The idea of packing up, escaping the crowded, polluted confines of the city and setting up a farm out in the sticks is something that has often been romanticised in various media. The thought of kicking back and raising some chickens in the peace and quiet of the countryside sounds nothing short of blissful to some people. The reality, of course, is quite different; farming is hard work, especially in today's tough economic climate.
According to BiP Media's My Farm, however, it's neither relaxing nor difficult. Instead, this new eShop title takes these two ideas, throws them out the window and presents you with a virtual farming experience that results in one of the dullest games you can currently play on Wii U.
My Farm falls into the management genre, and tasks you with developing your small plot of land into a thriving, money-making agricultural empire. In order to do this, you’ll need to invest in equipment and produce to rear animals, which with the right care and attention will make you a nice profit.
Upon starting the game, My Farm appears surprisingly intricate in design. While the TV screen is reserved for providing an unexciting overview of your farm, the Wii U GamePad serves as your control panel, allowing you to do everything from buying resources to cleaning your farm. The wealth of options available is initially overwhelming, although this is mainly because the game explains absolutely everything in one excessively long, non-interactive tutorial at the start.
My Farm seems like the type of game that should be well suited to the two-screen mechanic afforded by the Wii U, but it really hasn’t been implemented as well as it could have been. Pretty much all of your interactions take place on the Wii U GamePad, with the TV screen only providing a visual representation of your farm, as well as occasional tool-tips advising you what to do. Because you rarely need to focus on the TV, it’s quite jarring when the GamePad screen suddenly fades and forces you to look up just to read a pointless bit of "advice". There’s no real reason why this couldn’t have appeared on the controller's screen, especially because tool-tips temporarily halt gameplay.
At the same time, these tips unintentionally serve as a welcome break from My Farm’s woefully dull gameplay. Looking after your animals is incredibly tedious; for example, rather than throwing some grain on the floor to feed your chickens — as any sane farmer would do — it forces you to select each individual bird in order to feed them. This isn’t so bad early on, but when you have 16 chickens and various other animals to look after, it quickly becomes a very boring chore. Occasionally an animal will become sick, which requires you to give them medicinal food, but this isn’t any more challenging.
Sadly, that’s about as advanced as My Farm gets. For all its buttons and options, it’s little more than a astonishingly slow crawl, during which you spend most of your time sifting through a list of animals to feed and clean. Moreover, the interaction only takes place within the menu, with the TV screen portraying this in as minimal a fashion as possible.
To make matters worse, My Farm isn’t a nice game to look at. The overall presentation, art style and sound effects are all underwhelming and horrendously generic — betraying its origins on 3DS — to the point where you can understand why you spend most of your time looking at the GamePad. Had it been more visually interactive like the Pokémon-Amie mini-game from Pokémon X & Y, for example, then this could have been ideal for younger players due to its rather simple gameplay. However, My Farm manages to strike that fine line where it doesn’t attract any type of player, be they young, old, new to games or with an advanced level of experience.
My Farm can be credited with at least being a functional piece of software on the Wii U. Nevertheless, that by itself isn't enough to make this a game you'll actually want to play. A number of bad game design choices turn what could have been a challenging and strategic management game into a tedious and unnecessarily arduous experience. My Farm isn't much better to look at either, with the game sporting an uninspired art style. In short, it simply isn't fun to play, especially when you take into account that there are other far better, farming-themed games out there.