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Fat Chicken

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Relevant Games
Developer: Mighty Rabbit Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ Tower Defense/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Fat Chicken puts you in the shoes of a supervisor, moving your way up through the commercial meat industry. Youíre there to keep costs down and produce more to keep the profits rising. Thatís the very short story. The long story, involving whether winning this game is actually a good thing, Iíll get into later.

Fat Chicken does its job on the visuals. Itís pretty easy to see where your chickens and cows are and whoís in danger. The threats such as the rampant protesters and even UFOs are easy to spot as well. The game uses a Minecraft-like blocky design for everything from chickens to people. Overall, that kind of look could work, but it feels like Fat Chicken is stuck between a simple design idea and a highly polished product. There are areas where the simple design could have been used as an advantage, such as being able to tell how far a chicken has plumped up. Instead of some simple shape change, the chickens only get very slightly larger. It can be hard to tell how much progress a chicken has made before it makes it to the end of the level with such subtle visual cues.

The music is a twangy, banjo-driven collection of songs. Itís pleasant enough, but it does sometimes seem odd next to the overall message of the game.


Gameplay:

Fat Chicken has been deemed a Reverse Tower Defense game. Thatís because youíre not trying to destroy the enemies going through your lines, youíre trying to keep them alive, and fatten them up as much as possible before they head to the slaughterhouse. Your guns are feed towers, water towers, antibiotic towers, and UFO defense towers, to name a few. The fatter your animals are when they enter the slaughterhouse at the end of the field, the more money you receive. As opposed to the Tower Defense genre, you might want to just barely touch your targets until the end. Since your animals lose weight as they cross the field, it is a bit of a waste to keep them well fed until the very end.

There are other strategies youíll have to employ in later levels. Some levels have toxic clouds that will make your animals sick. Youíll have to combat this with antibiotic towers to keep your animals alive. Some levels have protesters that will shut down your towers. Youíll have to hire armed guards to combat them. You can also hire employees who prod the animals to move faster, helping you get them across the field quicker before they get hungry or thirsty. The prodding is one of the techniques that, when overused, can kill your animals, so there are multiple things to keep in balance.

There is a definite message here, and a fairly heavy-handed one. The farms in the game are forcing you to fatten up cows, chickens, and pigs through the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and overfeeding. Heck, even the gameís title logo shows a sad chicken being injected with a huge syringe. Itís strange, because as a tower defense game, it could have sent all the message it needed to. After all, you are rewarded for using as little money as possible to feed the animals, keep them watered, and get them to the slaughterhouse. If this means the animals are almost starving or thirsty at some points during the journey, it does not count against your score. Add to that the fact that the money you receive is called "Murderbux," and it becomes pretty clear what youíre doing to win the game is considered morally wrong by the designers. I looked for PETA in the credits, and was honestly surprised not to find them there.

But oddly, the message sometimes seems to get off track. A protester named Barry "Gravy" Graveson seems to be portrayed as irresponsible as well. Heíll show up at the Fat Chicken farm and try to get you to join his group of animal rights protesters saying things like, "Howím I supposed to know how peopleíll afford meat when Fat Chickenís not around? They can grab some greens to eat." Still, even with these moments of confusion, the overall message seems clear.


Difficulty:

Fat Chicken is not a particularly tough game, unless youíre attempting to pass each level with the maximum number of stars. Youíll have to juggle multiple animals going through multiple paths through the field, and youíll often have to move your tower from one track to another to keep all your animals alive and fattened up.

One problem is that without a way to see exactly how much food or growth hormone are affecting your animals, itís a bit of a guessing game. You can see animals plumping up when they hit certain milestones, but it can be difficult to remember exactly how big they were when a certain event happened or when a certain amount of time had passed. Itís also tough to know when theyíre about to hit the brink of starvation or dehydration until they hit the very last moment when a life bar appears above their heads. It takes some experimentation to see what works. This is admittedly how many tower defense games work, but itís still something worth mentioning.


Game Mechanics:

Fat Chicken functions well for what it is trying to do. Towers are easy to put up with a couple of clicks. Time can be slowed to half-speed and sped all the way up to 4 times normal speed as needed. I only had a bit of trouble now and then with moving towers. Selecting a tower was sometimes not as instantaneous as I needed it to be, and so I lost precious seconds moving a tower to where it needed to go. But for the most part, Fat Chicken operates just as you expect it to, which allows you to focus on your strategy.

I left this game a little bemused. On one hand, thereís a message. On the other hand, itís so heavily and clumsily delivered to the point of absurdity that it is easily pushed to background noise. Whether I agree with the message or not, it feels like this kind of approach only appeals to those who already fully agree with the message. The thing is, Fat Chicken is not a terrible game as far as gameplay goes. I actually found myself wanting to go back to try different strategies and improve my score. Either way, Fat Chicken is a decent tower defense game, certainly a creative one, and a good way to kill a few hours.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Minimum System Requirements:



OS: Windows XP/Vista, Processor: 1.8 GHz CPU, Memory: 1 GB RAM, Graphics: DirectX 9 video card with shader 2 support and 512MB of VRAM, Hard Drive: 1700 MB available space
 

Test System:



Win7 64bit, 8 GB, Intel Core2 Duo CPU E7500 2.93 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460

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