Gotta Catch ‘Em All

(Editor’s Note: What follows is the original review written for the first version the author played. Since then, one or more major critiques have been addressed by the developer. For a list of these, see “Addendums” below the original review score at the end of the article.)

We missed the original Chicken Coup: The Farm’s Gone Crazy when it released early this year. Now we’re getting a second chance to evaluate its frenzied barnyard formula with Chicken Coup Remix (Out Now, $1.99 Universal, $0.99 iPhone Version), a revamped re-release courtesy of Puppy Punch Productions. Boasting twice the content of the original and presumably some extra polish, this should definitely be a title of interest to high score addicts who haven’t played the first release.

It’s easy to learn the ropes of Chicken Coup’s gameplay formula, which is introduced via an optional live tutorial — new players definitely need to hit that question mark button on the main menu the first time they fire up the game. Chicken Coup revolves around shepherding hens and roosters into their respective coops. While this is accomplished through a no-nonsense drag and drop process, it’s easier said than done; the chickens appear in ever greater numbers, and hungry foxes waiting at barnyard’s edge intelligently pick off individuals as the group swells. To thin the crowd quickly, the player may build impressively long chicken chains by bumping the currently seized fowl into others of its type. Levels end once nine chickens have been stolen – or improperly corralled – and the player’s herding score compared to a minimum needed to pass to the next environment.

And that’s it! With only two chicken types, one threat, and no barnyard upgrades, Chicken Coup’s is a rather minimalistic and static formula. All the complexity to be found here lies in the game’s scoring system. Each safely delivered rooster or hen adds to a score multiplier labeled “Chicken Power.” The higher this is, the quicker the player’s score snowballs. The fact that a chain of chickens can rack up an impressive tally but adds only as much to the multiplier as a single chicken creates a nice strategic question: should the player stuff a bunch of chickens into their coops right now, or corral them one by one to bump up the score multiplier? It’s important to think both fast and clearly; that hard-won multiplier decreases for every chicken seized or directed to the wrong pen.

Chicken Coup’s six levels – with more on the way – are appreciated for how they mix up the barnyard layout, but the simple formula wears thin quickly unless the player is a competitive leaderboard junkie. The game’s difficulty curve ramps up extraordinarily fast, with the second level requiring more than twice as many points to pass as the first! This means the player has to deal with ever more intense swarming of onscreen objects, and the mayhem would be more fun if the touch sensitivity of those objects could be widened a bit in updates; there were a few too many times when I reached for a fox and failed to seize it once the action had hit a fever pitch. Also, it’s easy to pass up important facts about Chicken Coup’s complex scoring system during its tutorial — certain info is offered only if the player fails there, which is a rare occurrence compared to normal gameplay.

Chicken Coup’s low poly animals and environments look great in motion. Now, if there were only more music on tap to go with the game’s assortment of barnyards! The rest of the audio engineering turned out beautifully, giving the player important cues with the growls of approaching foxes and the desperate squawks of captured fowl.

iFanzine Verdict: Chicken Coup Remix should enjoy a lengthy stay on the iDevices of casual gamers who seek frantic action and have a penchant for leaderboard competition. Don’t look here for depth or evolving complexity though, unless new gameplay elements happen to be introduced in updates.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

Addendum: Touch sensitivity of in-game objects improved