Aah, gardening. One of the most relaxing and rewarding hobbies one can undertake. There's nothing like planting flowers and watching them grow, especially when you get to sell them for loads of cash and smash gigantic snails with a shovel from time to time! This is the basic premise of Magic Farm, a resource management simulation along the lines of Grimm's Hatchery and Alice Greenfingers. As a magic-wielding gardener, you must plant, water, protect and raise a variety of flowers to sell for cash. You also have three basic skills that can be increased as you play, lending a delicious RPG flavor to the game.
Months ago, a young girl's parents set out to find the fabled Flower of Youth. No one has heard from them since, and a concerned villager sends word that he wishes to help. Hiring a detective to find them doesn't come cheap, though, and you must begin your gardening career to pay the bill and help find your parents.
Each round in Magic Farm consists of an arcade-style growing day and a much calmer buying/selling interlude. During the growing period you'll need to contend with a number of events as quickly as you can. Plants periodically need water, for example, and when the droplet icons appear below a plant, click it to deliver delicious H2O. Your garden variety of pests, such as slugs and bees, also make an appearance and must be clicked rapidly in order to send them packing. Flowers must be harvested, obviously, but that isn't as pressing as keeping plants safe and moist.
When the day is done it's time to sell your crop and stock up for the next day. You can sell individual flowers for a little gold, or arrange bouquets using pre-set templates (assuming you have the right flowers) for lots of extra cash. With money you can buy more water, upgrade your harvest bin or water bucket, and buy/plant new crops that fetch a higher price at market. After a few levels you'll enjoy the companionship and help from a dragon named Robin. Together you will travel from farm to farm, starting from scratch each time and discovering new enemies and plants along the way.
Analysis: One of the best features of Magic Farm is its incorporation of RPG-style elements into the plot and gameplay. The girl and Robin have skills that can be increased over time, adding a low-level of customization to the game. The skills let you sell flowers for a higher price, buy things at a slight discount, and get faster at completing tasks such as dispatching enemies.
The biggest detractor in Magic Farm is its rather bland presentation and (mostly) uninteresting visuals. Some of the animated models move as if they were made of wood, and the game is missing a lot of little touches that could really make playing a better experience. A prime example of this is the bland, dated dialogue boxes that are nothing more than white text on a flat green background.
Despite its minor flaws, Magic Farm is an extremely engrossing game that has the ability to grab you from the get-go and keep you hanging in for more. Lacing role playing elements in casual games is gaining ground, and Magic Farm is a great example of the powerful addictive properties this can create.