I knew that Fat Chicken had really gotten to me when I started having dreams about my giant imaginary farm. Everything was bright, colorful, and exultant. My chickens, pigs, and cows were plump and satisfied from a constant deluge of corn, water, and hormones. My handymen, fulfilled with their work of poking and prodding my livestock along the path to the slaughterhouse, were smiling. Everything was as it should have been. But then, out of nowhere, came the dying sounds of animals not being fed into the meat grinder! A group of long-haired hippie protesters had shut down one of my feed towers and now my animals were starving to death. And then aliens burst out of an inter-dimensional portal and started to abduct my livestock with their devilish tractor beams. I thought my dream could not get any worse, but I was wrong as my animals started to get sick from being pumped too full of hormones and without money to buy antibiotics towers they were dying en masse. Little pork chops and steaks littered the ground and I was finished. Although this was a dream, this actually occurred quite frequently during my playthrough of Fat Chicken.
Relevant Games has created a very fun and manic spin on the tower defense genre by putting you in the position of Master Farmer (totally a thing) and having you work your hardest to not only protect your endless parade of livestock on their paths from the pen or the coop to the slaughterhouse, but by also making said livestock as plump as possible. You do this by building different types of towers like the corn feed tower which satisfies your animals’ hunger, the water tower which quenches their thirst, and the hormone tower which makes your animals bigger and juicer. These are the three main towers which you have access to at the beginning of the campaign which takes you across the United States to different major farming locales like Modesto, California, Green Bay Wisconsin and many other places in between. You start out at the bottom rung of uber-corporate Fat Chicken Meat Company, a company so greedy and profit driven that the missions from them substitute s’s for $, and are given tasks by Ms. Melendez, FCMC’s HR manager, who helps you slowly rise through the ranks of supervisor, regional supervisor, vice-president and so on.
Farming, of course, is no walk in the park and there are multiple things that can, and will, go wrong on any given map. Your livestock, which are little cubed shaped objects with Angry Bird lookalike faces, slowly trot their way from Point A (The coop or pen) to Point B (the slaughterhouse) along various zig-zagging paths. Beside the paths are various places where you can build your towers which, although it does take the freedom away from building them wherever you want, really makes you have to plan, rethink your plan, and then finally decide where to put them. Towers cost Murderbux which you receive a limited number of at the beginning of the mission and make more as your animals cross the finish line and get ground up into sweet and delicious meat. The amount you get depends on the weight, so your big cows are much more precious than your little scrawny chickens, although every pound of meat counts. You even have the option of releasing the next wave of livestock early which gives you more Murderbux, but can also overwhelm your towers.
Each mission throws something new at you (aliens, dreaded hippie protesters, polluted water) and has three types of objectives: the first two being pounds of meat you processed and the third being a special more complicated objective like using less towers or hired hands, or only losing so many animals. I found the third objective to be nigh on impossible at times and resigned myself quite a few times to settling with just a sad pair. These completed objectives give you stars which can be used to buy upgrades for your farm like making your towers shoot faster and cost less, or increasing your livestock’s run speed. The completed missions also give you gold which in turn can be used to unlock heroes, one of which can be your assistant on any given mission or power-ups which give you one time bonuses during missions. These heroes, who, like your animals, bounce around the map, each have positives and negatives. I saved up my gold and bought the Love Guru who increased the chance of my animals doing naughty things on the paths and making offspring which gave me the chance to collect more Murderbux, but which also made me need to place more feed and water towers to insure their survival…at least until the slaughterhouse.
The missions themselves range in difficultly from “eh” to “AHH!” and I frequently found myself restarting missions three to four or more times. This was sometimes due to poor planning, like forgetting to have turret towers to shoot down UFOs or not having enough security guards to ward off evil hippies, but most of the time I found myself quite confused on when my animals needed food and water. The antibiotic towers make sense because you need to place them near tainted water or if you are pumping them full of hormones, but the feed and water tower placement was never clearly explained and I found myself having to experiment to figure it out through a series of trials and errors. There is, however, a speed clock which allows you to slow down or speed up the game from half-speed to quadruple. This can really help either with planning in the middle of the mission or knowing that you are rocking the farm life and watching everything get completed that much faster.
The map designs are fun and cartoonish, from the lush green fields of California and Washington to the desert environment of New Mexico and Texas ripped straight out of a Road Runner cartoon. The blue, or in some cases tainted teal water ripples, tiny trees occasionally shed green leaves, and the smokestacks of your slaughterhouse bellow incessant thick grey clouds. For the most part, however, the maps are stagnant like backgrounds from cartoon shows and get quickly repetitive. Human characters bounce and wobble and everything seems fun and whimsical to look at while playing.
Relevant Games sound team should be applauded. Every sound from the “Yee-hah!” at the beginning of each mission, to UFO’s Twilight Zone-esque tractor beam, to the various tower sounds like the Hormone Tower’s laser “pew-pew-pew” and the Corn Feed tower’s muted machine-gun, or to the hilarious “cha-ching” you hear when your livestock take their last step into the slaughterhouse add great charm to an already charming game. Especially composer Justin Graves, who created the music for the new Tomb Raider game and the Dead Space series, and gives the game a solid dose of folksy charm through the country-rockabilly-Hawaiian-SoCal surfer background music which softens the whole idea of the fact that you are murdering dozens of animals at a time.
So the life of a stooge farmer working for an over the top almost mustache twirling evil farming conglomerate is fantastic, fun, and filled with hilarious moments and Relevant Games really nails their alteration of the tower defense genre. They satirize corporate farming so well, in fact, that it might even make me think twice of which type of meat I’ll buy at the grocery store on my next visit.[review]