What's a girl to do, once she's traveled the world and helped her dear old granny rescue her farm? Well, buy a farm of her own, of course! Never mind that the farm is at the frozen pole. That's right; Alawar Games has brought us the latest installment in the Farm Frenzy time management series, Farm Frenzy 3: Ice Age!
Like its predecessor, Farm Frenzy 3: American Pie, Ice Age is a "side" installment in the Farm Frenzy series, where you concentrate on a farm in one location, taking the time to master all of the animals and rebuilding and restoring the facility as you go. Unlike American Pie — where there was a distinct lack of anything pie related — Ice Age has... well, a lot of ice. And snow. And polar bears. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Let's start at the beginning.
The heroine of Farm Frenzy is bored one day and just happens to read an advertisement for a farm at the pole. Of course that's a good idea, what are you saying? Just because it's a frozen wasteland doesn't mean there isn't some good farming possibilities there. After all, there are the penguins. And the walruses. And the wooly mammoth. Wait, what pole is this supposed to be at again? Well, judging by the creatures and by a special guest appearance, this is a pole that exists only in the imagination.
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played any of the many Farm Frenzy installments. You begin with a basic farm, a well that produces food (in this case, an ice fishing hole that produces fish, not much call for water in the frozen north), a budget, and a task. The task may be to produce raw goods, or manufactured items from those raw goods, and you have a limited amount of time, money, and fish to scatter on the ground to feed your animals. Eventually you will move on to larger, more complex challenges, involving several different types of animals and goods, some of which you can produce, some of which must be shipped in by helicopter. Frenzy is an appropriate descriptor, as eventually you will be juggling a lot of different tasks at the same time, working hurriedly to beat the clock.
It starts with penguins, who produce eggs, which you can sell at the market. However, it is more efficient if you set up a plant that turns the eggs into powdered eggs, which can sell for more money. Then build a plant that can turn those powdered eggs into cookies, then turn those cookies into cakes, etc. Eventually other animals will be added: royal penguins which produce feathers that eventually become clothing; walrus who produce ivory (that can be turned into souvenirs); and eventually those mysterious, supposedly extinct wooly mammoth, surprisingly not for their wool, but for something else entirely. Danger appears in the form of polar bears which can kick away your hard working livestock as they stride across your stretch of farm. Fortunately, there are also helper animals available which can drive off the predators or help you collect products as they hit the ground.
Each level is on a timer. Finish within a certain amount of time and win a gold trophy, finish a little slower and win a silver. Even if you don't manage to win a trophy, you continue until the goal is met. However, you want to finish as quickly as possible for the bonus points, which are needed to purchase upgrades to buildings and machinery. Those upgrades are needed to move on to the next rounds, so you may have to repeat a scenario a few times to proceed further. In certain cases, the linear track you are moving on splits, giving you a decision of which direction on the map to move, breaking up the linearity of the basic game.
Analysis: Ice age is pretty much a companion piece to American Pie. Not as complex as the main Farm Frenzy games, instead concentrating on perfecting one farm, albeit a rather strange one. Playing American Pie, for instance, could necessitate raising sheep for wool, which is turned into yarn, then cloth. To turn the cloth into clothing you needed to import strange feathered neckpieces. Well, in Ice Age, you are approaching the same task from the opposite direction, as this time you are constructing the feathered goods and need to import the cloth, presumably direct from granny's farm in the Midwest. The combinations used to produce goods are similar to those in American Pie, complex but not overly so.
As usual we are looking at the standard Farm Frenzy art, cute cartoony animals against a fantasy background. Unlike the usual farms though, you're looking at a lot of ice and snow, making the whole game actually feel a little chilly while playing. Eventually even the polar bears will end up in snowsuits, so we're talking cold. A lot of the amusement and fun of the game comes from the animals, the waddling penguins, the amazingly cute walrus, the stalwart guard dogs, the elegant cats, and the adorably poufy mammoth. Despite the climactic differences, this is still a basic Farm Frenzy game.
It's all becoming a bit... same, isn't it? The game is still wacky fun, and progresses to some wickedly difficult levels, but it would be nice to see some changes introduced, other than just substituting "new" animals for a different location. Some of the goods and manufacturing processes are different due to the animals involved, and the tasks involving the mammoths (when you eventually get to that level) are cute and unexpected, but the dynamic is still very much in the Farm Frenzy groove. If you've played any of the series this will all seem very familiar.
Despite the similarities to the other Farm Frenzy games (or, perhaps, because of it) Farm Frenzy 3: Ice Age is still a rollicking good time. With tons of trophies to win and lots of levels to conquer, you're still looking at hours and hours (and hours) of casual gameplay and replay value that is fun for a wide range of ages. So enjoy the cute animals, and look out for an appearance from a very special guest star.