Take a walk around a mass market retailer and look at how Angry Birds has overrun every department. There are shirts, toys, notepads– you can deck out your entire life with furious avians. So it’s no surprise that games like Mad Cows take aim at copying it, and consistently miss the mark.
Mad Cows claims to be a ‘spoof,’ but it doesn’t seem to include any elements of mockery or parody. Instead of birds, you have cows, sheep, and other livestock. Instead of pigs, you have farmers. Using a catapult, you fling the livestock at the farmers, earning points by smashing the farmers and their protective structures. The gameplay, special abilities, obstacles, and strategy are almost the same as Angry Birds. The main differences are that Mad Cows features a solid multiplayer mode and an underdeveloped single-player mode.
The single-player mode presents 10 levels for each of the six kinds of livestock. Each level offers a simple puzzle that can be solved using that creature. Some of the puzzles are clever, requiring you to bank your animal off a wall or use its special ability in an unusual way.
Home on the range
Other puzzles present obvious but difficult targets. These can be frustrating, since you may have to fire the slingshot at a very precise angle to pass through obstacles like narrow tunnels. It’s no fun doing the same thing over and over again just to get one small detail right.
Given the rudimentary scoring and the simple puzzles, it’s clear that the developer Everplay does not expect you to spend much time in single-player mode. In fact, it’s really a tutorial for the multiplayer mode. So how’s the main event?
As one of the game’s resident sheep would say, ‘Not baaad.’ Two players are matched up through Game Center, with each player receiving an identical structure of farmers and obstacles. The players then score points by smashing into each other.
You’ve won a sheep!
The multiplayer structures are large and elaborate, presenting more interesting challenges than the single player mode. There’s also a clever little ‘slot machine’ that gives you a random choice of livestock to throw. On any given turn, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to play with your favorite farm animal, but sometimes you’ll just have to make the best of whatever you’ve got.
Mad Cows’ multiplayer mode is entertaining, at least when your opponent is online and turns happen quickly. It’s not nearly as satisfying if the game progresses at the rate of one 10-second turn per day. Spreading the turns out in this way destroys the rhythm of the game, inflicting the frustration of missed shots without offering the immediate remedy of trying again.
Even when the game is in full swing, though, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s just another clone of Angry Birds. It’s a competent clone, to be sure, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the multiplayer mode is the game’s best feature, and it’s still not quite as engaging as the original. Mad Cows is fun, but you won’t be seeing its characters on a T-shirt any time soon.