I’m no stranger to mucking in on a farm, having spent many hours on the authentic experiences delivered by the likes of Farming Simulator 19 and Professional Farmer 2017. These simulation titles really capture the toughest aspects of agriculture, to the point where you feel as if you’ve actually put in a shift. Sometimes though, it’s nice to be involved in a more fun oriented and less serious farmyard setting. For those who want more of a madcap, farm-based game – one without books to balance, nor a shred of responsibility to weigh down on your shoulders – Farm Frenzy: Refreshed wants to throw its hat in the ring. Should you put all of your eggs in the Farm Frenzy: Refreshed basket, or does it deliver as much fun as having your udders milked?
Given that the Farm Frenzy series has been around for over a decade, one would expect the latest instalment Farm Frenzy: Refreshed to be a well-polished experience at the very least. In actuality, technical issues are its biggest worry in what is otherwise a rather good, albeit frantic, farming frolic.
Farm Frenzy: Refreshed is a very arcade-y management sim where you’re thrown into the role of a farmer. There are a whopping amount of levels to overcome – 110 to be exact – with each presenting different goals to complete in return for a rating of up to three gold stars. Acquiring the full complement of stars is determined by how quickly you accomplish the tasks being given, plus a special purple star is awarded for the speedsters wrapping up a level really fast.
First though, you need to learn the ropes and that’s where the helpful Scarlett comes in. Through a series of text-based interactions, she’ll explain what needs to be done to look after the farm’s prize assets and how to rake in the cash in doing so. It starts off fairly simple with the most essential part: ensure the animals have something to eat by watering the ground frequently in order to allow grass to grow. As long as they’re fed, they’ll drop produce items periodically around the playfield depending on what species they are.
Don’t expect every farmyard regular to make an appearance however, with classics like sheep and chickens left out entirely, in favour of the duck, pig and cow. The ducks lay eggs, pigs provide bacon, cows serve up bottles of milk, all of which are useful to trade or as part of creating another product. But then, there are horses. The horses are brand new to the series and are fascinating because their offering is foals, which soon grow into fully-fledged gee-gee to sell for a huge wad of money. They multiply like bloody rabbits and so it means a lot of mouths to feed.
The general idea for each level is to work with what you’re given in terms of cash and livestock, which is seldom the same and that ensures enough variety to draw out different strategic approaches. Yes, strategy is an integral aspect in Farm Frenzy: Refreshed unless you want to go broke, be unable to feed the animals and witness them being sent to the heavens above – which is unintentionally quite amusing to see as they’re whisked away like it’s an alien abduction. You may begin a scenario with no animals, but a bulging bank balance, while in another you’re dirt poor with a couple of ducks. Adapting to each situation quickly and taking into account the ultimate goals is key to formulating a plan in order to achieve those stars.
The tasks to complete come in two different forms; collecting and gathering a set amount of something. Collecting means being in possession of it at the end of the level, while the gathering task allows the items to be counted towards the total even if you sell them immediately. Honestly, it’s surprising how just two categories can lead to a whole host of objectives. Building up a ton of cash is the most straightforward task, but others include owning horses, creating pizzas and catching bears. You’re wondering how the heck pizzas and bears come into it, right?
Well, focusing on the pizza first, various buildings are available to turn your produce into more lucrative items. The Pizzeria conjures up pizzas, the Kitchen whips up a fried breakfast, the Curd Cottage churns out cheese, and so on. There’s also a delivery service to import the necessary ingredients which don’t come from any of the aforementioned animals, like tomatoes, bread buns and burgers. Given that there are eight building types, there’s something new introduced fairly often and it really helps the gameplay from getting stale.
The bears certainly keep you on your toes as they parachute in like some kind of specially trained paratroopers, looking to scare your animals to death and make your resources disappear. They are gotten rid of by clicking on the bear to surround it in a cage and store it away to be sold. Another option is to hire a dog for protection, as this will corner a single bear at a time and stop its antics. It’s silly, but adds to the excitement levels. Unfortunately this, along with other aspects highlights a flaw in the cursor.
The cursor itself is so important for watering the area, refilling the water, picking up anything dropped by the livestock, creating items, collecting the end product, unfreezing animals during the winter themed levels, and capturing bears. That’s a lot for a cursor to be in control of and it’s not helped by the fact that it is sluggish and lacks accuracy, causing the loss of precious resources in the process. Due to the hurried nature, items disappear fairly swiftly after appearing and it’s disheartening when you click on a bottle of milk to store it, only for nothing to happen and then see it disappear. Sure, cats can be bought to aid in gathering, but they behave weirdly and ignore items too frequently.
Any hope of achieving the maximum number of stars for every level is easily scuppered by the terrible cursor. This leads to earning less currency to spend on growth for your farm and upgrades for the likes of storage, building efficiency and delivery speeds. While it hasn’t caused any failed attempts for just completing a level, the frustration is real if you’re determined to try and get the most from each scenario.
In terms of visuals, the vibrant colours used in the presentation of your farm and during the gameplay is very inviting. Things do become a little messy looking when the play area is well-populated though, and the grass animation is pretty bad to be honest. Throughout the 110 levels, it can get quite samey in regards to the environments, even with the minor changes in scenery in place for the different seasons.
It’s fair to say that there are mobile game vibes going on in Farm Frenzy: Refreshed, but before you view that as a negative, it’s that element of proceedings which lends itself to providing something addictive; something easy to pick up and play for short spells. There’s a decent amount of variety too, courtesy of the objectives and the number of different ways the scenarios begin. While I love the inclusion of horses, it would be nice to have more animals involved; even if only the traditional sheep and their lovely wool, which could then open up more building types. The cursor issues are the biggest bugbear of all though, causing a hindrance to your chances of sweeping up all the stars. Still, there’s a fun and rather strategic experience to be had here, plus it’s under a tenner so it’s worth a go.
Farm Frenzy: Refreshed is now available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One via the Xbox Store