Orwell's Animal Farm review
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Orwell's Animal Farm review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on December 11th, 2020
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: FARMING THE FORMULA
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Orwell’s Animal Farm may look different, but feels all too familiar.

Developer: Nerial

Price: $3.99
Version: 1.01
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Orwell's Animal Farm is a narrative adventure game based on George Orwell's novella about talking farm animals who chase their farmer off and try to build a better society for themselves. Since this is a game developed by Nerial, you can probably guess the kind of structure this game takes. Orwell's Animal Farm is yet another choose-your-own adventure romp from the minds behind Reigns, and--aside from its refreshing linearity--doesn't do much to stray from its tried and true formula.

Manor management

The impetus for the barnyard revolt in Orwell's Animal Farm is fuled by a hatred for Farmer Jones, the caretaker of Manor Farm who seems to be a drunkard and rather poor farmer. Even if he was good at his job, a lot of animal would be fated to die early deaths or otherwise have their bodies exploited for Jones's personal financial gain. Orwell's Animal Farm opens with all of the animals organizing around the leadership of some pigs to chase him off and start life anew.

In this new society, Manor Farm is transformed into Animal Farm, a society run by animals, for animals, following the rules of animalism. Throughout Orwell's Animal Farm, you decide how each farmyard animal contributes to this new society in hopes of living a long and peaceful life without hardship on the farm. You do this by reading through procedural dialog that pops up on screen and dragging a cursor over animals or other items of interest to respond to them in kind.

Surviving the simulation

If you've read the novella of the same name, Orwell's Animal Farm's narrative should be all too familiar. The game doesn't stray far from its source material at all, even if you make decisions that point toward a different outcome. Of course, as a choose-your-own adventure game, there are multiple endings you can come across, but the general shape of the narrative tends to stay the same.

This makes your job as the player more like a farmer yourself, trying to manage the animals effectively so they have enough food for the winter, strong enough defenses to ward of invasions, and enough rest to successfully reproduce and prosper without dying or abandoning the farm society entirely. It is only at a select few moments where the game actually feels like it moves in a direction that you point it in, and depending on how you've played up to that point, it's possible you won't be given much say in the matter.

Reigns redux

Overall, very little of Orwell's Animal Farm feels all that different from a Reigns game. The interface is different and the game is shorter (you can finish it in a sitting), but otherwise you're essentially managing meters and seeing where the consequences of your decisions take you.

This is fine, I guess, but it makes for an underwhelming experience. For all of Nerial's output, it's really starting to feel like they're victims of their own success and hesitant to try any ideas that are too new or different than what they're known for. Maybe it's just me, but after four Reigns games in four years, I've been ready to see this studio make their next creative leap, and Orwell's Animal Farm is hardly that.

The bottom line

Orwell's Animal Farm is a perfectly fine choose-your-own adventure game from a developer who has already made plenty of choose-your-own adventure games. Its literary ties, idyllic scenery, and linearity add some novelty to the experience, but ultimately not enough to make it feel too different from something we've seen before. People have figured out the Reigns formula. They've also already applied it to an Animal Farm-like setup (i.e. Democratic Socialism Simulator). Although enjoyable, Orwell's Animal Farm feels like its missing the creative spark that made Nerial's initial releases exciting.

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