Farm Frenzy 2, the follow-up to last year's Farm Frenzy, takes the smell out of farming with a challenging and addictive resource management/arcade title. Keep your animals fed so they produce basic goods you can refine into more complex (and profitable) products. Then, load everything on a truck and send it to town, using the resulting cash to upgrade your buildings to be faster and more efficient. But uh, watch out for panda bears that drop from the sky. They don't play very nicely with your livestock.
Farm Frenzy 2 sticks to the well-established formula the first title introduced, focusing on both resource management and quick-clicking skills. You begin with a small patch of land and a few chickens. Click the dirt to make grass grow, allowing the chickens to eat and produce eggs. At first you'll do little more than keep them fed and harvest eggs as they appear, but soon you'll be able to convert those eggs into more products, dropping a large variety of gameplay choices in your lap within just a few minutes of play.
The expandable nature of Farm Frenzy 2 brings more products into the mix at a fairly rapid pace. You quickly gain the ability to turn eggs into egg powder (which sell for four times as much), but then the bakery appears and you can turn egg powder into baked goods. Each level has a quota of products or cash you must meet, so the experience is very streamlined and leaves little room for ambiguity. Just keep your animals fed and the bears at bay, focusing on increasing your cash as quickly as possible.
The gameplay mechanic in Farm Frenzy 2 that really grips you is dealing with your products. Just about everything your animals produce can be turned into something else or sold directly, forcing you to decide if you should throw everything on the truck for fast cash or start refining for more money down the road. The quota system does a good job of guiding you without forcing your hand. Buying the right upgrades between levels is part of the strategy, but the rest is simple forethought and a little bit of planning. The best part is that it never gets so complicated (or cerebral) that you feel overwhelmed. Farm Frenzy 2 hits that sweet spot of gaming dead-on.
Analysis: Many sequels in the casual realm don't venture much farther than the original title, often creating a strange situation when veteran players return to the series. While 90% of the content and structure may be the same, the remaining 10% is wholly different, creating just enough incentive to re-visit the old favorite. Farm Frenzy 2 pulls this trick off nicely with new items, buildings and upgrades that make the game feel like it takes a step beyond the first Farm Frenzy. It doesn't re-invent itself, but to be honest, it wasn't necessary.
Visually, Farm Frenzy 2 is cute and maybe even a bit whimsical. The "dancing" buildings that move and shake while they're working remind me of old Looney Tunes cartoons. The difficulty level takes a sharp curve upward after only a few levels of play, forcing you to collect eggs, trap bears, and manage your farm with frantic clicks all around the screen. Provided you spend your upgrade money wisely, this can be significantly alleviated, but first-time players may run into a bit of a wall when things start to get hectic. Investing in a faster bear cage can mean the difference between frustration and gaming bliss.
All in all, Farm Frenzy 2 delivers just enough new content to warrant the "2" in its title. Fans of the original as well as newbies to the series will enjoy its fun presentation, simple play mechanics, and wholly enjoyable premise. This one you won't want to put down until you make it through just ooooone more level.