Reality programmes like Storage Wars have zoomed up in the popularity ratings in the last decade. The premise if you haven’t seen it is quite simple: an abandoned storage unit or garage has been left dormant for years, a group of people get together and bid on the keys to the locker without knowing what’s in there. The winner may find themselves a host of great treasures, or – more likely – a load of old rubbish. Barn Finders uses this premise as a backbone for a game, but at the same time manages to inject some humour and fun, if only as it drops in aliens and a strange slice of Americana. Let us go junk hunting.
The story for Barn Finders is bonkers, but it’s obvious that the developers embrace this concept with relish. You start the game in your pawn shop which you seem to run with your Uncle Billy. The game is set somewhere in deepest America – the fictional Ameryka in fact – and your job is to go out into the world and look for junk/treasure that you can sell in your pawn shop. In other narratives, there are aliens on the loose and shady government men dressed in black coming around asking questions. What is going on? Well, the story, narrative, characters, and dialogue are so tongue in cheek it hurts, reminding of the GTA series in terms of humour. It is however something to enjoy.
Barn Finders is played in the first person and takes place in several locations. Your main base is the shop where you have your sleeping quarters, the shop itself, a basketball court, and a garage. In the shop, you have a PC which you can fire up in order to look at emails and accept incoming jobs. These jobs may consist of you traveling to a place nearby, like someone’s house, a barn in the woods, or a garage lockup, and at these locations you’ll be given a mission; normally meaning you have to find and collect a rare item from the location.
After arriving at the location, you can go around and search for items of interest. Even rubbish will be worth something for recycling, and that in turn means money. More unique items can be tagged for Uncle Billy to put into the trunk of the pickup; the likes of rocking chairs, homely items or computers. Each location will need a bit of exploring though, and certainly some puzzle-solving in order to unlock certain areas hidden in the location. It’s normally here where you’ll find the rare item you are looking for, signalling the end of the mission and the chance to head back home for a sleep.
Occasionally the areas you find will be locked up and you have to participate in an auction to get the keys. You’ll find that other characters are bidding against you and so this part of Barn Finders consists of you constantly upping your bid in hope of winning the lot. But to win you need money, and this is where the pawnshop comes in. You get a certain amount of cash for completing a mission, but you also get the opportunity to put your booty on display in your shop, utilising shelves and display units. Again, these can be upgraded, but once all your wares are on show you can then open your shop.
Opening the shop attracts customers, allowing you the chance to have a chat and engage in some haggling; all via a little mini-game. You’ll need to watch out for thieves too, as they’ll attempt to steal your goods if you don’t deal with them first. Make some cash and the circle will continue to be complete, letting you make the most of the money to purchase extra tools for treasure hunting, like an axe to break down walls, a torch to make things a bit easier to see and a shovel to dig up items. You can also upgrade your store, making the goods look nicer and worth more to any potential customer.
Barn Finders looks fine and its world reminds of those older GTA games. The character models won’t break the bank in the next-gen stakes, but they fit perfectly well with the context of the game. The soundtrack has a neat country mix that can be heard in-game as well as a collection of tracks that can be heard on the radio. The voice-over work has employed vocal gibberish instead of actual words, yet with subs it surprisingly works very well.
For a game that started out life on Kickstarter, there is a lot to love here. Barn Finders is completely different in concept and ambition to any other game, and it’s pretty addictive as you go on the hunt for treasure. It can be fairly tricky to see everything you need though, there is far too much going on at times, and the money situation can be a pain, but there’s a fair amount to enjoy in Barn Finders and certainly worth a look if you like a bit of Storage Wars.
Barn Finders is available from the Xbox Store