Based on the feature-length movie of the same name, Barnyard for the GBA is a short-lived role-playing game that lets players explore the farm from the movie and experience key scenes from the story firsthand. Acting as the new cow on the block, players gradually see the story unfold as they run errands for the other characters, participate in a dozen different minigames around the farm, and buy cool gear to stock the barn with. Aside from the fact that the various errands and minigames range in quality, the game's biggest problem is that it's possible to achieve every goal it sets forth in less than three hours.
The game's role-playing aspects are solid, if not spectacular. Players see the farm from a top-down viewpoint that offers a colorful view of the scenery and the animals that inhabit the area. Every animal has something to say, and often a favor to ask when they're spoken to. There's no set order that players must follow in completing favors, although certain errands do cause the underlying story to advance. Typically, these favors involve picking up an item and bringing it back to the animal. Of course, in traditional RPG fashion, acquiring an item often involves trading items with other animals or fighting nasties out in the wild. In this case, the nasties are the raccoons and coyotes that want to eat the livestock on the farm, and the wild consists of nearby locations like the woods or junkyard. Time passes from day to night, and back around again, although the only significant effects of time are that animals stop offering errands at around 5 p.m. and there's a night club in the barn after 9 p.m.
In many ways, the player-controlled cow is the bovine equivalent of Link from Nintendo's Legend of Zelda games. This cow of unspecified gender can walk, run, pick up items, squirt milk, and make use of a half-dozen tools, all in real time. Of those tools, the best are the bicycle, shovel, and pesticide sprayer, which work just as you'd expect. The entire environment consists of the farm and 10 small surrounding areas. In each area, players will find animals to talk to, fruit to pick, and spots to dig. There are also raccoons and coyotes lurking in the woods, the junkyard, and the area around the gopher shop. Players can choose to dash past these enemies or fight them using the cow's udders like squirt guns. There's no major upside to fighting, except that it will net a few more bucks to spend at the gopher shop.
Running errands can feel tedious, since so many of them involve shuttling items between characters that are situated at opposite ends of the map. But the comedic dialogue and monetary rewards usually make the trip worthwhile. The minigames (there are about a dozen) placed around the map help liven things up as well, and roughly half of them are nothing special, like the slide puzzle game or the Frogger knockoff. But the rest are genuinely fun, especially the bike race, darts, and minigolf games. The bike race resembles Micro Machines in terms of look and feel. The minigolf game, meanwhile, is just a nicely executed game of putt-putt that could've been fleshed out into its own stand-alone product.
Fans of the movie, or cartoons in general, will appreciate the game's look and feel. The environments are colorful and full of woodsy detail. All of the characters resemble their big-screen selves and their movements are fluidly animated, whether they're loitering around or racing around the track in one of the race minigames. Audio consists primarily of country twang music and animal noises, which is appropriate given the game's anthropomorphic nature. Graphics and audio vary widely among the minigames. Some are put together with plain 2D backdrops, static sprites, and no music. Others have multilayered backdrops, animated sprites, and all of the requisite sound effects and music. In general, the more complex and time-consuming a minigame is, the better its graphics and audio are.
Unfortunately, while the game is polished, it lacks staying power. All of the story-centric errands and scoring challenges can be completed in less than three hours by anybody over the age of 6 (and that includes buying up every piece of furniture in the gopher shop). Some of the minigames are worth playing multiple times, but we're talking a few extra minutes at most.
Even though the game has its moments, there just isn't enough meat behind the GBA version of Barnyard to satisfy anyone but the youngest of players.