; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 5/25/2012
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Whack bushes for loot in the whimsical cartoon world of Bush Whacker by DJArts.
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Bush Whacker: Best Flash RPG Game on Facebook
RPG games have been on Facebook for quite some time now, starting with games like Dungeons and Dragons Tiny Adventures, to Hammerfall RPG, to Castle Age. However, all of these are the text-based button clicking type. Although they have many merits, and (especially in the case of Hammerfall) use a text interface to the fullest, they still lack the attraction of real animation.
Enter Bush Whacker by DJArts - the first good Facebook RPG game that runs on flash. Like most Facebook games, it's free to play but includes premium items that you can pay for. Unlike most Facebook games, it doesn't try to manipulate you into spending money lest you be punished with an inferior ability to play. This, by itself, already puts it well ahead of every other game.
So what is Bush Whacker all about? You're a guy (or girl) with a sword. You go through a world of bushes and monsters that you whack with your sword, looting gold, potions, fruit, and pieces of a puzzle that you put together to unlock a special monster, that you can catch with a net and put into your personal zoo. You loot an enormous variety of hats, capes, and items to decorate your house. Through a number of small quests, you can whack your way into all sorts of fun upgrades for your sword.
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Artwork, Graphics, and a Sense of Humor
The first thing that drew me in about Bush Whacker was its sense of humor. The game doesn't take itself too seriously, there are visual puns and subtle pop culture references everywhere, and the developers often make fun of themselves in unfinished upcoming areas. Nearly everything in the game manages to be some form of joke. For example, once you learn how to fish (from a guy named Steve who says "Crikey!"), you don't lose your fierce sword-wielding expression - you just fish fiercely.
The graphics as a whole are whimsical cartoons - cute, but a masculine kind of cute, not the pink fluffy bunny kind of cute. The level of attention to detail is astounding: from the footprints in dirt, snow, or sand or the ice cracks when you step on ice, to the fact that your eyes turn blue just before your mana spell goes off, to the way the scenery changes before, during, and after a quest to account for what you did.
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Bush Whacker doesn't come with music, but does have ambient background sounds that fit with the type of area you're in. You hear birds in forest areas, but not in the middle of the desert. Action noises are the same kind of whimsical as the graphics, for example a whacked bush makes a blooping noise. In general, sound level is appropriately quiet and sounds fit well with the overall tone of the game.
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Basic Gameplay in Bush Whacker: Puzzles and Quests
Basic gameplay is very simple. Click on a bush or monster to whack it. Collect puzzle pieces to unlock the monster for your zoo. You can actually play the entire game doing nothing else, not talking to any of the NPCs, just getting zoo monsters, hats, capes, stuff for your house, and watching bushes bounce cutely as they regrow.
But then there are quests. All of them are optional and easy to ignore if you don't want to do them, but they come with rewards - mostly in the form of XP but often also special items. Some quests are small and ask you to do one simple action (example: fetch Steve a sandwich). Others are in an extended series with a storyline. Most of the latter are chock full of punchlines.
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There are no deadline timers built into any part of gameplay - you can play when you like and take as long as you want on the quests. You don't have to rush to do anything by a certain specific time lest you be punished (like in some other Facebook RPG games such as Castle Age with their summoned monsters). The only exception is events, mostly around various holidays, that disappear shortly after the holiday is over. Even then, those quests are also optional.
The real beauty of the quests in Bush Whacker, compared to many other Facebook games (like Frontierville or Ravenwood Fair), is that you choose whether and when you want to do them. You have full control, they don't automatically add themselves to a to-do list and insist that you look or else. Also, you are only shown a quest series if you already have everything you need to complete it (or can easily get them), without being surprised after you've spent gold only to discover that you have to stop and beg for help from friends.
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More Gameplay: The PvP Arena
Then, if quests aren't fun enough, there's also a player vs. player arena. The arena randomly matches you against another player, and both of you try to whack as many bushes as possible in 45 seconds. There are small, medium, and large bushes worth different points. There are special balloons that set off things like opponent stun, mana spell, and speed boost. Whoever has the most points at the end wins. Both wins and losses reward you with arena tokens (more if you win), which you can trade for special items.
Like quests, the arena is optional. You can play if PvP thrills you, or you can ignore it entirely if it isn't your thing. Unlike quests, you don't use up any of your normal energy to battle in the arena - it's a great extra place to go if you're waiting to recharge.
Unfortunately, lag can be a serious problem. It can be frustrating to watch your hero try to whack one bush while your nemesis zips around whacking half a dozen, then also gets your bush too. Facebook RPG games in flash have a lot to overcome on that front, compared to text-based games, since Facebook by itself already uses a lot of bandwidth. However, if you don't have connectivity issues, some of the special items are quite nice.
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Game Interface of Bush Whacker (Free Flash RPG Game on Facebook)
Bush Whacker's user interface is designed in such a way that everything you need to know is available at a glance - but at the same time, everything is also out of the way. Level bars for XP, energy, mana, and power (the things you need to see while playing) are along the top and sides, while buttons for inventory, the map, basic settings, quests, and bushwhacking are at the bottom. Extra information - like which customization items are available in an area - show up when you hover your mouse over the buttons or bars.
Nothing interrupts gameplay in the middle of bushwhacking action - essential info, such as loot and quest progress, appears without blocking out the screen. There's a tab to the lower right that shows your recent loot in case you missed it during the action. There are popups when something important happens (the last puzzle piece or quest item), and bottom popups flash temporarily when something less important happens. In short, you don't wind up clicking endless pointless popups that get in the way of actually playing the game (a major downside to most Zynga games).
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Navigation is also straightforward. You can move around in the game world by walking through the doors, or you can skip around in the world map. Blocked doors tell you what you need before you can go through (a key, a certain level, etc.). Navigation of the menu systems for inventory, the general store, NPC interaction screens, etc. is also straightforward - but also come with extensive help features in the form of the NPCs telling you how they work. The opening tutorial is also always available - it doesn't disappear after one run-through, and you can run it again by talking to the intro NPC again.
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Finally, Bush Whacker has come up with some ingenious solutions to playing with friends, that doesn't require you to make wall posts outside of the game (although you still can). Her name is Sasha. She gives you a list of everyone that needs help with something, and you can help all of them at once with a single click of the "help all" button. In return, she rewards you with tokens that you can trade for Bush Bucks - the game's premium currency.
Like most Facebook games, help from friends makes everything faster. Six of them can send you energy packs every 20 hours. But you can play all the main parts of Bush Whacker without having any friends at all - and for the rest, you really only need one. Unlike many other Facebook games (especially Zynga), there is no requirement that friends have to play crucial parts of the game for you before you can advance. You can freely invite people to play that you think will enjoy the game, not because you need more warm bodies on your friends list.
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More Pictures with Funny Hats
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As free flash RPG games go, Bush Whacker is one of the best out there. It's cute and light-hearted, it's relaxing to play, and its humor will make you smile after a bad day. As Facebook games go, it's notable for how not annoying it is - the interface doesn't get in the way of gameplay, popups are used well, no need to pester your friends, and absolutely no pressure to open your wallet for anything. As flash games in general go, it's not on a site plastered with flashing ads. If you haven't found this gem from DJArts yet, go give it a try.