which has been pre-approved by the mother hen, of course). Butter is a little trickier. First you have to find some milk. Then you have to churn it by tapping the X button a few times. Honey is the hardest of all. You won't be able to get it until you've reached a certain point in the game. Once you have, you'll have to play a tricky mini-game that could lead to some very painful stings. Run Archie, run!


This is just a small sampling of what Barnyard is all about, and I can't wait to get more. Don't be fooled by the kiddie facade – if you love the action/adventure genre and have been searching for something different, keep your eyes on this hot title.

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