Farm Frenzy never brings home the bacon

Here’s the bottom line. Farm Frenzy presents a world bottom-line readers often fantasize, being out in nature with the pigs and cows without ever stepping into any manure. Farm Frenzy 2 HD:

  • Has staying power
  • Requires strategic thinking skills
  • Is PETA certifiable

Before you decide to like it, be warned. Farm Frenzy

  • Has more bugs than a fertilizer pile
  • Ends with a whimper, not a bang
  • Doesn’t tell you what to do with the cats

In addition, I discuss what jobs like this are like in the real world, the celebration of certain name brand processed meat products, as well as animal rights and parallels between games and sexual activity.

At long last, after weeks of promising, I’m finally ready to review Farm Frenzy 2 HD. If you don’t recall my having made this promise, I should specify that I made it to Jenny Manytoes. Jenny wanted me to review it because it’s the only iPad game we know of that has a cat.

In the case of Farm Frenzy, lots of cats. As many as your money will buy. There’s one level where you start with $100,000 and that buys a lot of cats. Jenny loves to play this level. You can’t win when you spend all your money on cats but Jenny doesn’t care. Those are human rules. In Jenny’s rules, she wins because she has a farm full of cats and unlike the real world, where she has to put up with obnoxious Siamese Rescue cats (who don’t understand that she’s permanent and they’re only temporary), the cats in Farm Frenzy can’t eat any of her food.

Jenny Manytoes loves all the cats in Farm Frenzy 2

Farm Frenzy could use less frenzy, more stability

The game has staying power

This is not one of those games where you burn through the levels quickly. You need patience and endurance to build your mastery of farm management. You begin with chickens and add pigs, cows and, after so many levels it begins to feel like you’re following Dante through the eleven circles of he’ll (I read the Spinal Tap translation), ostriches. Along the way you diversify into cakes, steaks, sausage, creameries, butter, cheese, fans, ladies hats and dresses. At one point you even get to convert steaks into SPAM.

SPAM is nothing to make fun of. In Austin we celebrated SPAM every August for 30 years with the SPAM fest, where grown men in armadillo hats and women in SPAM sandals and SPAM shades rode in SPAM floats and tossed SPAM at each other, competed in three-legged SPAM races and finally ended the night with SPAM burgers, SPAM dogs with onions and mustard, SPAM fries, SPAM slaw, SPAM jelly and SPAM flavored ice cream washed down with SPAMohol for the parents and SPAM soda for the kids. At midnight the bishop of Austin’s SPAM diocese closed the celebration with a communion consisting of wine and SPAM wafers and a short prayer.

SPAM fest went the way of so many great Austin traditions–Aqua Fest, the Armadillo World Headquarters and a Democratic legislature. But every August, followers still gather in Pease Park to console each other and offer up prayers for SPAM Fest’s return.

In the world of Farm Frenzy 2, economics and reality sometimes take a back seat to the game. Ham gets turned into steaks, and, yes I know there are ham steaks, but these look like beef steaks. Then the beef steaks are ultimately ground into SPAM which sells for four times as much as steak. As if. And I don’t know of a single women who would wear the hats the hat shop cranks out. The dresses look a little dated too, like late nineteenth century.

As you can see, there are many levels to play

Oh, yes, and pigs lay ham hocks the way chickens lay eggs. This means that…

Farm Frenzy is PETA certified animal friendly

That’s right. No animals are killed in the playing of this game. Cows never go to the slaughterhouse and chickens are allowed to run free. They never end up on their way to KFC. This is because only one farm animal is used for meat. That animal is the cute pig. But even pigs escape the butcher’s knife because they shed their meat.

That’s right, they drop each ham hock from some undisclosed orifice, already cut into a hind quarter. If animals could learn to do that, Temple Grandin could move on to a career as an architectural designer.

How cool is that?

Animals only die if you don’t rescue them from bears, who become increasingly big and vicious as the game progresses, or you forget to water your animals—at which time they die horribly but only after screaming to remind you that you neglected them. The dogs–very expensive dogs–help keep the bears away, but only for so long. If an animal wanders into a bear’s path it pops and shrivels like a balloon. (These are game deaths, which are never as violent as the real ones, unless, of course, you forget to water your animals. Those deaths, as I said, will satisfy every parent who relishes the words “I told you so.”)

Dogs help protect your livestock from vicious bears.

Requires strategic thinking

Farm Frenzy 2 is modeled after a game genre called time management games. The idea is to manage time and resources wisely to produce the maximum return.

If this sounds a lot like a job, it is. But it requires a lot more strategy and rethinking tactics than other time management games such as Gourmania. Even better, a strategy that may earn you the gold on one level could leave you with nothing on the next.

Each level presents a different management goal.

You may need to sell animals immediately in one level, and buy them two levels further down. In some levels you may be presented with animals and factories that need to be replaced before you can earn a dime. In other levels you may find you need to use two factories but only one can be in production at any given time. If you replace one factory too soon, you may have to waste important capital to get it back.

The same can be said of the planes, trucks and pumps. You may need to buy the most expensive truck as soon as possible, but never need the second plane. The most expensive pump may water your farm too well and attract your animals to the regions where bears will snap them up before you can stop them. You may buy dogs as soon as you can afford them, and discover the bears have already wandered to another farm.

Along the way, you will need to invest in different facilities

The number of options can sometimes be bewildering. Fortunately you can replay a level as often as you want to improve your score (or run up your cash for a factory you need). Farm Frenzy always keeps your best score.

Which brings us to the down side of Farm Frenzy.

Farm Frenzy should be called Crash Frenzy

You may end up replaying levels many more times than you want because the game loves to crash more than anything else. These aren’t ordinary crashes either. I quickly discovered that the number of crashes would increase until I did a hard reboot. In some sessions I had to hard reboot several times just to get through a level.

This is more than a petty annoyance. Farm Frenzy is the most crash prone app I’ve looked at. I suspect I would have moved through all of the levels in a week had the game stayed stable. Instead I played more than four.

Fake climax

Carol once told me there are four kinds of climaxes:

  • The positive climax (“yes, yes, yes”),
  • The negative climax (“no, no, no”),
  • The epiphany climax (“oh God, oh God”), and
  • The fake climax (“oh Phillip,oh Phillip”)

As sad as that may seem, Farm Frenzy delivers its own variation of the fake climax, which I call the “non-climax climax” or the “peter out climax.”

Most games, when you reach the final stage, deliver a grand finale. Plants vs Zombies, for example, pits your plants in an all out battle to the death with the giant monster/robot zombie and his mad scientist controller who can breathe fire balls or ice balls to decimate entire rows of plants.

Farm Frenzy 2’s idea of a climax is to let you do more of the same stuff you’ve been doing, only do it for an hour or more. If you want gold, you have to do it in 45 minutes. What kind of climax is that? Keep doing the same old, same old until you finally roll over in exhaustion?

Even in a real job, when you finally make it to the executive level you no longer do the farm chores. At least then you get to delegate. Unless you’re working in fast food.

Frankly, I’m appalled.

It reminds me of the reward I was promised when working fast food in grad school. I had the summer off before starting my teaching assistant’s position and I was broke. Really, really broke. Out of desperation I took a job at McDonalds thinking, how bad can it really be?

I should have known. I spent the summer before my high school freshman year as a car hop working for Sonic for fifty cents an hour plus tips. I worked in a college town so most of my tips were, “Blue Devil in the 7th,” “Jesus Loves You,” and “Get a better job.” In exchange for those tips, I was allowed to cart coney hot dogs to drunks, peel onions and spend hour after hour scrubbing down the trash bin because I wasn’t a very good car hop.

But I thought that, having a college education, I would be better able to cope. Two weeks into the job, a 16-year-old kid, with acne so bad I was afraid his zits would pop into the tartar sauce of one of our fish sandwiches, put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Stephens, if you just apply yourself, in six months you can wear a yellow hat just like me.”

I told them I quit at the end of the shift. One of my roommates had a great side business selling psychedelics, and while I was into my fourth year of sobriety, I figured I could at least sponge off him until school started.1

Maybe, if the game didn’t crash so often, I might have played out the final round to see if there was some big money shot at the end. You know, cows dancing, ostriches preening and chickens shooting eggs that splattered all over the screen. Maybe the dogs get to chase the bears around the yard and the cats roll over on their backs and make air biscuits. Maybe the truck drivers and pilots finally emerge and throw cakes at each other.

But I don’t know how it ends.

And you know what? I probably will never know because after spending four weeks to get through the game, I’m not willing to start on a 45 minute quest when I know I will probably have to restart, restart, reboot, restart, reboot and restart again to get to the money shot. And that’s assuming there is one.

Your final reward is to play for gold in 45 minutes

No documentation on the cats

I was almost finished with the game before I stumbled onto the purpose of the cats. I only found out then because I was pursuing a different question online for this review and I happened to notice a reviewer who explained the cats. He never explained how he found out, but his information is correct. So if you’ve being playing this game and never figured out what the cats are for here it is:

The cats collect things. If you have a lot of items to collect and move to the next factory while trying to fight off bears, call on a cat and they’ll grab things for you.

Jenny was furious to learn this. She calls that mammalogical profiling. She resents the stereotype suggesting that cats sneak off with people’s stuff. This is just wrong.

Then she wanted me to play slinky with her, but we couldn’t because she’d carted it off and hidden it somewhere again. She doesn’t like it when I confront her with this because she knows damn well where it is and if I just spoke cat, she would tell me. When I suggest she go get it if she wants to play, she becomes even more indignant. If I want her to fetch, I should get a dog (I speak that much cat, but it’s taken me years to learn).

And, to add to a mammalogical stereotype, just like real cats, the Farm Frenzy cats can be pretty finicky about what they will and won’t pick up. So be warned. They really only start to collect the things you need when you’re too busy to pay attention to them anymore. Then it becomes their choice. And if you knew anything about cats, you’d know that before you brought one onto the farm.

I would love to love Farm Frenzy. It’s challenging and requires adaptive strategy and flexible thinking. The animation is cute and cuddly. If I didn’t have to worry how many times I would crash before I finished a level, I probably would love it. That single “if,” however, hangs over the game like a lightning storm waiting to torch the foundation.

Jenny Manytoes rates Farm Frenzy 2 HD

Jenny Manytoes makes biscuits whenever she sees the cats. Unfortunately I’m rebooting far too often for her to see the cats. I’m tempted to raise my own tail. But we’ll settle for the nap.

1Ironically, that wasn’t the end of the story. Three weeks later, the phone woke me on Sunday morning from a sound sleep. It was the same kid with the yellow hat demanding to know why the hell I hadn’t shown up for my shift. I reminded him that I quite three weeks before, had already picked up my last check, and shouldn’t be on the schedule.
He told me that didn’t matter, I was scheduled and he expected to see me there ASAP. I told him I’d be there in 30 minutes, he told me he was glad I was taking responsibility for my mistakes, and I went back to bed and slept till noon.back

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad
iPad Envy.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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