The amount of CGI cartoons released in the cinema this year has been more than any other year. The sudden influx hasn’t meant better viewing for audiences and none have come close to matching the pinnacles set by the likes of Shrek and Toy Story. Barnyard came somewhere in the middle of the pile; far from the worst released, but will probably only be remembered for featuring male cows with udders. And so inevitably, a Video game version hits the shops ready for the little munch-kins to badger their parents into buying as soon as they’re out of the cinema.
Most cartoon tie-ins offer very little more than generic gameplay, packed into a platform game and blessed with little or no imagination. Barnyard is slightly different, for a start, it doesn’t follow the usual genre choice, instead opting for a free-to-roam adventure (Think GTA with cows and pretty colours) complete with vehicles to explore around the local area.
In the beginning you are introduced to the ensemble cast of the film via a surprisingly funny opening cut-scene; the characters aren’t the best to have come from the Nickleodeon studio but are charming nonetheless. You play a new recruit to the farm, and are gently eased into the game by the resident animals who give you small tasks to complete before you can open the farm gates and explore the wider world.
Barnyard has much to like about it, with nice colourful environments and charming, if a little generic, graphics that kids will enjoy. There is also a lot to do in the game, with a large game world filled with plenty of tasks and some really fun mini games. The Day/Night structure is also worth a mention, with different jobs available depending on the time. Things also get better as you unlock new areas and gain access to vehicles that cows really shouldn’t be allowed to travel on.
There is plenty of content hidden away for any astute explorers. Character art and animations can be unlocked and viewed from the title screen which is a nice touch. You can also access any mini-games from the front screen without having to go back through the game to play them.
Unfortunately there are some problems that will turn off any gamers that don’t fit the target demographic, for a start it is very, very slow to play. Your character barely moves at more than a snail’s pace, even with the sprint button held down and it can be very tedious travelling between destinations. This is made all the worse by the severe loading delays when popping in and out of areas. Any tasks that require you to travel between sections ‘collecting’ items for the other animals will need a heck of a lot of patience to complete.
Its hard to rate Barnyard as anything more than just above average; it is better than most movie tie-ins but that doesn’t really say a lot. It does try to do things a bit differently and looks like it has had some care taken over it but there are other games out there that do the same things and are more fun to play (try A Dog’s Life). If you have children that enjoyed the film and need their little minds occupied while you do more important things then you can probably add an extra point onto this review score.