Review: My Farm (DSiWare)

Prize poultry or pig's ear?

Life is a long road, and My Farm knows it. It began as a PC game called My Farm Around the World and was then ported to the Nintendo DS. The European release in November 2008 was largely unnoticed by the media, but generated respectable sales, and it made its way to North America in May 2009. Now a slice of the original game has landed on DSiWare as My Farm, and another chunk will be released as the upcoming My Exotic Farm. The DSiWare releases are mistitled because you won't be growing any crops – My Ranch would have been more appropriate, but pointing this out is kicking the game while it's down. It's actually fun, and while it doesn't stray too far from a typical farm sim formula, it's a decent incarnation.

The game is controlled by tapping menus on the touchscreen. The farm is displayed on the top screen while the menus are on the bottom screen, except when you sweep up the animal poo and the farm comes to the bottom. There isn't much of a story here, and things begin on a sad note. Poor Uncle Bob has passed away, leaving you only the farm, a single hen and a tiny amount of money. Your job is to develop the farm and become rich like Uncle Bob never did. Your hen will lay eggs if you keep it happy, which you can sell at the Farmers' Market to form the foundation of your ranching empire. It's a humble beginning, but that first little hen is a trooper and it won't be long before she's laid enough eggs for you to expand your variety of livestock. You can give each animal some personality by choosing its name and colour.

You'll get to know each animal very well because each species has a twist to it that makes raising them interesting. For example, sheep get dirty very easily and are hard to clean, while pigs love to be filthy and become unhappy if you wash them. Different species also eat different sorts of food, so you have to decide how much to invest in each food type. Some animals you'll keep for their produce, while others you buy at a low price and resell at a much higher rate once you've fattened them up, and owning enough animals of a certain type will give you a bonus that increases how fast they grow and produce. Most of your time is spent feeding, washing and cleaning up the dung of your farm animal friends. If you fail to meet each animal's needs they'll run away, and with money being so tight, this could really ruin you. Managing your resources and investing wisely requires some nice strategy, so it’s a shame the game is so short.

Your enjoyment of this game depends on turning off the tutorial. See, you have a neighbour with a sweet disposition named Daisy; if you don't turn off the tutorial, you may come to see Daisy as a bossy control-freak who pops up the second anything needs done. Daisy will essentially play the entire game for you if you let her. You'll want to keep the tutorial on for the first thirty minutes of playing, but after that, do yourself a favour and ask Daisy to stay away.

The music is uninspired and is only a single track that loops in the background, and the sound effects aren’t much more than a click when you buy something and each animal’s individual noise. Each call is very distinct, and in the beginning the collected sounds of your growing stock is pleasant. However, this all changes once you buy your first cow. Once you own a couple of cows the noise is so over-powering and obnoxious you'll likely want to turn the sound off. The cows also seem to make noise more often than any other animal, adding to the irritation.

Graphically the game lacks detail and the shading hurts gameplay. As your animals become dirty they become darker and darker in colour, and because the shadows are so pronounced, you'll find yourself washing an animal that is completely clean because you're not sure if the job is done. The game plays out over the course of days and nights, but it may as well be flipping a light switch, because there is no attempt to blend the two.

Owners of My Farm or My Exotic Farm can trade with each other over local wireless, and in this way it's possible to gain animals for your farm you couldn't normally have. An animal obtained in this way will grow faster and produce more than an animal native to your game, so there's plenty of incentive to trade. The game has a nice balance to its economy, but is still a bit on the easy side, and these super-animals will likely make it too easy. If you gotta catch 'em all, wait until you've beaten it.

Conclusion

My Farm is easy to pick on, but the economic aspects are balanced nicely, so your decisions matter and strategy is important. There's enough content to fully enjoy only one play through, and as long as Daisy isn't poking her nose into all your business you'll have a good time. It's worthy of consideration for 200 Points, but may be overlooked due to the popularity – and free nature – of games like Farmville.