Sim Farm, Farmville or… ?
Two adults, one child, a horse, two chickens and two sheep are staring at me from the box of Family Farm. “Farmville”, I thought to myself and went on to install the game wondering why anyone would want to put that on a DVD. I had the topic right – the game is about managing a farm – but any comparison between Farmville and Family Farm ends there. And no, it’s not Sim Farm either.
Family Farm is a casual title from HammerWare and Iceberg Interactive that puts the player in control of a 19th century farm when farming was still done by hand. You’ll be sowing and harvesting crops, breeding livestock, extending your house and – very importantly - expanding your family.
Farmers Laze About In Winter
The game is split up into three difficulty levels, each giving you three scenarios. Only one scenario is available when you first start the game. Completing it unlocks the next and so on. To complete a scenario, you will be tasked to reach a variety of goals ranging from delivering a certain amount of fruits or vegetables to increasing the worth of your farm or having a certain number of high quality animals. As you have multiple years to achieve your goals you’re not likely to break a sweat but they do serve to drive the game forward quite well.
Each year consists of two seasons: spring for sowing and fall for harvesting. I guess summer and winter are on permanent holiday, or livestock would otherwise starve. Land will have to be prepared before it can be turned into fields for crops or corrals for livestock. Sometimes this is just a matter of assigning a role to a piece of land but in many scenarios you will have to clear some of the land of trees and rocks before you can begin that process. Once the land has been prepared you’re ready to do some proper farming.
If a worker is part of your family, they gain experience as they work the land, sow or plant crops, tend animals or cook food. A trained worker is either faster or simply just better at his job. For instance, a person skilled in animal care will increases the quality of animals faster than a novice would. As such, it makes sense to grow your family, especially when you know that they do not require any wages. Enlarging the farmstead is costly, but will allow you to expand your family while still having access to hired workers when the need is there.
The 3rd Cow
Simple graphics allow the game to run smoothly even on low end systems. As a result, moving from one season to the next is quick and painless, keeping you in the flow of managing your farm at all times. In fact, the game is remarkably well paced. You’ll never find yourself bored with the work at hand, or stressed over having to do too much, as long as you are smart about how many farmhands you hire on for each season. Once you have a grasp of how many people you need you will soon settle into the steady, agreeable rhythm that you so rarely see outside of casual games.
Occasionally, a bug may disturb that rhythm, the worst of which is a crash that sometimes occurs when flipping between areas in planning or decorating mode. It only ever happened to me on the ‘Manor’ maps, but often enough to make me very careful when switching to these modes.
More prevalent but less serious is the game’s haphazard unwillingness to register clicks or give new orders. Selecting a worker can be a nuisance, often requiring multiple clicks to get it right. Sending them to a patch of land, a coop or corral regularly ended up with waiting in vain for my worker to show up even when I was certain that the cursor had changed to indicate that the location was a valid target. Taking care of livestock revealed a particularly odd situation where each third order to milk a cow would result in my worker sitting down, pretending to not have understood what to do next.
Not a bug, but still something of a shame is the fact that the welcoming tune that greets you when you start the game disappears as soon as you start playing. Obviously you can play your own music - and country seems a fitting style when you do - but some background music would have gone a long way here.
Family Farm is very much a casual game. The game has a reasonable level of depth but will stop dead in its tracks when you finish the last mission. There is no sandbox map and replaying any of the scenarios feels a bit pointless. Maps are exactly the right size for their respective scenarios and goals but will feel cramped and limited when you are looking for a real tycoon type of experience. That said, there is enough here for casual gamers to enjoy. Family Farm’s leisurely pace is perfect for a few hours of uncomplicated entertainment after a long day at work and will be a thrill to play for the younger generations.
Easy on the nerves, good for winding down after a hard day at work
No soundtrack, over in a heartbeat and very low replay value