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About the Story
Being the world's most famous animal farmer ain't easy!
You play as a young man named “Olde” MacDonald. Do you have what it takes to be a farmer and support your family (and maybe even become famous)?
The game is organized into “cycles” of five days that begin on December 27th which ends when the new year begins. Gameplay consists of feeding or medicating animals, fixing stalls, or butchering animals.
Here, you have the following materials on hand:
🌾 Animal feed: 3764 kilograms
💊 Medicine: 54 units
However, the game predominantly focuses on butchering animals. Once you stockpile a certain amount of meat everything after that can be sold for income. There is some strategy to this. Certain animals produce large quantities of less expensive meat while others produce small quantities of expensive meat. I would focus on the former until I fulfilled the stockpile and then switch to the latter when it came to selling surplus. Butchering animals is not my thing, but this is NOT a graphic or gory game. When you do butcher an animal it is merely implied.
When I first played the game, I thought I was in a dream of resource management. But this wilted. For instance, there is hardly any resource management with the medicine. Only the (Spoiler - click to show) lambs get sick and require use of the medicine supplies. The lambs also die too quickly. The first time I played I was busy exploring the barn and within a few turns (less than one day in the game’s world) all the lambs died of starvation. I had to start over. Because this occurred at the start of the game it was not an issue but still seemed weakly designed.
⚠️ The 🐑 lambs in Stall 1 are out of food!
☠️ All of the 🐑 lambs have died.
::: What do you want to do?
With each year new types of animals are added to a stall and the number of animals in each stall will also increases. Gameplay becomes chaotic. The animals keep damaging their stalls and running out of food too quickly for the player to keep up with.
The game ends once you make $10,000. You can either choose to keep playing (and instead of going to the December of the next year to start a new cycle you keep on playing into a January) or give up farming to seek a different path in life. There are some achievements including three hidden ones. The only hidden one I reached was called (Spoiler - click to show) “Clean Sweep” where you manage to butcher all your animals before the year ends.
Just so we are all on the same page, the game is a rift off a song by the same title. Each verse is about the animals on a farmer’s farm. In the game school children visit your farm to write songs about it. That is supposed to be a reference to the song that it is based on.
It seems like original song is based on barnyard animals, livestock. The game introduces lambs, cows, goats, ducks… snakes? Parrots and frogs? An elephant? The game transitions towards housing, slaughtering, and selling and/or consuming exotic animals (again, nothing graphic). I think the game is trying to take a creative approach to the song by incorporating more novel animals, but the result is confusing and outlandish. The frustrating nature of the gameplay makes it difficult to appreciate these changes because you can barely keep up with everything. Plus, the introduction of these animals does nothing to influence the gameplay or the story beyond needing to butcher them.
I recently played another game by the author called Zombie Blast 2023 which I also reviewed. Zombie Blast 2023 took a unique approach to ChoiceScript by incorporating free range of movement in its gameplay. Free range of movement is where the player can roam around in a space while directly examining or interacting with things in their environment. In Zombie Blast 2023 the goal is to defend your house against zombies. Having free range of movement in the house emphasized that the player must engage in combat. Old MacDonald Had a Farm also tries to use free range of movement in its gameplay, but the result fell short.
Old MacDonald Had a Farm uses this technique to map out the barn which is creative. You can walk across the barn in sections and enter six different stalls. It flows like a parser game, which is great to see in ChoiceScript. But its implementation in the game is repetitive and inconvenient. It means having repeat the sequence of “enter the barn,” “move east,” “move east,” “move east,” “move east,” “enter the stall to the north” just to get to stall 5 to put some food down. It gets tedious as you try to process dozens of animals throughout the barn. As you gain more animals the screen becomes filled with notifications which means that the screen is always shifting. It becomes “enter barn” (scroll down), “move east” (scroll down), “move east” (scroll down), you get the idea. Disabling animation in settings reduces this a little but does not completely prevent the screen from jumping around.
You may run into bugs. Frequently, I would get popup error messages such as, "farmer line 1351: visited this line too many times (1000),” that would appear while I was moving through the barn. I applaud the author’s experimentation with the medium, but it was not as successful as Zombie Blast 2023.
Story + Characters
The game begins with a story segment where MacDonald attends a dance where he encounters a young woman (her name is randomized) that he knew from childhood. Here, the game strives to create a wholesome 1940s atmosphere. The two fall in love and get married. This was a great story-centric way of starting the game and I thought that the gameplay would be intersected by more story scenes. Yes, there are scenes at the end of each year to summarize your progress, but it is not the same. Instead, everything is stagnant and repetitive.
Character dialog seems unnatural. For example, at the end of each day the protagonist’s wife says, "MacDonald, time to wrap things up and come home for dinner. Tonight, the family needs to eat 9 kilograms of meat." The phrase “the family needs to eat 9 kilograms of meat” is awkwardly worded and too clinical given the context.
You seem to have a (Spoiler - click to show) kid every year and once the oldest is barley older than a decade you start getting a grandchild each year. If you fail to butcher enough meat your family has to eat cabbage and potatoes for dinner. This is enough to make them malnourished within one day. Within two or three days (Spoiler - click to show) a child dies from malnourishment because they had to eat cabbage and potatoes for a few days instead of meat. It just seemed so artificial and unrealistic in comparison to the content we see at the start of the game. Perhaps it is meant to be comical, but I was expecting some story milestones.
Its creative visuals are probably the strongest part in the game. Visually, it is incredibly polished and a creative use of ChoiceScript. Text area is dark blue set against a pale blue backdrop. There are clever little icons used throughout the game including animals and human characters.
I wish I could say this was an excellent game, but it falls short of its goal. The ideas are there: colourful visuals, resource management, basing the story after a song, and more. But the finished piece is lacking. The implementation is flimsy, and the story dulls soon after the game begins. There is no denying the unique use of ChoiceScript and I think that the game is worth trying for that reason alone. But it probably will not sustain players’ interests for longer than a few rounds.