What do you get when you combine tower defense games and the world of industrial farming? Why, you get Fat Chicken, of course. Growth hormones, force-feeding, and fending off protesters all highlight in this somewhat dark indie title by Mighty Rabbit Studios and Relevant Games. While most tower defense games focus on destroying creatures to ensure they don’t reach the end of their pathway, Fat Chicken flips this; you’re tasked with not only ensuring the survival of the farm’s stock, but of ensuring they’re as fat as can be by the time they reach the slaughterhouse.
Fat Chicken, like many of its genre, opens up with some tutorial levels to let you get the hang of things. The basics are laid out plainly and simply. Growth hormone towers, which increase the size that animals can reach (but can also cause toxicity) should be placed nearer to the pens that animals emerge from, while feeding towers belong closer to the slaughterhouse so your meat is plenty juiced up before being hammered full of seed. Long, dry stretches of path make good locations for water towers, keeping creatures from death by dehydration. All along the way, strategy and resource management play in nicely.
Fat Chicken brings quite a bit to the table as a tower defense game. You’ll need sharp tower-placement skills to keep all of the animals fed, watered, and fattened up for slaughter — too little food or water along the path, and they’ll die before they reach their intended doom. Animal-rights protesters can harass and sabotage your farms, and aliens may even swoop in and abduct slow-moving cattle if you’re not careful. Towers, helping hands, and powerups all play their part in maximizing your meaty haul, and in keeping the higher ups happy with your contributions to the company.
In addition to towers, Fat Chicken offers more than the standard tower defense fare. ‘Helping Hands’, such as a cattle-prod to give passing poultry (or other livestock) a push to move faster, can be assigned to towers. Farm upgrades, purchased with the stars earned by completing objectives, can boost tower stats, animal movement or survival, and more. There are also single-use powerups to do everything from simply adding to your collected meat to duplicating a single animal to increase the overall output. All in all, there’s a lot of content packed in, and most of it comes together easily, each new element introduced by brief one-time tutorials to keep you up on the latest farming techniques.
Paths in Fat Chicken aren’t all reliant on your tower placement, either. Corn fields, mud pools, and streams can get your animals the nourishment they need to keep on going, so you’ll want to keep an eye on those when picking your build points. Earning three stars, in many levels, means limiting the towers you build, so watching the lay of the land is crucial. All of this comes together to create a detailed, strategy-heavy play style that keeps players on their toes. With so many factors to keep watch over, successful farming gets hairy very quickly. Additional hazards, like protests and aliens, only complicate it further.
With crisp, bright graphics and a solid supporting soundtrack, Fat Chicken brings a surprisingly deep game to life. More than just another tower defense title, the unique features and creative take on the genre have built a solid, highly-addictive game with simple, intuitive in-game controls that keep the action moving. Full camera control, time-lapse options for speeding up or slowing down, and great finishing touches make for a game that’s likely worth the $9.99 asking price on Steam, especially for fans of the genre such as myself. The only thing keeping this game from a 5-point score is a lack of instruction on what not to do — but learning by experimentation might be its own reward for some.