iPhone Life magazine

Review: Cash Cow from Chillingo

I love match X style games, but there’s too much truth to the fact that they are basically a dime a dozen these days. It makes sense given their popularity, but it also means any new entry to the genre has to try and do something to distinguish itself from the others. Some just add a few bells and whistles, while others think completely outside the box by mashing in a whole new genre to the mix. Sometimes it’s nice to have something in between, and that’s exactly where Cash Cow lies. It’s definitely not your average match X game, but there’s no spells to cast or demons to fight or anything like that. You do get to paint the side of a barn, though.
 
Cash Cow is all about the money. Whether you play an “adventure” mode or one of the free modes, it’s all about using your sense to turn your cents into dollars. The game board looks just like any other match X game board, but this one is filled with coins. You can select up to 10 coins at a time, and your ultimate goal is to come up with a dollar at a time. You can combine coins to form denominations of 5, 10 and 25 cents. Select 5 pennies to make a nickel, two nickels to make a dime, and so on. Just remember that the change keeps adding up until the first acceptable denomination is formed. In other words, if you’re trying to make 25 cents by selecting 3 nickels and a dime, but you touch two of the nickels first, you’ll just make a dime. Coins can only be selected that are adjacent to one of the coins already selected, and the final coin that gets created appears in the spot of the last coin you touched. Of course, if you make a dollar than it goes into your money pool and doesn’t stay on the board.
 
Here Come The Ladybugs
 
As the game progresses you’ll start getting things that both help and hinder you. Eventually matches will produce glowing coins, and when the glowing coins get used in a match you’ll gain power ups on the field. Power ups can be activated by touching them and include things like a piggy bank, which gathers up all the coins adjacent to the bank and adds them to your money pool, or a safe which clears the entire board and adds it to your money. On the down side you’ll run into blank coins, which can easily be cleared simply by tapping on them with nothing else selected. However, if you accidentally include them in part of a match you’ll actually lose the amount of money from the resulting coin instead of gaining it. There are also ladybugs that will start flying around and landing on coins, and whatever coin they land on is off limits until they move.
 
There’s also a mini-game that shows up every few levels when you’re playing “save the farm” mode. All you have to do is tilt the device to get four coins into a bucket at the bottom of the screen. Let’s just say that the first iteration of this mini-game is deceptively simple. Speaking of modes, there are two modes in Cash Cow, each of which is broken down into multiple categories. In “Quick Play” you can choose Endless, Practice or Bonus mode. Endless is just what it sounds like – you keep trying to collect as much money as possible, with the only other real goal to not let the timer run out. In practice mode you’re just attempting to count to $100, so this is really more for the kids. Bonus mode lets you practice the various versions of the mini-game which is good because the mini-game can earn you money towards your farm in “Save The Farm” mode.
 
Save The Farm is where the game really shines. You can play in either Arcade or Relaxed mode, the main difference that I’ve seen being that each level is timed in Arcade mode. Whichever route you go, Save The Farm starts out with Bill the duck and Buck the cow having a conversation about how they need to save Bill’s farm. Now it’s up to you to earn money to help revitalize and prettify the farm. Each round requires you to earn a certain amount of money, and at the end of each round you can spend that money on things like painting the barn or planting an apple tree. I was about to say that the only thing that was a bit disappointing here was that there weren’t more enhancements to choose from. It turns out that as you advance through the levels, more options become available to you. The whole layout of this mode just adds a fresh feel to the whole match X concept.
 
The Farm Is Lookin' Good
 
Aesthetically I can’t get over how polished Cash Cow is. Not to say that most of the other offerings in this genre don’t look good, but there are only a couple I can think of that look as good or better than Cash Cow visually. The matching portion of the game is filled with special effects, from swirling coins when you get a power up to the Level Clear banner swooping in from any given side of the screen. As you make matches Buck is in the upper right corner of the screen mooing to cheer you on. There are even several different backgrounds that are swapped out in matching mode. And the farm building screen is no slouch either. Everything is beautifully drawn and nicely detailed. It should be pleasing to adults and appealing to kids alike.
 
The sound effects fit the game perfectly. But as good as they are, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about the music. If you’ve read enough of my reviews, you know how important I think music is to games. Apparently, this developer gets me. This music is some of the most perfect fitting to a game that I’ve run across on my iPod. Not only that, but there’s such a diverse selection of tracks! I don’t know how many there are all together, but I’m sure I have to play through several levels before I hit a repeat. Not only that, but these tunes could easily hold their own on a CD. The only little complaint I have is that the music doesn’t transition well when looping back to the beginning. But then it’s so good, who cares?
 
If you’re a fan of the match X genre, I’m really not sure how you managed to get this far in the review without already buying the game. If the genre has never really been of much interest to you, this is a great place to start. Of course, after playing Cash Cow you might be disappointed with a lot of the other offerings, but that’s a chance you need to be willing to take. The graphics are great, the music is absolutely incredible, and the game is just downright fun. Oh, and it’s a great game for kids as well, especially if they’re at that point where they are learning about money. In fact, after playing this I’ll most likely be buying the PC version for my kids. Still here? Go buy this – now!
 

Overall Score: 10/10
App Store Link

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.