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SummaryStrawberry Fields Forever!
The GoodWhen I was a wee lad, my first exposure into the PC game world was on my Aunt’s IBM. It was on that computer that I first forged my love for Apogee shareware hits like Agent and Duke Nukem (back when he walked on a 2D plain). I would later visit that same computer after school to feed my addiction to a little game called SimFarm. Oh yes, I played the hell out of it. If I recall correctly, I once constructed such an immense farm, that the computer would lock up every time I loaded it. Those were the days.
I decided to install SimFarm again, in an attempt to relive a brief period of my childhood. I went in with a good mindset; I planned on giving it a free ride on the good ship Nostalgia. I created my farm, planted a few fields of strawberries, and set out to become the world’s most wasteful farmer. I fertilized my field about every week. I sprayed chemicals everywhere. I crashed numerous crop-dusters. But something was missing; I just couldn’t find the magic.
SimFarm is a farm simulator in the same way the SimCity is a city simulator. The basics are there, but everything is dumbed down to a level that the average gamer can grasp. In fact, the games are pretty similar. Everything feels very familiar, with similar control and interface, only now you’re watching crops grow, instead of your population. Like SimCity, it’s a somewhat educational experience. This game won’t teach you how to run a farm, but it will give you an idea of how one works, to an extent.
The game design is fairly sound and harmless. As your farm grows, so does the town that neighbours it, which is an interesting feature, especially since you choose how it expands (oddly enough). There are different climates with different weather patterns you can build in. Like in SimCity, you can pick to build your farm on a randomly generated terrain. There’s a variety of farm equipment you can buy and use, but if you’re like me, you’ll just rent your equipment from town for a reasonable price because it’s easier.
There is actually quite a large variety of different fruits and vegetables you can plant. Some don’t survive well in certain climates, so there’s some strategy involved. You can also choose to raise livestock, though you have to be careful that they don’t get out, or they might eat your crops. Everything is graded based on how well you tended to them and how ideal the conditions were that they grew in. The prices of your crops also fluctuates as you play, allowing you to sell for a higher market value if your timing is good.
The BadI once watched a guy defrost my freezer with a hand dryer for an hour. I bring this up to illustrate the fact that I have an enormous attention span. But even though I have the patience required to sit and watch a sponge dry, I found this game slow paced and boring. It shouldn’t be that surprising, there’s an astounding amount of downtime in which you’ll find yourself watching your crops grow. If you build a recreational area in town, there will be the odd rodeo or fair, but all you can do in them is bet on your cousin (who never ONCE won when I bet on him) or enter livestock for judging, respectively. Even on maximum speed, this game is agonizing.
I have heard from people (my former roommate, for example) complain that they could never get anything to grow. Part of this problem could be that the game lacks a tutorial, or at least I couldn’t find one. Hell, I wasn’t even able to find a help file. The instructions might provide relief for people who struggle with the game, but I can’t confirm that because the copy I received didn’t come with any. I think that’s a little peculiar for a simulation.
On the other hand, I found the game to be excruciatingly easy. It was probably just luck, but I was able to become a huge success simply by planting rows and rows of strawberry fields. They didn’t require much attention aside from a few sprays, and they were harvested frequently. This allowed me to buy all the land I wanted. I even bought several crop duster planes. I didn’t know how to actually spray the crops with the planes, so I just kept crashing them around town.
I’ve got a question: Why can I stockpile an immense amount of strawberries for years, but they never seem to go bad? Those silos look pretty normal, not like how I’d imagine cryogenic silos to appear. Yet, I was capable of keeping forty-seven harvests worth of strawberries for years. I just sat on them until the price of them went up and then I sold them all for massive profit. This resulted in two problems for me. Firstly, I had embarrassing quantities of cash lying around at all times. Secondly, I always had to keep my eye on the stock ticker, because I knew that the moment I closed the window or blinked would be the moment that strawberry prices skyrocketed before suddenly plummeting.