"Welcome to the Cowlympics. In Back to the Bardyard: Slop Bucket Games you must best the cast of the Nickelodean series across ten wacky events to earn the ultimate golden bucket. Unfortunately, THQ doesn't bring its A-game in utilizing the full personality of its license."
Citius, Altrius, Fortius.
Since 1924, this Olympic Motto has officially symbolized the drive of countless athletes to push the limitations of the human body. Run faster. Jump higher. Be stronger. Anything to grab the gold medal.
Bovine, Porcine, Murine.
Welcome to the Cowlympics. Here, faster means racing through a dirt track on a bike made of sticks, stretching for first while pulling off front and back flips. Higher means launching a cow into the clouds from a rubberband catapult, aiming for distance and a soft landing. Stronger means shooting tomatoes hard enough to defend against a 360-assault from the pesky gophers gunning for your precious flags. In Back at the Barnyard: Slop Bucket Games you must best the cast of the Nickelodeon series across ten wacky events to earn the ultimate golden bucket. Unfortunately, THQ doesn't bring its A-game in utilizing the full personality of its license.
The events take place over three days, and you must post progressively higher scores to advance through the competition. On day one, only half of the ten games are accessible. Highlights here include Whack-a-Rac and the Melon Race. Whack-a-Rac replaces overabused moles with raccoons and coyotes. Using the stylus, you bash these pests as they pop up in the chicken coop, while avoiding striking wayward hens and Freddy the ferret. The twist is that coyotes will sometimes splash paint across the screen, and you must wipe it away before any more points can be earned. The Melon Race is a 3-D stage where you drive a rickety old pickup around a bumpy dirt track. Six juicy watermelons bounce around the truck's bed, and you get a bonus for the number of melons that survive through each time-extending checkpoint.
Only a bronze medal score is required to advance to day two, but most events are easy enough to achieve first or second in a couple of tries. The exception is the previously mentioned Cowapult. The idea is to aim for springboards scattered along the ground in order to extend your projectile's flight. You're able to moderately control the angle of ascent or descent using the touch screen, but the main problem is that these are blind landings. Since you can't see the ground from high up in the air, a relatively extraordinary level of experimentation and memorization is required to climb to the top of these standings. If anyone gets frustrated with Slop Bucket Games, it's going to be here.
The latter batch of mini-games aren't as strong as the initial offerings. Shufflemuck will be most recognizable; it's air hockey using a pair of horsebrushes and a flattened tin can. But it's also annoying since it spans vertically across both screens with a disorienting jump in between. Junkyard Hijinks is another 3-D driving stage, but it's more open form. You freewheel a hot rod around another dirt pit, receiving points for successful jumps and handbrake slides. Sorting Chicks has you segregating babies by gender as they roll down a conveyor belt. Take note, though, that all these games are timed to last less than a minute each. Even a kid with ADD would complain about a cartridge that can be mastered in a couple of hours. Moreover, there aren't any multiplayer options.
While the events themselves capture an appropriate farmyard feel, Slop Bucket Games doesn't do enough to capture the spirit of Barnyard. First off, you don't actually get to play as your favorite characters. Instead, you choose from a generic collection of three steers and heifers each at the beginning of Story Mode. Don't want to be bovine? Too bad. And you can't even give your cow a name.
More disappointing, though, is the lack of humor that makes the show fun. Yes, I love seeing Peck the rooster splat into a bullseye during the Chicken Launch. But before any event is unlocked for the first time, your character has to run around the yard collecting the necessary equipment. Otis the cow, Pip the mouse, Pig (the pig), and the rest of the gang are standing at attention throughout the environment. This downtime would be the perfect opportunity for them to crack jokes or tell funny stories. But everyone is all business, shilling their event and turning you out as quickly as possible. A little more personality would've gone a long way. As it is, this misuse of Back at the Barnyard teeters on the edge of the slop bucket.
Freelance review by Benjamin Woodhouse (November 15, 2008)
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