Remember back in the day when instead of Farmville and Mafia Wars gifts, you'd throw sheep at Facebook friends? Turns out, the company behind SuperPoke!, Slide, has been busy at work in the wake of the social games gold rush over the past few months.
These guys have been in the business of creating interactive Facebook applications since applications were introduced, and has since created several full-featured forays into the social gaming space dominated by major leaguers such as Playfish and Zynga.
SPP Ranch! takes some of social gaming's tried-and-true mechanics such as maturation periods for items which you then sell for profit/experience, decoration and collection, and of course, gifting and packages them in one of the cutest animal-caretaking simulators yet. The game starts by giving players a small square plot of land, which they can outfit with fences, trees and a revolving assortment of seasonal knick-knacks.
The main goal is simple: raise animals like rabbits, sheep, horses and cows by keeping plenty of food around and making sure the water trough is filled. While you can release an animal into the wild at any point after you purchase them, you'll gain the most profit and experience if you let them fully mature. This can take as long as 72 hours for a Bull or as short as five minutes for a Squirrel -- standard fare if you've grown crops in FarmVille or prepped dishes in Cafe World.
Naturally, the usual incentives to recruit friends to the game are present -- gifting is heavily encouraged, and visiting neighbors' ranches yield opportunities to gain coins and experience from cleaning up after and even feeding their livestock for them.
What puts SPP Ranch! a cut above the rest of the animal-caretaking games out there is the polished interface, attention to detail and quality animation. We've yet to see animals roam as smoothly in a Facebook game as they do here, and the fact that each animal is automatically assigned a name (currently there's a rabbit named Waffle and a horse named Sean playing around in my ranch) makes it even more heartbreaking to set them free. Luckily, as long as they're fed and watered, it seems you can keep animals indefinitely even if they're reached maturity.
To little surprise, veteran Facebook developer Slide has managed to distill the stickiest features of the most popular social games and combined them with the virtual gifting process they pretty much invented (throwing sheep, gifting sheep -- hey, this is just a semantics issue) to create an adorable experience in SPP Ranch!.
Play SPP! Ranch on Facebook now >