Okay, admittedly I’m no farmer, but if farm-life sounds fun to you then you may love family farm. Hammerware’s Family Farm is a farming simulator with a mixture of life management elements mixed in, and all the strategies and responsibilities that you’d expect from such a management title. The game’s pleasant introduction welcomes you into a young couple’s farmland complete with sheep, chickens and a vegetable patch or two. The game then teaches you about the importance of looking after all aspects of a busy farm and how crop rotation and your workers moods are key to a successful farm.
The game represents seasonal passing and duties such as ploughing and harvesting, in the form of a long day for each season. All the workers on the farm are given ratings on how well they can perform farm duties, such as caring for sheep or manual labour, and you have to decide who to allocate these jobs to. Even meals must be factored into the busy schedule of a farming season, after all, a bad cook means unhappy workers.
Each season is given a set of quotas and challenges for you to achieve and it’s usually a choice between a happy small farm and an overworked but wealthy one. This game is an adequate friendly farming simulator for those of you looking to move onto something else other that the likes of Farmville, but those of you out there looking for a Theme Hospital kind of experience may be disappointed. This is mainly due to a lack of customisation such as the shape and precise layout of your farm; instead you’re left with the choice of turning a particular square of land into different designated plots, such as a chicken coop or a muddy patch growing turnips. This really is where the game fell down for me in terms of fun mechanics and freedom to experiment and craft a unique farm.
The game initially reminded me of the cripplingly addictive Harvest Moon titles because of the emphasis not only on farming, but also on family, wealth, health and wellbeing. This family emphasis in Family Farm doesn’t really work though, as the characters lack individuality and personality, making it hard to care about the featureless workers. The management side, however, fairs better. Despite a lack of customisation, the simplicity makes it hugely accessible and taps into that same addictive spark the genre is famous for. Unfortunately the overall package can’t compete with genre favourites like SimCity and Dungeon Keeper for variety, and the more charming and user-friendly Harvest Moon series. The lack of a sense of ownership over your lands layout and a feeling as though you haven’t personally crafted the farm takes a lot from the experience and the aesthetic is rather bland and unappealing. As hard as the developers try to make the farm seem quaint and pretty, it doesn’t really work due to the generic art style and the fact that workers spout phrases like “This place is dull” and trying to ease their existence by planting a daffodil seems well… depressing.
All joking aside, though, Family Farm’s low asking price and otherwise enjoyable experience certainly raises its appeal, buy don’t expect it to be up to scratch when compared to the production values of a Harvest moon title or Theme Hospital. However, if it’s only a casual relationship you have with your management games, then Family Farm is a great place to cut your for any green fingered wannabes out there with an Alan Sugar style instinct for money making and an Alan Titchmarsh eye for landscaping.
A good, simple, yet unremarkable experience.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platform: PC/Mac Release Date: 27/05/11
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Family Farm for review purposes by the publisher. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.