I heard in a film that during a day on the farm every meal is a banquet, every paycheck a fortune, and every formation a parade.

If that's true, someone forgot to tell Kairosoft when it was developing Pocket Harvest.

Here every meal consists of fruit juice. And that only ends up in your glass thanks to the sweat of your farmhands. Your own cunning when it comes to laying out fields and researching crops helps a bit too.

Paychecks are minuscule, except when your farm advisor inexplicably finds tens of thousands in an envelope down the back of the rustic sofa and then gives it to you.

And formations consist of undisciplined schoolchildren trampling all over your ploughed fields and weeing in the wishing well.

I made the last part up. And in truth the game is actually pretty forgiving if you just want to bump along at a respectable pace.

But of course you don't want to bump along at a respectable pace. You want to earn enough money to plate your straw in gold, and win vegetable competitions with gargantuan marrows the size of an elephant's trunk.

You can do those sort of things in Pocket Harvest, but you'll need to deploy your smarts to get there.

Pocket puzzle

Most of the strategy in the game flows from a fiendishly simple formula. There are simple rules to follow in order to maximise your crop production, but the game makes it as hard as possible to actually put them into practice.

Planting fields of the same crop adjacent to one another boosts production, for example. As does planting close to a scarecrow or a sunflower bed.

So, obviously you want to lay out your farm in neat nine by nine squares of matching fields with some sort of buffer in the middle.

Except that your workers need to get to the fields, so they need paths, which break everything up. And they have to have somewhere to live, which means houses. But if you build in the wrong place your workers will meander randomly all over the farm tending the wrong patches.

And some fields are dryer than others and need wells, and some fields are out of season more often than others and need greenhouses and ... and ... and ... until your head explodes.

That's pretty much the pattern. You start with a couple of crop types and a couple of extra buildings. As the game progresses you're gradually given more and more things you need to work into the formula for success.

New crops, new tools, new staff. Eventually you can acquire more land, open your farm as a tourist attraction, get into animal husbandry (don't worry, it's only a game) and compete in various quests and competitions to win bonuses that you can plough right back into your burgeoning agricultural enterprise.

Pocket monotony

Unfortunately it's this endlessly cyclical nature that ends up as the game's undoing.

There are no story hooks of any kind, or much in the way of mystery about what's round the corner. And so it becomes increasingly difficult to motivate yourself to solve the tricky efficiency conundrums which form the core of the game.

Perhaps I'm just a sad, middle aged man whose imagination has been atrophied by too many violent video games, but I can't help feeling there's something rather more compulsive about leading troops into battle, or building a vast futuristic metropolis, than spreading horse poo on fields and chuckling at rudely shaped carrots.

It doesn't help that we've seen this sort of thing an awful lot of times before. And that most of those other times have been Kairosoft games too.

Pocket Harvest delivers plenty of interesting and challenging gameplay, aided by a healthy dose of cute, but it just doesn't do enough to make itself stand out from what's already a large and ever-growing crowd.