In this week’s The Games We Love, Murph looks back at Barnyard: The Video Game. Nope, none of us either.
You can keep your Final Fantasies and your Metal Gears. You can throw your Shenmues and Dotas into the sea. You can stick your Resident Evils and Legend of Zeldas where the sun seldom shines. You know what the best video game of all time is? Of course you don’t, because the answer is a game you probably didn’t even play. Or heard of, in fact.
The answer is of course, Barnyard: The Video Game.
You’re looking at the screen rather bemused right now, perplexed at the above sentence. “Barnyard,” you wonder, “wasn’t that an animated movie?” Yes, yes it was, well done you. But you are failing to mention that it was an incredible achievement. Such a gripping, hilarious, emotional tale. A journey of growing up from a care-free teenager to a responsible hero who everyone looks up to. All set around a stereotypical, sunny American farm and revolving around the animals that live there. Throw in a sprinkle of Jonny Cash and you have a film that will be remembered for millennia to come.
But enough of the best film ever, and more about the (best) game (ever) that derived from it.
In Barnyard: The Video Game you play as either a male or female cow, depending on your preference (don’t get pedantic with me over what male cows are called), who has just been transferred to the same sunny little farm as the film, however the story here takes place before the events of the movie. As well as the ‘Barnyard’ you can also explore the surrounding luscious meadows, and picturesque vista. A rickety abandoned building site, a serene lake, a golf course, a suburban area, hills, ridges and much more.
These varied environments could be freely explore at my leisure, and it is just one of the reasons why I adore Barnyard so.
This may be difficult to believe, but the sense of place it had genuinely made my nine-year old brain feel as if I was I genuinely there, galavanting around the American country side with the spring sun delicately caressing my face. It helps that the setting was so recognisable and relatable but the way it was presented, I imagine it doesn’t quite hold up to this day, really helped make it feel authentic.
The fact that Barnyard wasn’t a game adaptation of a movie that was shit out of the door with little care, and was just a retelling of the film but with tedious missions in between cutscenes helped massively.
As I mentioned, Barnyard was actually an open-world game, areas were unlocked as the story progressed, but I could go to wherever was available to me when ever I pleased.
My fondest and most predominant memory from my countless hours with Barnyard is tear-arseing around on my BMX, I’m a cow remember, riding by the lake that I so wish I could jump in like I was Spring break (the game’s only fault) riding up the hill (a landmark from the film), then jumping off the ramp and pulling some mad skillz on the way down. Ah, bliss.
Allowing me to explore a world I was already in love with at my own pace, as my own character, really summed up what games are for me. They’re a portal to another world, ones you just want to be in to escape from the daily drab of life. Even a world as mundane as a place of agriculture.
There was actually a surprising amount of activities to take part in too, along with the respectable main campaign, there were many different activities which all smartly linked to the film. By collecting recipes and ingredients you could bake and make drinks, you could play gulper golf, race, fling a chicken out of a catapult, shoot tomatoes at fat children attempting to tip over sleeping cattle, upgrade your party barn and then inside the barn you could dance, play pool, darts and I can’t even remember what else!
Seriously, for a movie adaptation, a great deal of genuine effort and care went into Barnyard. It was a game that allowed me to explore a world I was enthralled by, it let me talk to all the characters I loved and encouraged me to partake in activities I thought would only ever be seen in the film. But most of all, it was just a load of fun.
As I child growing up I was never an educated gamer, I didn’t know which games were good and which weren’t, thus I missed out on so many classics that I’ll more than likely never play.
Instead my game catalogue mostly consisted of movie adaptations: Jaws Unleashed (my second favourite game ever), Open Season, Bee Movie, King Kong and so on. Those were the games I played when gaming first became a serious interest of mine.
Whilst missing out on some of the all time classics is a little disappointing, I wouldn’t swap my time and memories with Barnyard for the world.