Part of the attraction of gaming is that it allows us to escape reality and become whatever we want, whether a footballer, a rock star, or even a secret agent.
So it’s rather surprising that farming simulators are so popular.
The Harvest Moon series has demonstrated the appeal of a virtual good life, while in recent years FarmVille’s successful combination of farming and social features has proved immensely popular – something that has doubtless inspired the creators of Green Farm.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but while Green Farm possesses many of the qualities of the games it draws inspiration from it adds little to the basic formula.
Green Green Grass
At the beginning of the game you're invited to create and customise a farmer, with the aim of building up a successful farm by planting crops, selling livestock, and eventually branching out to more specialised areas such as cheese and juice.
You find the means to achieve this in the marketplace, where you can buy seeds, animals, buildings, and equipment. You buy these with the coins you earn selling produce and undertaking other farm activities, or by forking out for in-game currency via in-app purchases.
The items available are dependent on your farmer’s level, which increases as you acquire experience by performing general farm tasks.
Your main source of income is likely to come from planting and harvesting crops. You can buy various seeds from the marketplace, and you plant them by tapping an area of ploughed land. Different varieties of plant yield different amounts of experience and money when sold, although this can be increased by using fertiliser.
Plants grow at different speeds, and although more profitable crops generally take longer, if they're not harvested quickly enough they wither, resulting in significant financial losses.
You can also buy animals at the market or receive them as gifts or prizes. These animals can either be sold for profit or placed in animal buildings for a steady income stream. They need to be fed and cared for to prevent them from leaving, or - worse - being attacked by predators.
Once you've earned enough money, you can buy production buildings such as barns and fruit presses, while vehicles and machines can reduce the strains of manual labour.
Field of Dreams
Although it possesses an unmistakable layer of polish, Green Farm just doesn’t feel as fresh and engaging as the games from which it borrows so many ideas.
The touchscreen controls are not as precise as they should be, and can often lead to errors such as ploughing the wrong area, while squares of land must be ploughed and harvested individually - a tedious exercise that is exacerbated by having to collect experience and coins manually.
The emphasis on in-app purchases is inevitable given the freemium nature of the game, but items which require the use of cash are promoted excessively. The process of buying from the marketplace is complicated by having to scroll through pages of items that require cash before you can find something that requires coins.
For a game that focuses so much on social interaction, Green Farm’s dependence on Facebook is worrying. Although you can help out other farmers to receive bonuses and send gifts through the app, neighbours can only be added through a Facebook account, which is a prerequisite for playing.
Despite these problems, many of the ingredients for a decent farming sim are evident and the quality of the visuals sets it apart from its rivals. Fans of social games will find some joy in Green Farm, but until its problems are resolved it’s difficult to recommend it over the games it emulates.