Review: Busy Days In Deerfield Farm (Mac)


Review: Busy Days In Deerfield Valley (Mac/PC)
Developer: Bold Games
Distributor: Cokem
Genre: Edutainment
Release Date: 9/1/05

It’s not too often at the Inside Pulse offices that we get the chance to review a PC game. Seeing as how I enjoy PC games, I volunteered to take on reviewing a game where you use possessed construction equipment to do your biding. That’s the last time I let Lucard describe any game to me ever.

Busy Days in Deerfield Valley is a game for children based on popular John Deere characters. In it, you join the rough and tumbling team of construction equipment to accomplish a variety of tasks around Deerfield Valley. Apparently you work hard and you play hard or something clichÃÆ’©d like that. So is the hard work worth it or will my dreams of being rewarded for working hard with the crew be crushed? Let’s find out.


Story

Well here’s the thing about Busy Days in Deerfield Valley. The story is that Danny Dozer wants to invite you to spend some time in Deerfield Valley and maybe join the crew for some hard work. Now assuming I was five, I’d probably not care for Danny Dozer inviting me to join the crew. Maybe if I were four, I’d be jumping for joy at this notion, but not at five.

Ok, there’s a little bit of a story that really never advances from the Sesame Street level. The problem is that there’s very little beyond Danny Dozer welcoming me into the crew. I felt like I was a rich ugly guy who takes some hot girl to the prom only to be abandoned seconds when I get there. The lack of interaction with the main character of Deerfield Valley kind of undermines the point of the game, hanging out with the coolest possessed piece of construction equipment this side of Nantucket.

It’s a bit expected that the story would be minimal, but it’s annoying that the minimal bit of story doesn’t focus on the draw of game. It’s like buying a Big Bird game and then having to spend all your time with Snuffy and Telly. It’s a bit disappointing if your child is getting this game because they love the John Deer construction characters. Besides that, it’s a very mediocre story.

Story: 4 out of 10


Graphics

Busy Days in Deerfield Valley is a bright game with cute graphics. There are a few problems with this game though. There is the occasional bit of slow down when running the game. Additionally, some of the graphics look a bit blocky and textures are of a pretty low resolution.

The good outweighs the bad in the graphics department though. Movement of characters is smooth. There are some excellent facial movements in the graphics department. Again, it is an exceptionally bright and cute game. It is perfect for a child.

It never really gets over the hump for innovations in the field and graphics though. Busy Days in Deerfield Valley offers a decent amount of cute eye candy, but slow downs in the game hurt the cause.

Graphics: 6 out of 10


Sound

This is the closest Busy Days in Deerfield Valley comes to perfection. The voice acting in the game is superbly done. The characters are able to walk that fine line of talking to children without talking down to children. Furthermore, the sounds of the game are very accurate to actual construction machinery sounds. Children will love the truck noise, and the cutesy voice acting.

The only flaw in the sound of Busy Days in Deerfield Valley is that the music is pretty generic sounding. This isn’t an unforgivable aspect for the sound though. While it may be generic, it isn’t annoying or awful. The sound fades to the background during most of the games, and it shines when the focuses of the game, the John Deer mascots, appear and start talking. The preschoolers will squeal with delight at playing this game.

Score: 8 out of 10


Control and Gameplay

Argh. How completely frustrating is this game to control? The short answer is very. About half of the six games have some serious control issues that make things less enjoyable then they could be. Let’s look at each game and how they control.

Explore Deerfield Valley is the basic, gather all the characters in a big field and click them to hear them talk to each other. It’s very basic, and besides laying out some cones, there is no real variety in this game. It wouldn’t have been too difficult to include a few different reactions from characters. The controls are pretty much point and click here though.

Pipe Work is a color matching game that is click and drag. It’s a pretty simple game, but it offers the most educational value of any of the games. Additionally it is the one of the two games that offers a degree of challenge as there is something that resembles a time limit. This is one of the most fun games in the collection, but you can only lay two pipes at a time, which makes the game feel awkward at times.

The most challenging game of the collection is Fix the Bridge in which you fix a bridge. How do you do this? Well you assemble a bridge by picking geometric shapes and dropping them into the right place. This game has a time limit and is probably the most challenging of all of the games. Out of all of the games, this is probably the most intellectually stimulating of all of the games.

Sandbox Play Zone is a game with moderately decent controls in which you dig and push sand and gravel. The controls for moving materials by pushing them around are pretty poor though. It’s easier to just smooth out the entire area and redig the ground rather then push the dirt.

The game with the poorest controls though has to be Help Build the Library. In this game, you push raw materials into different sections. This is completely frustrating as not only are the controls for the bulldozer pretty broken, but also it also relatively easy to get materials stuck in a corner. It takes several moments before any materials returns in the center of the screen so there are several times when you’re just sitting around with literally nothing to do.

The last game is Surprise Delivery, and it features everyone’s favorite haunted tractor, J.T. This game is also cursed with utterly horrible controls. You drive around picking up flowers to give as a present to the cast of Deerfield Valley. The problem is that turning with the mouse is frustrating. Rather then allowing you to click directly where you want to go, you must click in straight lines, otherwise your haunted tractor will crash into a building. This game can be played with the keyboard, but your tractor still cannot do a full 180-degree turn with just one motion in the keyboard.

When broken down, four of the games have control issues where play is affected in some way. Two of the games are practically unplayable because of this. What it boils down to is that if you’re making a game for small children, controls should be the number one concern. Busy Days in Deerfield Valley has too many serious issues with its controls.

Score: 3 out of 10


Replay Value

For an adult with some basic computer skills, this game can be finished in under 20 minutes. For a child though there is a decent amount of replay value. The game has three unlockable coloring pages and six total. These coupled with the fact that children enjoy repetition and simplicity adds a degree of replay value to the intended audience. There is only so much to do in this game though and besides the coloring pages, there isn’t any unlockable content or easter eggs to find in the game. It’s average for the amount of replay value that a 5-year-old can get out of this with a bump for the extra coloring pages.

Score: 6 out of 10


Balance

There is no significant difference in difficulty between easy and hard. Additionally, the hardest games are only a slight bump up from the easiest games. There is really no significant jump in difficulty in the game. Considering that this game is made for young children though, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. The game is pretty balanced for the target audience, which is what really matters.

Score: 7 out of 10


Originality

This game is essentially a marketing device. It places some lovable children characters to try and sell a ton of merchandise. Still, this is one of the first games to feature John Deere characters. Additionally, the game is almost completely without educational value which when doing market research (not going to just Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mart and the Apple Store) is pretty original. This game may not be too hot, but it features some original elements. Regardless, this is still ultimately a piece of licensed merchandise made to sell stuffed tractors and coloring books so a lot of the originality and the good is erased by this fact.

Score: 5 out of 10


Addictiveness

John Deere is lucky this is a children’s game as it is one of the least compelling game experiences this side of Pac Man Pinball. Still, if your kids like these characters, they’ll hop on this thing and play it to death. It’s a game that isn’t addictive to me, but again, I’m not the target audience for this game. Kids will either love this or be bored with this based strictly on the characters so the addictiveness is completely linked to the appeal.

Score: 7 out of 10


Appeal

This is a pretty appealing game to children as it offers a great deal of colorful characters that manage to talk to kids in a way that isn’t condescending to children. The appeal does take a hit as this game is almost totally devoid of educational value. That never stopped something like Power Rangers to become a mega hit though. While this is not Power Rangers by any means, the characters are entertaining. These characters are fun, bright, and colorful. They’re the type of thing that kids ask for their birthday. Deerfield Valley is a very appealing game that takes a pretty major hit due to the fact that it hasn’t got much educational value.

Score: 7 out of 10


Miscellaneous

Busy Days in Deerfield Valley is recommended for ages 3-6. That’s a pretty high scale. I would think that 6 year olds and smarter 5 year olds would get pretty bored with this game as it doesn’t offer a lot of variety and really banks on just being a character piece. The mere fact that Busy Days biggest challenge is dealing with the shoddy controls is enough to frustrate some kids with short attention spans too. I can’t really give it much of a recommendation when nearly half of the target audience will be bored with this game within an hour of installing this game.

Score: 3 out of 10


Final Scores:

Story: 4/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 8/10
Control: 3/10
Replay Value: 6/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10
Final Score: 56/100

5.5 out of 10: Slightly Above Average