Playing Kairosoft's latest simulation for iOS and Android Pocket Harvest reminds me of an old joke from Roseanne Barr's old sitcom. "I wanted to own a farm, look at a farm, and have all the benefits of a farm, but not actually do any of the work or the touching of animals associated with it." That's Pocket Harvest in a nutshell, less Harvest Moon and more omnipotent farm overlord, as you manage the layout, purchases, crops, and more of your fledgling farm while your live-in workers do all the hard work for you. Though you start with just a tiny patch of land and a few vegetable staples, over time you'll gain access to not only more acres and seeds, but tourist attractions, shops that sell products made from your crops, and much, much more. Though Kairosoft fans will find much of the gameplay style familiar, it's just as quirky and addictive as you've come to expect, and if, like me, you kill anything green you try to nurture with the best intentions (ask my husband about the "Rosemary Incident" and why I'm no longer involved in the gardening), you'll probably find this pretty cathartic.
Most of your play in Pocket Harvest is spent micro-managing layouts, items, and employees. Your staff is automated, trundling to nearby fields to work and then back to their homes to rest when they get tired, so it's up to you to set them up for success. They work most efficiently when crops are placed closer to their homes, and crops gain bonuses when they're placed next to the same type of field, or near specific types of flora that can provide fertility boosts. As you might expect, not everything is productive year round, so you want a wide variety of farm fields to cover you no matter what the season is. You can use items or spend points you earn to help with their cultivation, making your products more valuable, and you can likewise do the same with your workers, who will use items you give them to boost their abilities. Not all workers are created equal, so weigh each applicant carefully whenever you build a new house to find the person with the highest statistics. Each month you'll need to pay your upkeep, so it's in your best interests to get strong workers to turn out the best crops to help pay your bills. Eventually you'll be given missions, usually to supply someone with a specific amount of something before time runs out, and after a year or so you'll be given the opportunity to invest in things that will bring tourists to your farm, because there's nothing people love better than to pay money to see people spreading poop around saplings in the hot sun.
If you've played a Kairosoft game, then you know a lot of time is spent waiting in the beginning. Pocket Harvest takes a while to get rolling as a result, but once it does, there are actually a surprising number of factors that will go into making your farm run like a well-oiled, money-making machine. Though some crops won't grow in certain seasons on their own, for example, you can plonk down a greenhouse that will allow them to continue doing so and provide a boost to all fields in range. Likewise, building wells can help the moisture of your fields, which is important to help find the perfect balance for each crop that increases your yield. Your workers can be outfitted with a variety of equipment that will improve their skills and abilities, and you'll discover different lunch recipes to make for them, which restores their energy, the more types of crops you have. Contests, which allow you to enter something you make on your farm for a chance to win sweet, sweet money, depend a lot on the quality of the things you make. You're not just entering any old junky carrot you yanked out of the dirt an hour ago. You have to pick the carrots with the most visual appeal, the best aroma, the most tastiness, and you'll need to figure out exactly how to plant and tend your crops to get the highest stats to crush your competition.
Despite not having any real hands-on gameplay, making you feel more like some rustic city planner, Pocket Harvest still manages to cram a surprising amount of depth into its simple-looking package. That said, of course, the main issue apart from all the time you'll need to sink into it before you get anywhere is that being a Kairosoft game, it feels like a Kairosoft game. It looks great, the gameplay is easy to jump into and addictive, but it lacks any significant changes that make it feel particularly different from any of Kairosoft's other titles in any way other than theme. It's the sort of thing you'll play and enjoy, and will probably find yourself captivated by its cartoony, colourful style, but at the same time, if you've played more of the developer's other games, you'll find it more than a little formulaic. It is, however, a formula that's been tweaked, refined, and perfected over the years, and you know when you play a Kairosoft game you're in for a good time. In your quest to become the number one farm around, you'll going to be playing for a long, long time, and Pocket Harvest constantly unveils new items, contests, investments, and more at a steady pace to keep you hooked 'til the end, without a single microtransaction to be found, which is a rare and wonderful beast these days.
Get Pocket Harvest
Pocket Harvest (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)