Let's Explore: The Farm - With Buzzy

aka: Buzzy: Let's Explore - The Farm, The Farm
Moby ID: 21015
Windows Specs
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$6.99 new on Steam

Description

The Farm allows kids 3-8 (or any age) to explore the idyllic farm, as depicted in movies - orchards, horses, gardens, cows, chickens, waterwheel, fields, a pond - it's all here.

Kids learn about the operation of a farm in over 40 different locations around the farm, with their guide Buzzy The Knowledge Bug. Go inside the red barn & milk a cow, or check out the growing vegetables in the garden, watch the waterwheel grind away, or peek inside the chicken coop. Items in each location can be clicked on for either amusing animations, or to ask "What is This?" which will take them directly to the encyclopedia page describing that item. The encyclopedia has more than 200 descriptions in it. It also has an index, to jump directly back to interesting items, and the pictures in the index take you to a spot in the farm that the item can be found. The encyclopedia is text, but Buzzy can also read the text for young players.

In addition, the game has 5 Time To Play mini-games. The Coloring Book has 15 different pictures to color and print out. Trivia contains 100 farm-related questions with answers within the game - for pre-readers, Buzzy will read the question out loud and also provide hints. There are 3 difficulty levels for this game. In Eggs Away, you have to catch the eggs that the chickens lay before they hit the ground - catch enough and you move onto the next level, but you have to watch out for the rats. There's also the Find It game, where the game randomly picks 10 items (out of 110 possible) within the game and you go find them around the farm. This game has 3 difficulty levels. Finally, there's Spell It. This spelling game has three difficulty levels - at the easiest level you just add a single missing letter to a word (there's a picture of the farm-related item); at the medium level you have to figure out the word based on a picture; at the hardest level there's no picture. The on-screen cows indicate your progress in the harder levels. .

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Credits (Windows version)

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Average score: 100% (based on 1 ratings)

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Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 3 ratings with 1 reviews)

One of Humongous Entertainment's weaker attempts at conventional edutainment

The Good
This game has a somewhat confusing history. It was originally released in 1994 in cooperation with publisher Random House as the first entry in the Junior Encyclopedias series. But the following year, its airport-themed followup would rebrand the series as Junior Field Trips, while also adding minigames to the mix. Since Random House wanted there to be consistency across the series, the farm-themed original was rereleased under the series' new name with added minigames of its own (a rare positive example of executive meddling). Because of this, the original is nigh-impossible to find nowadays. Since I don't have it myself (and since MobyGames doesn't treat it as its own title), I'm going to have to skip it and base my review on the enhanced rerelease.

This game uses the basic framework of a point-and-click adventure game to act as an interactive encyclopedia of sorts. But there are no items to pick up, puzzles to solve or NPCs to interact with. Instead, you can call the game's host, Buzzy, to have him say something about the current location. Or you can access encyclopedia entries on anything that catches your eye. Alternatively, all of these entries can be accessed manually through an index. Finally, there are five minigames. Some of them expect you to put the knowledge you acquired to good use, while others exist just for entertainment.

As you can probably imagine, this is one of the more educational games to come out of Humongous Entertainment. This makes it a bit harder for me to judge, seeing how entertainment isn't its primary objective. What I will say is that the formula behind it is not a bad idea, and it does teach a fair amount of things about farms.

The Bad
That being said, the execution of said formula is okay at best. I'd say the main issue is that the educational aspects are a bit too dry and heavy on exposition. Much like with a normal encyclopedia, most of the information is conveyed solely through text.

Buzzy's comments occasionally have useful information as well, but a lot of them are just unfunny jokes or throwaway lines that add nothing. The developers seem to have realized themselves how pointless a lot of them were, seeing how most of the more expository comments were added for the Junior Field Trip version. They don't exactly give Buzzy much of a personality either, but at least they're educational. I just wish they'd deleted the old ones while they were at it. Those are just annoying.

Another flaw of the game is that the graphics have aged fairly poorly. They're largely hand-drawn, but much like in the first Freddi Fish, the linework is kind of crude at times, especially during the Spell It minigame. It doesn't help that this game goes for a very different approach to coloring. All of the color was clearly added digitally. This isn't an inherently bad approach so long as it's done with real effort, but here, it seems to have served largely as a shortcut. The coloring is very basic and causes many places to look rather plain and lacking in detail. I know I criticized the first Freddi Fish's backgrounds for being colored too realistically, but this is exaggerating in the other direction. What's more, the cartoonish look of the coloring clashes with the outlines, which are drawn in a more realistic style than the usual Humongous fare.

In terms of music, this game has very little to offer. Aside from the title theme, only the minigames (minus Eggs Away) have music, and it's basically elevator music. You can tell that the guy responsible for most of the soundtrack isn't a professional music composer.

One Junior Adventure tradition that does carry over into this game is clickpoints, but while they are fairly numerous, most of them aren't all that imaginative. Perhaps the artists didn't want to get too wacky in what is supposed to be a relatively serious educational game? They also tend to have less animations than usual.

As far as the minigames are concerned, there's a serviceable coloring book, Hangman clone and quiz. Find It is basically a scavenger hunt where you have to find the thing you're shown somewhere on the farm. On higher difficulties, this game actually expects you to be familiar with various clickpoints, which makes this one of the few Humongous games in which there's an actual incentive to interact with clickpoints. Still, memorizing clickpoint animations is a weird thing to ask of players, considering it's hardly educational in any way. It can also be rather frustrating if a randomized clickpoint keeps playing the wrong animations, forcing you to click on it again and again until it cooperates. Finally, Eggs Away is pretty terrible. It's a very boring and simplistic catching game with some really annoying mechanics and a lot of RNG. Don't even think of trying to beat the whole game. It has a whopping 999 levels. And it's very clear that the developers didn't expect anyone to play the game further than Level 80. At this point, it just stops getting any harder and no longer even gives you bonus levels to mix things up a bit.

The Bottom Line
All in all, this is simply a farm-themed encyclopedia with barely passable attempts at interactivity. There's nothing particularly special about it. If you have children and want them to learn more about farms, I guess you could do worse than give them this game. But otherwise, this is really only worth playing for particularly big fans of Humongous Entertainment.

Windows · by SomeRandomHEFan (164) · 2020

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Dave Timoney.

Linux added by Charly2.0. Windows 3.x, Macintosh added by Katie Cadet.

Additional contributors: MAT, formercontrib.

Game added January 31, 2006. Last modified July 16, 2023.