Both DSiWare and the 3DS eShop have seen their share of sim games, managing a variety of businesses, creatures and a combination of both. My Farm 3D is the latest in a series that delivered a few budget priced options on DSiWare, some playing it straight and others being more off-the-wall. Aside from the odd quirky moment this latest entry goes for the former option, while going for a price point to suggest a meaty specimen suitable for the market; in truth, it's a rather skinny creature that will struggle to fetch a good price.
Real life farming is a tough existence of hard, sweaty, grubby work for small profit margins. It says something for this title's approach that it successfully recreates the feeling of scrapping away for small, incremental gains towards expansion and success, trading in smelly overalls for plenty of stylus tapping and swiping. That's fine, as an objective for a game, but the downside is that it's not particularly fun, with a typical game day revolving around repeating the same loop of vital tasks to maintain the smooth running of the farm. It is possible for manual labour and mundane tasks to be used for addictive and engrossing games, but for that to happen there needs to be far greater creativity and charisma than is on show here.
Structurally, there's plenty to work on to ensure that your farm is well run and profitable, with everything set up in basic menus on the touch screen. Primarily you have to look after your animals, ensuring that they're well fed and clean to keep their happiness at a high level — feeding is a drag and drop affair, while cleaning them is a case of rapidly swiping the stylus over their grubby bodies. Early on you have hens and ducks, and as you accrue more wealth you buy new buildings and enclosures to house animals such as sheep, cows, pigs and horses.
As you work your way up to owning more animals, you get a grasp of the simple but solid economy in the game; some animals produce goods that you sell to the local shopkeeper, while with pigs you simply fatten them up and sell them to the Farmer's Market at a profit. Finding a good balance with the space and money you have is key, as long-term payoffs from pigs — or the longer periods between sellable goods from the likes of sheep and cows — have to be weighed up with less valuable but more frequent commodities from hens and ducks. Once you find an equilibrium, the money flows in.
There are other aspects thrown in to try and test your planning and shake things up. You can level up gradually, with challenges added that give you experience points or extras around the farm — these extras seem to help your progress, but feel rather like irrelevant cosmetic additions to your farm. Animals also get sick on occasion, forcing you to buy medicine and recover their health quickly to avoid the problem spreading; keeping some ready cash handy for such occasions is vital.
And yet, despite attempts to add variety, there's a notable lack of flair to the package. It becomes a monotonous cycle of tapping through your stock, feeding and cleaning, and as soon as that is done cleaning the farm with yet more swiping to remove samey splots of dirt. There's a serious lack of variety to maintain interest, with the ability to speed up the game's time one of few blessings, before embarking on yet another round of feeding and cleaning. Adding new buildings and animals may make the farm look different, but does little to ease the grind and what can only be described as stylus labour.
Visually, this is a fairly weak effort overall, too. Some cartoony but dull animals and buildings populate the top screen, which isn't interesting enough to often divert attention from the touch screen. A lot of the time it's a fairly quiet experience, too, with the same-old animal soundbites looping as they eat, lay eggs or simply wander around. About as thrilling as actual farming, perhaps.
My Farm 3D has the right intentions, but forgets a key component of any sim based on real-life work and labour; it fails to apply any spark or fun interpretations of the activities at hand. With dull menus and repetition on the touch screen, and nothing particularly interesting on the top screen, it feels like a chore to play. As a sim it successfully recreates the monotony of real life work, but we doubt that was the objective.