Like most of the other GameCube games that have been ported to the Wii, Barnyard takes advantage of the Wii's motion-sensitive controls and has undergone a modest graphical upgrade, but it's otherwise identical to the original GameCube release. However, unlike many of those other games, the waggle controls in Barnyard work great and give the game a more hands-on feel, while the uptick in visual quality makes the farm and the characters on it look that much nicer. Although those improvements don't fully justify the $20 price difference between the two versions, they do at least give Wii owners a reason to choose that version if they or their kids have already decided to add Barnyard to the home game library. Ultimately, what matters most is that the game itself is fun and diverse. Instead of leading you through a series of run-and-jump missions that simply duplicate the film's story, like the majority of movie-inspired games do, Barnyard lets you explore the farm, talk to characters, and tackle dozens of missions, minigames, and collect-a-thon checklists on an open-ended basis. It's that freedom of discovery, combined with the charming anthropomorphism underpinning the characters, that helps set Barnyard apart from all of the other movie-based games out there.
In Barnyard, you work to become the number-one party animal by helping other characters, competing in minigames, and buying nightclub goodies for the barn.
In the three-dimensional world of Barnyard, the animals on the farm behave like people. Otis, a carefree cow, likes to swim in the pond and play gopher golf. His father, Ben, keeps track of chores on a clipboard and keeps raccoons and coyotes at bay with his milk squirters. There's a chicken named Peck who dreams of flying, so he routinely has the other animals launch him out of a slingshot so that he can sail across the farm, usually to disastrous results. There's a pack of cows that likes to race their bikes and go joyriding in the local farmers' cars. Every day, just for grins, these same cows sneak up behind the mailman and mock him behind his back. You are dropped right into the middle of this menagerie, taking on the role of a teenage cow that has just been delivered to the farm. This cow wants to make a good impression, so he (or she, depending on the choice made in the beginning) decides to join the animals in their activities.
There's plenty to see and do. Just by wandering around and talking to the other animals, you can play gopher golf, blast coyotes and raccoons with your squirt-gun-like udders, control Peck's journey as he sails through the air, dance behind the mailman's back, and so on. These minigames aren't all that difficult, but they sure are amusing. Doing the robot behind the mailman or squirting milk at raccoons like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix is hilarious. Some characters have tasks they need help with, which typically involves bringing back a certain item or visiting multiple characters situated at various spots on the farm. Most missions only take a couple of minutes to complete. The reward for completing them is usually a cinematic scene advancing a loose subplot involving the raccoons and coyotes, along with some gopher bucks to spend at the store on gopher hill.
The environment itself encompasses two farms and the surrounding areas. You can walk around, climb ladders, pick flowers, and ride a bicycle to get around more quickly. A few daredevil tricks can be performed while riding the bike, for no practical purpose except that it's something else to do. Tree stumps in the environment are actually prize machines run by the gophers that spit out gopher bucks in exchange for prize tokens. At the barn, you can participate in parlor games and use the food items you've collected to make treats and mocktails, which can be given to the other animals or sold to the gophers for a huge profit. Numerous bike upgrades and barn decorations are available for purchase at the gopher shop. Although many of these decorations are purely for aesthetic purposes, some of them unlock additional parlor games, such as pool, darts, and whack-a-rac. This is a lighthearted sandbox-style game where you can watch the hours zip away as you do whatever you want, whenever you want.
The open-ended structure gives you the freedom to explore and to accomplish tasks at a leisurely pace.