Cash Cow, a matching game, proves that sometimes all that’s needed for a good app is tried and true gameplay with a fresh spin. A port of the PC version released a year ago, there’s no doubt the iPhone offering is the superior version. Touting slicker gameplay and even increased content, well, it’s from Chillingo, so polish is practically guaranteed.
Centered on a typical matching board full of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters you must combine them to create larger denominations of five, ten, and twenty five cents until you can clear them by forming dollars. Coins must be adjacent to be combined, and you can only select seven coins at a time. As you progress through the levels you will unlock power ups like a piggy bank that collects all coins in proximity, a roll of pennies that clears all pennies from the board, and even gold nuggets that will add to your total when you combine coins next to them. Of course, blank coins that subtract from your total if collected also begin to appear as well as these devilish lady bugs that land on coins making them impossible to use until they take flight.
This basic gameplay formula is spread over 4 modes, plus a practice mode for the accelerometer driven Bonus Rounds. What does collecting all this money do? Well, in Endless it just acts as a high score, but Arcade Mode’s Save the Farm is the meat of the game. A dastardly looking porcine banker is no longer accepting goods in trade from Buck the Cow, and has seized Buck’s farm. By earning cash you pay Buck’s debt and get to restore the farm to glory by purchasing things like a coat of paint, crops, a haystack and a banjo (I don’t understand that one either). Those that still want to help Buck but crumble under the pressure of a countdown clock (or find pigs repugnant) can try out Relaxed Mode, which costars Bill the Mallard.
Even without Relaxed Mode, Cash Cow is a pretty easy game, and it won’t be long before the farm is in working order. Playing through Save the Farm in either mode once is a delight, but once you’ve collected enough cash to buy all the goodies for the farm twice over it does lose some of the replay value. It just isn’t much fun to go back through and help Buck save the farm for the second or third time, especially with the tutorials. At that point, Endless Mode is the most fun. Part of the Quick Play section, Endless is joined by Practice and Bonus. Practice is like Relaxed but tasks you with specific dollar goals to reach.
In Save the Farm mode you are treated to some tilting fun with Bonus rounds. All the Bonus games center on getting the coins into a barrel, with different routes and pitfalls in each. More money is awarded for clearing the board faster. They get pretty challenging and are practically a game in themselves so it’s nice that Bonus mode lets you play around with just these little mini-games. While this use of the accelerometer is the smallest fraction of the overall gameplay, it still controls extremely well.
Aesthetically, the game looks great. The game board is slick, controls beautifully, and the menus are a treat. The upgrades to the farm are bright and playful, can be moved and re-sized, and kids will love the little animated elements like the butterflies and baby chicks hopping about. Matching coins and triggering power-ups have great effects, and with a mooing cow as cheerleader how can you fail? Over the course of the levels the backgrounds and music will swap. The music isn’t just a slapdash effort, either, but very well designed for the game and with plenty of tracks. it’s a little cheesy – OK, it’s a lot cheesy – but it works.
Among the few downsides to the game is that if you leave the app you lose your progress for the level. This is more of a problem for Relaxed Mode gameplay, as the speedy nature of Arcade isn’t really conducive to picking up where you left off. In general, levels move so quickly that this amounts to more of a quirk than a detriment.
Cash Cow has the same addictive properties of a Bejewelled while being more than just a match-3. Simple gameplay in a polished package makes for a fun time-killer for adults, and a great title to pass off to your kids (I dare say the game could be downright educational for the younger set). The hokey down-on-the-farm title is worth the cash, though for most that will only amount to a couple hours of gameplay.
This review based on an ad hoc version of the title provided by the publisher.