Grumpy Goats is a new physics-based puzzler for Facebook from Fashion Girl developer Verge Games. The game is the developer’s first title on Facebook, and has been released in partnership with WorldVision.org‘s “Give a Goat” charity initiative.
Grumpy Goats sets an immediately good first impression with an impressive introduction animation — though the fact the video in question is hosted on YouTube detracts a little from the professional veneer. The animation introduces the basic concept of the game: one day in the farmyard, the goats laughed at the newly-shorn sheep, so the sheep captured one of the goats and shaved him so he could see how he liked it. The goats, as a result, swore revenge on the sheep and decided that the best way to achieve this would be to fire themselves out of a cannon at the various precarious structures the sheep had decided to take shelter under.
If this all sounds a bit Angry Birds, that would be an accurate assessment. Grumpy Goats is clearly heavily inspired by Rovio’s runaway success, but adds enough twists on the basic formula to make it more than a simple clone. For example, the basic firing mechanic differs significantly between the two games — while in Angry Birds players must “pull back” a virtual slingshot and release to fire the bird, in Grumpy Goats, players must simply click and drag the cannon to the firing angle they want and then release the button when a constantly rising-and-falling power meter reaches the chosen power level. Grumpy Goats’ system allows for much more consistent accuracy than that seen in Angry Birds, which is criticized by some for being a little too dependent on trial, error and luck at times.
Similarly, the two games’ approach to powerups and equipment differs significantly. While Angry Birds Friends, Rovio’s Facebook-based take on the franchise, allows players to purchase consumable powerups to use on levels, Grumpy Goats allows players to purchase permanently equippable helmets for their goats as well as consumables. These helmets alter the destructive capacity of each of the four goats players can use per level, and also provide the facility for a degree of visual customization.
While Grumpy Goats gives players the same four customizable goats to use on every level, the Angry Birds series provides a bit of extra variety with its different types of birds, included to encourage players to consider the “best” and most efficient way to solve each level using the tools given. This provides an increased sense of levels being puzzles, but when combined with the unpredictable firing system (and the similarly unpredictable effects of some of the special birds) can sometimes be frustrating. Grumpy Goats’ more simple approach, meanwhile, means players can focus more on finding the “sweet spot” to bring an entire structure tumbling down in a single shot.
Particular praise should be given to Grumpy Goats’ presentation. The animation and artwork throughout is excellent, and looks more like a TV cartoon than a simple Flash game. The intro sequence is impressive and sets the tone nicely, while between levels short animations provide a little light relief from the gameplay. Background music is also noteworthy for featuring a significant amount of different, full-length tunes rather than the usual 30-second loop or complete silence seen in many other Facebook games. It’s clear that Verge Games has spent a significant amount of effort on the game’s presentation, and it certainly pays off, making Grumpy Goats feel more like a standalone game than a quick-hit Facebook title.
Grumpy Goats is a high-quality game, but will it be enough to topple Angry Birds? Possibly not, since Rovio’s franchise has a considerable head start, and the Facebook-based Angry Birds Friends features much stronger social play features than Grumpy Goats does — the former features weekly tournaments, while the latter simply includes a mostly-meaningless leaderboard of total cumulative score across all levels completed. Grumpy Goats does provide some much-needed respite for those sick of the sight of the ubiquitous disgruntled birds, however, and is a fun game in its own right, with a significant amount of content for players to work through. That fact alone, coupled with the excellent presentation, should be enough to give the game at least some modest success on Facebook.
A good quality, extremely well-presented take on the physics puzzle genre, and different enough from Angry Birds to be regarded as more than a simple clone.