My Farm Life
They say the price of fame is steep, but when Lisa signs on for a TV show, little does she know it's about running a farm — and she's the star! Think Old McDonald meets Paris Hilton. Fortunately for Lisa, you'll make sure she's awesome at farming in the time management game My Farm Life.
No two time management games are quite alike, but you can lump them in two general categories: consumer and producer. Consumer games have people queuing up for some service, such as cakes in Cake Mania or vegetables in Garden Dash. Fall behind on orders and you are toast. Producer games, on the other hand, focus on creating things before a timer runs out — such as meeting building, money or material targets in the construction-centric The Timebuilders: Pyramid Rising.
Like every farm-themed time management game, My Farm Life is a production game. Plant and harvest crops, manage animals, and produce refined products to hit quotas set for each level. Dunk Lisa neck-deep in corn, watermelon, popcorn, strawberries, cows, strawberry milkshake, peppers, salads, dougnuts, sheep... quite a lot, actually. Lisa's job is to perform farm tasks before the "episode" finishes. An ambitious producer keeps giving her more stuff to do, more upgrades, more help and more obstacles. Pretty soon what was a small-holding is a bustling, compact farming industry — from tilling the soil to tossing the salad.
Using your mouse, you assign tasks to Lisa. For example, to milk a cow she must collect a bucket, milk the cow, then take the milk to the barn (or relevant machine if you are looking for milkshake or chocolate). The ground must be prepared, crops sown and eggs collected, but it is all achieved with a swift flick of the mouse. Stack up tasks for Lisa and her occasional helper, one of three she can periodically summon to lighten the load, and speed her towards her quotas before the time runs out. You'll only manage this by thinking ahead, adapting fast and making sure you have enough cows.
At random moments plants will require water. You will also need to keep an eye on soil or plants that need replacing, make sure your animals have grass to graze on and that their water troughs are full. Let's not forget that machines need fixing. And make sure you keep buying new seeds! Fortunately there are upgrades that speed things up and a helpful night tradesman who will sell you produce you desperately need.
Analysis: As is often the case, My Farm Life's comically cute graphics hide a pretty tough game underneath, though not as frantic as some of the more... frenzied management games. Still, it is demanding, thanks to the sheer amount of things you have to do. No, scratch that. Rather, thanks to the sheer amount of stuff you can do. Your orders never seem to hit a ceiling — just keep clicking on what you want to do, even if it involves an object you have already tagged. Sometimes you speed so far ahead you have time (albeit not much) to pause and survey the farm while Lisa rushes around. Get something wrong, though, and it can cancel the stack (or worse, have Lisa run around in indignant circles with a crate of eggplants).
Equally nice is the move function. For one, it pauses the game and lets you contemplate your strategy. It also moves stuff, as the name suggests. Organising your farm becomes very important, because you have very little space. Whereas some farm games encourage you to run vast tracts of vegetables, with My Farm Life you have to manage your area conservatively. The move tool lets you rearrange things all you want, as long as you put everything somewhere.
These are both smart little features that makes a challenging experience much more enjoyable as they both allow you to take a moment and focus on your strategy. Since hammering away with mad abandon is the worst strategy in time management games, these two features gives newcomers a easier road into the genre while awarding veterans by easing them ahead. There is an expert mode, but apart from shorter times it doesn't alter anything else in the game.
But what is it that really distinguishes My Farm Life from most time management games? It doesn't feel like something Dante might have encountered during his trip through hell. Many of the genre's big titles are demanding and at times sadistic. No wonder they are addictive. But sometimes that is too much, yet games like Royal Envoy just never quite give you that sensation of skin-of-your-teeth panic. My Farm Life meets you in the middle: kind enough to just have fun, but it's going to worsen that case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are flaws, but most gnashing of teeth will come from erratically bouncing between a cow and the bucket station because you got your orders wrong. On top of all that it scores major points for skipping some generic "save the farm" or "family legacy: yarn. Reality TV about efficiently doing stuff on a farm? Take how boring that sounds. My Farm Life is on the opposite side.