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A free-to-play chicken game has reignited my passion for management games

Birds of a feather ranch together

Back in the day, I was quite partial to a strategy or management game. You'd find me hunched by the Dell home PC playing Age Of Empires, or my personal favourite, Populous: The Beginning. Clearly, my fledgling brain enjoyed playing God. Back then, something about birthing small followers and giving them axes and sending them off to chop wood was absolutely captivating.

Now, not so much. I don't really have an explanation, other than my patience for management games has shrivelled up considerably; where once that section of my brain was a vibrant pink sponge ready to absorb vast menus and numbers, it now resembles a dry raisin. I thought that no matter how hard I tried, it would never spring back to plump life. But having spent some time raising hens in Cheeky Chooks, I can feel the creases in my raisin unfurling.

I've been informed by the RPS treehouse that the word "chook" is Australian slang for "chicken", which really clears things up. At no point in my life had I seen a "Chook Royale" on the menu at McDonalds in the UK, or been called a chook for running away in a game of Apex Legends. So that's possibly the most confusing aspect of Cheeky Chooks ticked off, to be honest, 'cos the game itself is pretty self-explanatory.

All it took was five minutes on one dreamy afternoon to hatch my first few chooks, and another ten minutes to become a fully-fledged chook farmer. That's what I like about Cheeky Chooks - it's dead simple. You open up a few easy breezy menus, slap items down, and the hens are happy. Tell you what: they love a bench. Sometimes they sit on them and little love hearts appear above their heads which is nice. Later, I bought them a pumpkin patch and they bloody loved that as well. Sometimes there's a mini-game where pumpkins sprout from the ground and you earn money for however many you or your chooks click or devour.

Many of the chooks have big auntie energy and I'm very into it.

A bit mobile gamey, isn't it? Correct! Because Cheeky Chooks is indeed on mobile. In fact, the game's entirely free to play. I mean, I've only spent around an hour or so raising my beloved chooks, but there's no cursed Beaky Bucks or Poultry Points swimming around in some cursed menu. The devs Trilum Games partnered with the RSPCA, so morals are higher than your average management game. This isn't about intensively farming your chooks for human consumption, it's about giving them a happy and fulfilling life (though if you harvest the eggs they produce you do earn money, which can be reinvested into your farm).

This will no doubt change as I progress, but so far my chooks haven't been attacked by a fox, they've not bickered with one another, and they've not had to survive a gruelling winter. Despite the word "cheeky" describing said chooks, I'd say they're actually more chill. I like that I haven't had to worry about too much other than making my farm look pretty and whether or not the chooks need another fun item to up their happiness.

This is the sort of farm I aspire to.

Of course, chooks need sustenance. Don't worry folks, you can't get more free range than a medium water dispenser and medium feeder. I even bought them a drone that'll restock supplies. I'm working towards a Koi Pond, which I bet will cause a stir of excitement amongst my chook family. I hope to one day afford other things on my shopping list, including: arcade machines, mushroom houses, and sofas.

Oh, how rude of me. I've not introduced you to any of my chooks. I have a few faves. Samantha's a Plymouth Rock chook, which means she's speckled like a Toblerone. Julia's a Grape Soda chook, which means she has a splash of pinky purple running down her neck. Talia and Penelope? Classic white and red chooks. Lauren, though, now she's the cheekiest. She's of the Trippy variety, which means she looks like she's been peppered by thousands of paintballs (RSPCA, if you're reading this, I said "looked like", which means she hasn't actually been shot).

And I'm planning on collecting plenty more chooks. Some can only hatch in certain seasons, and I'll need to upgrade my farm to incubate rarer eggs. Not only will this help flesh out my collection with zanier, cheekier chooks, they'll also lay pricier eggs that'll sell for more. Heck, there's even some legendary chooks knocking around somewhere. I bet it won't be long before I have a Moltres strutting about my farm. God, I feel so alive.

Family is everything.

I haven't felt this enamoured with a management game in a long time. Sure, Cheeky Chooks shares some DNA with mobile and idle games, but it's definitely got me back into the swing of looking after a virtual colony again. It's just nice to not be focused on micro-managing a thousand potential game-ending disasters. Instead, I'm shopping for furniture with a desire to make my chooks bock with glee.

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Ed Thorn avatar

Ed Thorn

Reviews Editor

When Ed's not cracking thugs with bicycles in Yakuza, he's likely swinging a badminton racket in real life. Any genre goes, but he's very into shooters and likes a weighty gun, particularly if they have a chainsaw attached to them. Adores orange and mango squash, unsure about olives.