Look past the sickeningly cutesy graphics: Farm Frenzy 3 HD is as viciously tough on the player as previous entries in the series.
There’s such a thin line between getting a gold medal and losing it all in this time-management-cum-puzzle game that you may feel like suing for false advertising - it does look like a harmless kids’ game from the screenshots, that’s for sure.
Some pacing issues at the start of the game may have old hands twiddling their thumbs a bit, but once Farm Frenzy 3 HD gets going, it remains as moreish as ever.Barn dance
The basic aim on each level is to produce a certain number of products before the timer ticks over the gold and silver medal times.
Starting out, you simply tap the barren ground to water it (from your well), wait for your chickens / geese to eat up the freshly grown grass, and then tap the resulting egg.
That’s the most basic production line. Later on, the game introduces multiple stages of building, each one relying on another for the product to be made. So, for example, cakes require cookies (eggs - powered eggs - bakery) and sugar (airlifted in from the town).
Occasionally, large critters like lions and bears drop from the top of the screen. These need to be furiously tapped (in order to cage them up) before they start killing your animals or destroying your buildings.
On the bright side, they’re a great source of early-game cash, with most stages requiring you to plan out your warehouse space to accommodate these predators in advance.Farming subsidies
That’s because, deep down under its graphics and time-management leanings, Farm Frenzy 3 HD is really an elaborate puzzle game, where one or more particular paths always leads to a gold medal in a level. There is no randomness to failure - you make a mistake and you get punished.
It would be a little handier if some of the items your creatures dropped didn’t get lost behind the grass and other animals (the buffalo fur in the second world being a prime offender), or that the various buildings’ levels were easier to see at a glance. Other than that, the onus is entirely on what decisions the player makes, and when.
It’s just about hard enough to make you want to go back to earlier levels to improve on times, without being completely off-putting.
Chances are you’ll know that you should have upgraded the textile mill before you bought that extra duck, or sold those ostriches at the start, and this - combined with the relatively quick pace of each level - means it's tough to put Farm Frenzy 3 HD down once it catches you in this thought loop.
Newcomers, then, should expect an intriguing time-management game with strong puzzle overtures and misleadingly nauseating graphics. What’s there for the old-timers, though, to tempt them back for one more frenzy?
To be honest: not much. The graphics have received a welcome overhaul (in-game, at least) and there’s a few new buildings and production lines, but in reality it’s still exactly the same game as before.
It doesn’t matter if the creature you’re incubating is a hen or penguin - they’re both the same animal in gameplay terms. And the pace at which the creatures and buildings are introduced over the first two worlds will be agonisingly slow for those already used to the barnyard-juggling act.
There’s been no significant overhaul to the upgrade system, either, which is still a little cheeky in that it essentially forces you to pick specific improvements between stages or else face the dire consequences.
Despite this general lack of progress, the base game of Farm Frenzy 3 HD is a strong one. It’s not for the easily annoyed - levels start off difficult and only get worse as the game goes on - but if you’re tired of having your hand held through strategy / time-management games (hello, Jack of All Tribes), then it’s worth getting a little riled up about.