Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
System requirements: Windows XP, Vista or 7; 1 GHz processor; 512 MB RAM; 64 MB video card; DirectX 9.0 or later; 80 MB hard disk space
ESRB rating: Everyone
Release date: Available now
Admit it! We all have those guilty pleasure games. You know, the ones we engage in while we’re sitting in waiting rooms, commuting or supposed to be working. Casual games may take some serious heat from the hard core crowd, but the truth is that from time to time most of us in engage in them, so there’s no denying their popularity. My Farm Life is the most recent of these to come across my desk. It’s a lot like Farmville, so the hook is there, but will it remain on my desktop or end up in the recycle bin?
Unlike Farmville, My Farm Life has a bit of a story as its backdrop. You’re a struggling actress, and have been offered a part on the reality show My Farm Life. The reason for your selection is your apparent lack of aptitude for agriculture, but the producers have chosen to omit that little fact from your meeting. Once on location, you discover that this isn’t exactly the dream job you had imagined, but due to contractual obligations you’re stuck. You have no choice but to move on and complete your first tasks. The show’s producers won’t just be satisfied by making you miserable on a milking stool however, and crop up occasionally throughout the game to complicate your situation even further whenever you become too comfortable with your tasks. Hiring bandits to sabotage your progress at night is just one of the many tricks up their sleeves.
When you initially go to acquire the game, you’ll note that there’s a try before you buy option, so if you’re not completely convinced if it’s worth the ten bucks, take it for a test drive. The download was quick and painless, and took less than a minute to complete via my wireless connection. Everyone must begin on the Casual difficulty setting, but you can unlock the Expert setting after successfully completing the first five levels. If the game’s simple story isn’t your thing, or if you’ve already played it through, you have the option of skipping over the opening story sequence. Your first mission is to plant crops and milk the cow. The first few tutorial levels do an excellent job of explaining the mechanics, and you’ll never find yourself frustrated. This lack of frustration is a major plus in a genre that sometimes feels designed to drive one crazy. There is a time limit for each level, and your degree of success is determined by your timeliness. Stacking of tasks is of course permitted so that you can continually improve your time. When you complete a level, you’re rewarded with cash, and, if you’ve done well enough, trophies. This cash can be used to buy more seeds, required machinery, and upgrades. As you proceed through the levels, you’re tasked with filling customer orders with different combinations of items from your farm. Before long, what started out as an exercise in relaxation, becomes of true test of your finger dexterity. Additionally, an increasingly difficult mini-game crops between every few levels, in which you’re tasked with roping groups of livestock for points. Progress saves automatically every time you exit.
While My Farm Life may just be another way of getting your Farmville fix, this incarnation of the farming simulator has much better graphics. The still cutscenes are vibrantly cartoony, and add texture to the overall experience. The convenient autosaves at every exit make this easy to pick up and put down. You won’t ever have to worry about losing your progress, and you’ll always begin at the level you left off at.
The music has a very “ho-downy” feel to it, which is fine for short periods, but you may want to consider turning it down or off from the options menu during longer sessions. Honestly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with or broken about this game. It just doesn’t have that addictive quality that is vital to a game’s survival in this genre. You’ll always be able to get up and walk away from it, but you’ll also eventually always find your way back to it.
My Farm Life is a fun diversion that I’ve added to my casual gaming routine. Would I pay $9.99 for it? No, but I’ve also never spent a penny on Farmville or Mafia Wars. If virtual farming is your thing, this title might very well be worth the price of admission. For everyone else, check out the trial before you decide.