This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about. Click on the link to jump straight to day three or day seven.

Zynga gets a lot of stick for its games, but I've never understood why. It's a company that makes totally decent, if completely uninspired, "homages" to other games, and in my experience they look good and play just fine.

Zynga is the own brand tin of baked beans in the video game world: sure, Heinz might have the prestige of being the original, but when you're shovelling down the own brand stuff can you really tell the difference?

CastleVille Legends is the next instalment in the CastleVille series, a series that follows the 'Ville freemium-builder rulebook pretty closely.

If I had to guess, I'd say I'm in for a week of lovely visuals, pleasant music, and familiar gameplay in which I farm crops, build buildings, and expand the amount of land I own.

Read on to see whether my suspicions are correct.

First impressions

Yep, I was right.

You start with a small plot of land and a base for holding a total of 50 items. You water the apple trees nearby and collect the apples after waiting ten seconds, and then sell the apples at a market. A little later into the game you can unlock a ship which transports goods to distant lands, and provides you more money per item sold.

After making a little coin for your hard work, you purchase new buildings and construct different types of farm land to produce an expanded selection of items. There are additional plots of land to buy as well.

I'm completing achivements as much as I can in order to take advantage of the bonus experience points on offer for doing so. This is raising my level, and will allow me to access new types of buildings and areas of the world.

Oh and I'm on the lookout for crystals too, as they contain heroes which - once freed - can be sent on adventures to find rare items and earn experience.

Day 3: How a wheel of cheese is made

While the opening day with CastleVille Legends focused on busywork - keeping me playing by ensuring I was constantly watering my plots of land so that more crops would grow after relatively short periods of time - by the end of day three I'm struggling to make progress.

Some of the items I need to complete objectives use a large number of more common items during the creation process. I'm creating lots of oats, apples, wood, and so on, so that I can combine them to make an item worth a lot of money.

In the process I'm running out of space in my warehouse to keep hold of everything, but more importantly I'm running out of patience, since I need to wait for all of these smaller items to be created.

There's no way of queuing up several items in the creation process, and you're only allowed to purchase one building of each type with the soft currency.

Instead of having multiple Dairy Barns that each create one of the four wheels of cheese needed to complete a specific mission, or lining up four of the wheels to be made at a single Dairy Barn, you have to wait for each cheese to be made separately before requesting the next one.

Of course, you could pay premium currency to purchase another building of the same type, but it's more likely that you'll just stop playing.

When you eventually make a bit of progress the unlocked content does freshen things up a little. I've unlocked the random prize-giving Gateway of Luck, I've found a new quest area with even more valuable loot inside, and the map is gradually changing from an untamed wilderness into a thriving and beautiful town of industry.

Day 7: Finding the Royal Embassy closed

Now that I've freed a new hero - called Yvette - I can explore a whole other plot of land, filled with more quest areas and an extra marketplace to sell additional goods.

I now hock jewellery and other bits and bobs with special opals inside, for a very high price - especially in comparison with the stuff I've hitherto been flogging. These items don't half take a long time to create, though.

The Well of Wishes is the new stomping ground for my heroes. It's an eight hour-long quest that rewards you with a big chunk of experience, and some decent items. I've reached a tower with a dragon in it, too, but I'm yet to venture inside.

There's a rhythm to CastleVille Legends: you keep plugging away at the buildings you have, eking out as much money and as many resources as you can, and just as you're about to give up due to boredom you hit a new experience level and the game opens up just enough new content for you to want to continue playing.

Occasionally this rhythm falters, such when a building that I set out to explore turned out to be inaccessible. They were the ruins of a Royal Embassy, where I could “Share Knights and explore more”, but this feature was labelled as “coming soon” by the developer. I found this rather irksome, since I'd spent so much time and effort trying to reach it.

For the most part, though, CastleVille Legends is a well-made, if completely safe, freemium-builder: the kind you've played before and will consequently feel right at home with. It's handsome, runs well (even offline), and there's a decent amount of content to see - even if it does take forever to get to it.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.