A business or product that produces significantly greater revenue than it consumes is referred to as a cash cow. It’s a moneymaker that requires minimal expenditures while continuing to generate profits year after year.
Cash Cow is also the name of a new coin-counting game and a rather unique puzzle experience. Is the moniker appropriate? In some ways it is, but not in "udders."
In Cash Cow, Buck needs your help to save the farm. Indebted to the bank, this cow’s only chance is to dig through years of accumulated loose change and convert it to the currency required to rebuild his homestead — a simple matter of counting pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
What’s in store for those wandering into this barnyard? Well, two modes of play, Classic and Timed. In Timed Mode, you race the clock to count as much change as possible. Efforts are rewarded via a Hi-Scores table. Choose Classic Mode, though, and you begin the process of rebuilding Buck’s barn and surrounding property. Your first task is sifting through enough coins to plant an apple tree, and then repair the roof on the barn. After that, monies are used to fix a broken window, hang a door on the barn, erect a fence, plant crops, build a windmill and purchase items like a bucket, rope, pitchfork, lucky horseshoe and mailbox.
Gameplay revolves around coin combinations. Five pennies are pooled to make a nickel, two nickels create a dime, two dimes and a nickel produce a quarter, and ten dimes or four quarters are chained together to equal a dollar. To complete a level, simply combine enough coins to reach or exceed the specified figure. Exact change is not required, but where you start and end your chains will either help or hinder other combinations. So, some basic strategy is involved.
Of course, there’s more to Cash Cow than counting coins to help Buck make, well, a buck. As you progress, power-ups are added to augment your coinage. These include items such as Piggy Banks, Bank Bags, Penny Rolls, Safes, Cash Registers and Gold Nuggets, acquired when you combine glowing coins (change that was already merged). What do they offer? Clicking on Piggy Banks, Bank Bags and Safes collects the coins around them over progressively larger areas (Safes clear the entire screen). Gold nuggets, varying in value by size, are gathered when the coins next to them are matched. Penny Rolls amass and extract all pennies in sight, while Cash Registers increase the value of the coins around them and add them to your total.
As for life on the farm, it’s quite picturesque. A lot of care and attention has gone into the game’s graphic appeal, including the pyrotechnic blasts that accompany the use of power-ups. Its catchy, toe-tapping tunes are grand, as well, and fit perfectly with the farm motif. Long after you’ve finished playing Cash Cow, you’ll catch yourself humming them. From a pure visual and aural standpoint, this package is "udderly" gorgeous.
Nevertheless, not everything is idyllic in this pastoral setting. The game’s short, simplistic play and a save system that only supports one player at a time lessen its value. Once past the first few levels, gameplay doesn’t vary apart from the power-ups added. Coin combinations remain unchanged from start to finish. For example, two dimes and a nickel are required to make a quarter. But, you can’t combine five nickels. Neither will ten pennies produce a dime. So, the math and educational value of Cash Cow for children is limited. Difficulty never increases either, resulting in incredibly easy play and a modest challenge at best. Couple that with a mere 25 levels, and the experience is over in no time.
More inexcusable, however, is the provision of just one player file. As such, this rural, math-based diversion is limited to a single player at a time. Granted, the game’s short. But it’s still a major faux pas in a casual release that’s likely to be played by multiple family members.
Come the end of the day, while I wouldn’t call Cash Cow a "moo-ving" experience, its coin-counting action should keep younger children counting their change until the proverbial cows come home. Experienced casual gamers, however, will find the challenge lacking and the experience far too brief. It’s fun, even addictive, to a point, but disappointing, too. Still, for those new to casual games, it may offer just the right amount of challenge without a need to milk the experience.