My apologies for the late post, things have been a bit crazy lately. My kitchen's in the middle of remodeling and been out of comission for the last week. But rest assured, I haven't forgotten about my readers (all two of you).

Developer: The Casual Collective

Platform: Facebook

Release Date: 6/30/10

Content Warning: Cartoon Blood


          Since my review of CityVille last week, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what makes a good social game. I don’t just mean good in the sense that it makes money, Zynga have already proven the best way to do that is to fill your game with more spam than the British army circa 1941. I mean an actual good game, one that allows people a wide range of creativity and makes them feel fulfilled by playing. I don’t claim to have all the answers, or I’d be out there making this magical game and getting paid the big bucks. But, as an avid game player, I have discovered a few things about social games:

1.      The perfect game is impossible. The desire to create a high quality game and the need/desire to make money are in direct opposition. People hate being bugged to pay money in a game that’s supposed to be free, but in order to support the costs of running the game, it’s a necessary evil. However, people should not be prevented from seeing content without paying and should not feel pressured to give money. Rather, they should have the option of paying and getting things sooner that they could still get without paying.

2.      Players should be encouraged to express creativity and have lots of customization options.  I think this is part of why Minecraft has been so successful – though it might not be a true social game, it has no system of advancement other than making something that looks cool. Most social games require players to use the most efficient way of reaching higher levels rather than playing to suit their personality, or else risk getting left in the dust by their friends.

3.      A player should not have to view their friends as a resource rather than a fellow player. This is something that I took particular issue with in CityVille. There’s no problem with people giving “gifts” (in quotes because almost all social games pull whatever’s being given from the ether instead of actually taking it from the giving player) to each other, but it shouldn’t result in truckloads of gift messages, and people shouldn’t be required to get their friends to play in order to see advanced game content.

4.      If there is an energy or level system, it should be meaningful, not just a way to show off or prevent players from continuing playing unless they wait or pay.

          I created these points with some help from Backyard Monsters, which I’m pleased to report is much better than any generic spam-ville game Zynga has ever farted out. Much like Travain and Evony, Backyard Monsters is mainly based around resource production and management. Your goal is to raise an army of hideous mutant creatures and smash the crap out of your friends’ yards while building defensive structures to stop them from returning the favor.
My awesome backyard fortress
          I really enjoy the art style in Backyard Monsters. The game makes no attempt to hide its brutal yet goofy nature; all the buildings are made from household items like matches, cheese graters and whisks. The monsters’ pictures are all hideous-looking, but their smaller representations in battle look more like oddly-shaped multicolored ants. To top it all off, any time a monster dies it explodes in an oddly satisfying burst of cartoon blood that stains the field for about a day afterward as a sort of battle scar.
I <3 Crabatrons
          There’s quite a bit to unlock, with a decent variety of monsters and buildings to choose from. Each monster type has a specific target priority, allowing you to create strategies and let the AI play it out (which it usually does fairly well) while also forcing you to try out multiple types of monsters. All of the unlocks and upgrades have the option to speed them up with “shiny”, which aside from being the best name for a currency I’ve ever heard, is implemented as fairly as any premium product can be in that you can pay for but can also get from mushrooms that appear in your yard each day. Like I said earlier, it’s not perfect, but given the fact that the developers have to make money somehow it’s reasonable.

          There are also many design choices that make it much more enjoyable to play than most Facebook games. There is no energy system to limit how much you can do, though you only have a limited number of workers. However, it’s usually not a problem because 3 projects at once are usually about as much your resources can support. The level system goes beyond a simple comparison of who the best player is and reflects who you should, shouldn’t, or even can’t attack. Even though your friends’ goals are to destroy your yard, nothing is ever permanently destroyed but instead must be repaired, meaning you never lose its bonus once constructed. This happens automatically the next time you log in, and although it does take some time most buildings repair in a few minutes, and even the strongest buildings will usually be repaired and back online within an hour. Even if you don’t have friends who play or don’t want to attack their yards, there are 4 computer-controlled monster tribes that you can fight. Friends who play Backyard Monsters automatically appear at the bottom of your game screen without you having to add them. Friends can also send you supply packages with random amounts of a particular resource, but it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t create spam. You’re only allowed to receive one package per day no matter how many friends you have, and to counteract the fact that you can only get one the amount from that package is usually pretty substantial. Friends can also stop by your yard and knock some time off of your building and upgrades.

          However, all of that is second to an amazing option called “close enough”.  Any time a construction, repair, or upgrade is within 5 minutes of being finished, you can complete it instantly for free, and you can use it as often as you want. Later upgrades take enough time that you won’t usually get a chance to use it, but when you’re just starting out it’s a great way to catch you up with people who have been playing for a while and give you a fighting chance against them.
          I only have two complaints against Backyard Monsters. The fact that they do bug you for money is still there, but it’s nowhere near the level of annoyance that most social games have about it. It also doesn’t quite meet the creativity point I made about social games in general. It does allow for a little more freedom than most in that there are any number of ways you can set up your yard, but when it comes down to it the Laser and Tesla towers are still the best in the game and if you’re not placing them throughout your yard by the time you hit level 28 or so you’re going to get stomped on.

          Backyard Monsters is a prime example of how subtle design decisions can really make or break a game, especially a casual social one that doesn’t have many gameplay mechanics to begin with. It is by no means perfect, but it stands head and shoulders above most other social media games that I’ve tried. If you have any interest in Facebook games, you need to try Backyard Monsters.

                                                          Score: 9/10

This has been the Freeware Fanatic, saying Lady Gaga beware. These are the kind that might actually eat your brain.



04/15/2011 20:32

i cant give gifts to friends it has a yellow box and a x in the top right corner .email me and tell me how to fix please! downloaded flash player and shockwave player i have vista on my computer

The Freeware Fanatic
04/15/2011 22:12

The yellow box with the X is the one you use to send friends gifts. If you have any friends that play Backyard Monsters, they should appear in a list on that screen automatically. You should just be able to check the boxes next to them and click the "send gift" button. If there aren't any people there, you must not have any friends that play Backyard Monsters. Hope this helps!

terry smith
05/04/2011 15:56

thank you it was becuase i have vista and internet explorer nine can only have 8 for yellow box to show any friends !

The Freeware Fanatic
05/16/2011 00:33

I wasn't aware of that, thanks for letting me know! I use Firefox, so I'm not too familiar with IE.

08/06/2012 20:19

Excellent! I admire all the helpful data you've shared in your articles. I'm looking forward for more helpful articles from you. :)

Joseph Aidan


article that you write very good, I am happy to see it .. thanks


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