The most famous savannah plain region in Africa is the Serengeti. Immortalized in Toto’s evergreen “Africa”, the Serengeti, like most savannah biomes, is home to teeming and diverse wildlife and geography. The woodland canopy of the savannah never closes; instead, there are trees dotted around a massive open plain which is also littered with small bodies of water and a huge amount of grass.
It is here that many grazing animals find their home. Zebras, gazelles, buffalo and elephants all live in savannahs and all must fight for their lives daily against predators like lions and cheetahs. Truly, the savannah is a wild and wonderful place, and if you get a moment we strongly recommend reading up on this beautiful feature of the African continent.
Most grazing wildlife in the savannah probably haven’t had to put up with human beings literally landing on them from a great height while spinning a lasso. Those animals simply haven’t lived, especially since they haven’t played Rodeo Stampede: Savannah, the latest title from Australian game dev Featherweight. Hey, we’ll take their fictional version of the savannah over any so-called real-life one any day.
We will talk in-depth about Rodeo Stampede: Savannah’s many interesting mechanics, but we strongly recommend you go play the game on Poki before you read on. This is a game that really needs to be seen to be believed; its central mechanics are a bizarre mixture that shouldn’t work as well as they do. The game’s free, so you won’t lose out by checking it out before we go on.
Still here? Did you go play it? Strange, huh? Rodeo Stampede: Savannah is best described as a mixture of auto-runner, physics game, and very basic strategy sim. The overall aim of the game is simple: you must find as many animals as you can to populate a floating sky zoo and attract visitors. The more visitors you have, the more money you get and the easier it becomes to get animals for the zoo.
Many games that have tried to fuse genres have failed, and the reason is simple – it’s usually better to focus on one thing and do it well than to spread oneself too thinly. Rodeo Stampede: Savannah cleverly avoids this pitfall by slightly pulling the wool over the player’s eyes not in a sinister way, but in a smart way. The zoo will pretty much run itself; you don’t really need to do a huge amount of work to keep it going.
All you need to do with your sky zoo is populate it. Animals will bring in cash from visitors, which you can then click to collect (doing so is incredibly satisfying and is one of the unsung pleasures of Rodeo Stampede: Savannah). Cash can be spent on upgrading your zoo, which will add small bonuses to the other side of gameplay in the game such as making certain animals like you quicker or making the appearance of faster animals more likely.
Collecting animals is done via an isometric racing-style game with an innovative central mechanic. Players control a rodeo cowboy (or cowgirl) who has an uncanny knack for immediately taming animals when landing on their backs from the air. You will only have a certain amount of time to ride on each animal before they throw you unceremoniously from their back, so you must jump from animal to animal and find one you don’t yet have on display in your zoo to take back with you.
This part of the game is, to put it simply, tremendous fun. It’s just a great laugh to watch your cowboy sail merrily from animal to animal, landing with a satisfying thwack and keeping them happy until you can let them go on their way. The game does demand a degree of skill from you – the angle of your jump matters enormously, and you’ll need to steer left and right to avoid obstacles – but Rodeo Stampede: Savannah is also pretty forgiving of mistakes and failure.
We still haven’t mentioned perhaps the most important part of the entire game: hats. You can collect hats for your rider which will…uhh…give you a different hat to wear. There is literally no benefit to a new hat other than the fact that you are now wearing a new hat, but that doesn’t stop this part of the game feeling incredibly compelling and addictive. This is probably aided by the fact that unlocking hats takes XP, which can be earned not just by playing the game but also by completing additional missions like “catch a certain amount of ostriches” or “spend a certain amount of time on rhinos”.
Rare is the game that melds two genres successfully, but that’s kind of what Rodeo Stampede: Savannah does. It’s not particularly deep – most of the mechanics don’t really have too much substance to them – but it doesn’t need to be when it’s this much fun. Leaping from animal to animal provides a constant source of hilarity, and failure is never punished harshly, meaning it’s easy to chain session after session of the game. If you’ve ever dreamed of riding on the back of a giraffe then imagining yourself telling zoo punters that same story, then Rodeo Stampede: Savannah is the game for you.