Ever since I got my first copy of Harvest Moon (for the GBA), Iâ€™ve had a real thing for farming sims. Sure, the whole â€˜repetitive farm labourâ€™ genre isnâ€™t for everyone (even the Harvest Moon series has brought monster hunting into their later releases, to balance out all that farming), but I canâ€™t help but admire the charm of a game that celebrates the simple joy of planting something and watching it grow.
Family Farm is a new game just released from Iceberg Interactive - you know, the people who published such disparate games as Xeno Clash and the Syberia adventure games from the 90s. While itâ€™s definitely more Farmville than Harvest Moon, it still has enough whimsical charm, and challenge, to keep things interesting (and with no creepy incentives to spend more of your real-world money).
Players can choose from a handful of different stories, in mini-campaigns that have you work towards achieving certain goals, such as to make a certain amount of money or upgrade your house to a particular level, in a set time period. Usually youâ€™ll start out with two farmers, their house, and a large amount of wilderness surrounding them. The farmers (a husband and wife) have certain skills, such as tilling the ground, chopping trees, cooking, or working with animals, which they can improve through using these over time. If the house is at the right upgrade level (essentially, if thereâ€™s room), you can also choose to have a baby, though it will take several seasons before the child is big enough to help out on the farm. In addition to family members, you can hire external help, though doing this every season can become expensive.
As your family and hired workers spend the day slogging away on the farm (everything happens in real time, which means youâ€™ll need to manage things well), youâ€™ll need to keep an eye on them to make sure they arenâ€™t too tired or hungry - otherwise theyâ€™ll take a break and refuse to do anything else until you feed them or let them recover from all that hard work.
On the kitchen front, thereâ€™s a massive menu of different, unlockable, meals that you can cook for your workers: everything from bacon and eggs, to roast beef. Different meals have different cooking costs, but they also have different effects on your workers too. Spinach, for example, gives a strength boost! Itâ€™s worth pointing out that your workers need to cook the food themselves, and balancing the number you send off to the mess hall, versus the number you keep working in the fields, takes a bit of strategy to get right.
In terms of the farm itself, there are a lot of different ways you can make your living. You may decide to focus on planting plots of veggies, large fields of crops such as grain, sunflowers, or lavender, or perhaps an orchard is more your thing. There are also loads of different bird options, as well as sheep, horses and cows (which you can breed, and then sell for some pretty big bucks).
Family Farm has a nice polished feel to it as well, with cute artwork, and a lovely rustic soundtrack (though hovering over the animal pens for too long isnâ€™t recommended, as the sound runs on a fairly short loop). For a â€˜casualâ€™ game there was certainly enough to keep me playing for days on end. Recommended as a light option thatâ€™s suitable for all family members.