We all know the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”, it is basically a way of saying don’t judge something before you have a chance to look at it and judge it for its true merits. In general, this applies to anything, you shouldn’t judge a movie before you see it, for all you know it could be absolutely brilliant and become something you forever love and cherish. This also applies to games, often people are turned off by a bad box art or a stupid name, but what if we open that box? Will we find something that is game changing? would it be better than anything that came before it? the better question, will it actually be good? This is the question we are forced to answer with Funky Barn, is this game really as bad as a dumb name?
Funky Barn really is one of these games that you would look at and just judge there and then, the game is a clear budget title quickly pulled out just to release something and at every turn, and this can be seen. This is certainly not one of the most visually impressive games I have played, in fact, if I was looking at this game just in how it looks I would expect to have seen this on the GameCube. Funky Barn really isn’t the best looking game to appear on the Wii U but is that a bad thing? We have reached a point where, if a game doesn’t look like Super Mario Galaxy or even Bioshock, we write it off and this shouldn’t happen with Funky Barn as you will see beyond the budget exterior once you open the game, there is a great time to be had.
There is a story mode for this game, you inherit a farm from your uncle who (from what I can gather from the slideshow opening), had a way with machines to help revolutionize the farming business. Unfortunately, his health took a turn for the worst and he passed away, leaving you in charge of his farm and a series of crazy gadgets. Honestly, I never quite gathered much from the story but I was glad it was there to explain things further, it was nice to not just be dropped into a simulator type experience and just be told to have fun.
The gameplay is also nothing special, in Funky Barn you are pretty much running a farm, you collect materials, deal with your animals and help your farm grow with new and exciting items and animals. Pretty much, if you have played any simulator type game such as Simcity, Zoo Tycoon or even any farming simulator, you know what you are getting into, it is just a matter of how this is done that truly helps this game shine.
Most developers have struggled to bring out the true brilliance of the Wii U gamepad, most of the time it is generally handled with the idea of a map or an item toolbar, in some cases it was this but it was also so much more. If you so choose it the entire game can be handled just by using the touch screen, you pick up and drop eggs, move items around, navigate yourself around the map and even place objects where you so choose. This has actually been one of the best uses of the Gamepad I have seen and has shown the potential for how future simulator games could be handled on the system at best (even if none of these will happen now). Some points are still handled by the press of a button or the navigation of a joystick, but these help to boost the experience, these take it beyond the limitations of a simple touchscreen mobile game and deliver a unique experience.
However, unlike other Wii U games where you get the choice to go off TV, on this game requires the use of both. The touchscreen helps with the gameplay as you deal with the general farm chores and only offers more a heat sensing look at your farm identifying fruit and other items you can sell. The television screen on the other hand handles the full look of your farm as you identify item placement as well as receive messages from other in game characters. Again, I liked this unique way of play as it was different and forced me to make use of both screens for the full effect.
Funky Barn truly shines in its gameplay, sure, it does seem monotonous at first, the idea of just collecting and moving items around your farm doesn’t sound like the most engaging experience, but this is where you would be wrong. I never honestly anticipated I would like this game as much as I did, but after spending several hours working on a farm without even realizing, I saw the true light of this game. The simple concept held by Funky Barn of dealing with general farm work, of looking after animals, ensuring they have food and water, and building enough money to make the farm run itself was surprisingly addictive. I remember turning this game on one night at around six o’clock and before I knew it, the time was already after eleven. It’s amazing how such a simple concept can be handled so brilliantly and wash away the world until it is just you handling simple chores.
The true moment I was finally able to pull myself out of this game is when, after I spent almost twenty hours hard at work on my farm, I had it running effectively by itself. My job was done, but I could look back at all my hard work, I had built this farm from nothing and without even thinking about it and had been lost in this games true unique charm.
From afar you may look at Funky Barn and just write it off, you can look at the name and ask what joke somebody is playing on you, but in ignoring this game you miss out on one of the Wii U’s best games. It may not look the best, it may not even play the best but the obsessive side of this game is where this shines and where I truly found my love for it. This book should never be judged by its cover and is a tale for the future.