When it comes to time management games, farming is quickly becoming as popular as food and fashion. But as saturated as the farm theme is becoming, Ranch Rush proves that there’s always room for one more – provided the game is as good as this one is.
In Ranch Rush we’re introduced to Sara, a girl who loves her job working at Jim’s flower nursery. When financial woes mean the nursery might have to close down, Sara comes up with the idea of opening a farmer’s market to raise funds to keep the nursery open. She has eight weeks to raise the necessary cash by filling customers’ orders with the right number of corn, pumpkins, honey, milk, eggs, fleece, and other harvested goods.
Although the farm theme has been explored several times before (in Dairy Dash, Farm Frenzy and Alice Greenfingers to name a few), Ranch Rush still manages to seem as fresh as a basket of Sara’s hand-picked tomatoes. From attractive graphics and superb gameplay balance to healthy doses of creativity, challenge and fun, Ranch Rush is one of those happy instances where almost all aspects of the gameplay come together perfectly.
There are essentially three parts to Ranch Rush: Basic crop harvesting, where you’ll grow crops like corn, wheat, grapes and tomatoes (making sure to water them, keep them free of pests and re-plant when necessary); raising animals for milk, wool and other goods; and using various machines to produce foods from your raw materials. Tomatoes can be made into ketchup, for example, and bread can be made using wheat, milk and eggs.
Some time management games are just about clicking as quickly as possible, and can start to get mind-numbing over long sessions of play. The best games in the genre, however, require the player to think and strategize as well as click. Ranch Rush falls into the latter category in a few ways, the first being that you’re given complete control over the layout of your farm. The game provides the raw materials – soil, seed bags, equipment and animals – for purchase, and you’re free to buy as many of each as you can afford, put them anywhere you like, and rearrange them at any time.
Each week is divided into the five work days plus a farmer’s market bonus round on Saturday. You’ll only fill one customer’s order per day, but the orders are big – and because many of the products require other raw materials to create, you’ll have to plan ahead or risk running out of time waiting for too many things to get made. The farmer’s market is a kind of lightning round where you can rack up bonus cash by selling as much as possible.
Another one of Ranch Rush‘s interesting twists is that whatever condition you leave your farm in at the end of the day, that’s how it will be the next morning. For example, any extra produce that you’ve created and not used will roll over to the next day. On the other hand, if you’ve failed to replant your crops or left machines in states of disrepair, you’ll have to deal with that the next day too. In other words, each level is not just a rush to the finish, but also involves planning ahead and making sure your farm is sustainable for the long-term.
Ranch Rush‘s pacing is exquisite. Difficulty starts out manageable but quickly ramps up, even in the easier of the two modes. A second mode, Expert, is unlocked after Week 3 of casual mode play. There’s also a trophy room that keeps track of in-game milestones like selling $10,000 in a single farmer’s market or collecting 40 honey in a row without being stung.
Ranch Rush achieves near-perfection, but with a couple of caveats: Eventually your farm will become so big that it won’t all fit on one screen, so you’ll have to scroll in order to see everything. If you’ve organized your farm efficiently this shouldn’t prove too much of a problem, but given the game’s challenging time constraints, the scrolling does add another layer of frenzy to the mix.
Another issue with scrolling is that because you can’t quite see everything that’s happening, you’re often reliant on sound cues to signal if something needs your attention – a machine has broken down, or the cows are hungry, for example. If you’re hard of hearing or simply prefer to play with the sound turned off, you might not notice right away if an issue arises, losing a lot of efficiency in the process.
Finally, you can click ahead to stack moves in advance, but if you right-click to cancel you’ll end up cancelling the entire queue, not just the last command, which would have been more helpful. On the other hand, you can’t cancel a move if Sara has already started to walk towards it. So if you accidentally send her to the hive when the bees are there, for example, she will get stung and there’s no way to stop it.
These issues are minor, however, in light of all of the things Ranch Rush does right. Time management fans can download the game with confidence.