Reviewed: October 21, 2009
Released: October 15, 2009
App Store Price: $.99
I have several hundred apps for my iPhone these days, so I have to be a bit selective when it comes to deciding which ones make the cut to actually leave the house with me. But when it comes to Cash Cow, the latest puzzle game from Riverman and Chillingo… you may as well just burn this game into the permanent memory of my iPhone because it is never coming off.
Personally, I have never heard of Cash Cow before (at least as a game title) but it apparently has quite the successful reputation and following on the PC, so the two brothers over at Riverman decided to bring it to the iPhone (and iPod Touch) in this new ground-up design. The results are quite astounding.
Cash Cow is delightfully simple to play, gorgeous to look at, and possibly even a bit educational (shhh...don’t tell the kids), especially if you work with money. You are presented with a 6x6 grid that will fill up with coins. Your goal is to match-up adjoining coins to create new larger coins or even complete dollar bills. Five pennies equal a nickel; two nickels equal a dime; two dimes and a nickel turn into a quarter, etc. As new coins are formed the empty spaces are filled with fresh coins dropping in from above.
Your goal is to match-up and earn a set amount of cash for each level, but the time is always ticking away with the vertical meter on the left edge of the screen. Matching and creating new coins will raise the meter, but if you take too long figuring out your next combination of coins your time can run out and you’ll have to start over.
As with any of these puzzles games, every so often new rules and hazards will be introduced. A ladybug might fly onto the screen and land on a coin making it un-selectable. Matches create new glowing coins and matching two or more glowing coins can produce new power-ups like penny roles that remove all pennies from the board, or a cash register or money sack. Even small and large gold nuggets make their way onto the board in later levels.
At first the game seems a bit too easy but somewhere around level 12 things get more challenging. Cash Cow throws in worthless slugs you have to flick off the playing field. Coin combinations also get more complicated forcing you to mix and match a wider variety of change to convert to larger currency. Just try making a dollar bill out of three quarters, a dime, two nickels, and five pennies, keeping in mind they all have to be adjacent and ladybug-free. WHEW!
Surrounding this challenging puzzle game is a lot of unexpected content we normally don’t see in mobile gaming. First off, there is a story, told with charming cutscenes, about the farm being taken over by the bank unless you can earn the cash to save it. Every few levels there is a challenge stage that requires you to navigate four coins (one of each type) into a bucket by tilting your device to move them around ledges and ramps and work around animated obstacles. These levels get very challenging near the end and make fantastic use of the motion-sensing inputs.
After each level you’ll get to spend your winnings buying back the various elements of your farm the bank has repossessed. You can repair the barn, plant crops, build a fence, setup a scarecrow, add some daisies, or have a blue jay fly across your scene. The level of customization is amazing. You can paint the barn, select which crops to plant, and choose where to stick the apple tree or drop a milk bucket or coil of rope. The items scale nicely as you move them in and out of the scene revealing all sorts of detail. The best thing is that each player’s farm will be completely different from anyone else – the combinations are infinite. I just wish there was a snapshot mode where you could take a picture of your final creation and store to your camera role.
Cash Cow is insanely addictive and I look forward to escaping with my iPhone even for just a few minutes to sneak in a single level of play. And often I will find myself spending way too much time building the perfect farm scene and trying not to have new incoming objects overlap with existing scenery. From the charming, yet stylishly clean and crisp visuals to the delightful campy farm-themed soundtrack, Cash Cow is a must-own game. Out of the hundreds of iPhone games I own and the 20-some I have reviewed Cash Cow gets my highest score to date and is my new personal favorite app on my phone.