Ever play a game that you know isn’t all that great, but for reasons you’re not even certain of, you love it anyway? That’s my experience with the Farm Frenzy series. I’ve enjoyed these things from way back on the PlayStation Portable (where they were PSP Minis), and while I thought this series was long done, with the last one released back in 2016, in comes Farm Frenzy Refreshed, and I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy this thing all over again.
Farm Frenzy is a simple time management experience. You have tasks that you need to complete to clear a level (collect X number of eggs, make Y number of cookies, earn $Z dollars), and a certain time limit to try and beat, with stars on offer based on how quickly you can achieve those objectives. Things start simple enough; buy ducks and make sure they’ve got food, and they’ll produce eggs. Buy pigs and you’ll get bacon, and buy cows and you’ll get dairy. Then, drop these into stores and they’ll turn the raw ingredients into biscuits or bacon & eggs, and so on and so forth. Every production has a timer action attached to it, so achieving those big scoring results requires absolute precision in the order and process that you complete the objectives in.
It can become quite manic, and while this game by its nature does better with mouse-and-keyboard (or touch) controls, the control stick of the PlayStation controller allows you to move the cursor around with enough agility to hit the targets that the game sets. That is when it’s possible to. One of the unfortunate sides to Farm Frenzy is that it is free-to-play orientated, and you do need to earn resources by completing levels, upgrade buildings in the hub (so that they produce faster or more profitably), before going back to earlier levels to try to then complete them quickly enough to hit the shortest time limit. This is, of course, not the ideal way to structure a game. Thankfully levels are fairly short and there is a nice sense of closure when you do finally fully clear it, but the game has more than enough levels as it is that it didn’t need an arbitrary structure that slows and hinders progress.
When it’s at its best, though, the “Frenzy” in the title is the entirely appropriate term. When it all clicks and you’re flying through levels, not missing a beat and managing time with precision – and almost without thought – there’s a rhythm to Farm Frenzy that is so appealing. A series wouldn’t last 13 years without having something going for it, and it’s the rhythms that come with understanding Farm Frenzy that does it. There are the frenetic efforts to capture the occasional bear that drops in before it can tear through your livestock (it always does so at the worst possible moment, too). It’s the sweating on the two-second delay between your shipment reaching town (giving you much-needed money) and the desperate need to buy some seed for the livestock right now. It’s the satisfaction of achieving the maximum number of stars a second before the timer ticks over. Farm Frenzy, at its best, delivers the kind of split-second timing perfect of the best arcade games, and does so within the context of the ever-appealing simulation genre.
Farm Frenzy Refreshed is by no means perfect. Indeed, it sits on the wrong side of the “casual gaming” spectrum whereby it becomes a grind for the sake of keeping players playing. And yet… I continue to enjoy Farm Frenzy, have done so for nearly a decade (if not longer now), and Refreshed has given me a rush of that all over again on the PlayStation.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb