Pocket Harvest review: a farming game where you don’t get your hands dirty
What do Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, Farmville, and Pocket Harvest have in common? Easy, you might think: they’re farming games. Right, but also wrong.
Seeing Pocket Harvest in English on Google Play made me squeal, but having played it for the past several days, I’ve come to the conclusion that in spite of all its depth and well designed gameplay, it’s lacking a very important element for a farming game. Even so, though, you should definitely give it a chance.
It’s a very good game
As with all Kairosoft games, Pocket Harvest is great. You’re in control of a farm that focuses on crop cultivation and tourism. Aside from growing and shipping crops to make money, you also have to work to turn your farm into a tourist attraction, all in the name of staying profitable.
Kairosoft has done a bang-up job of breaking down a rich farm management game into little bite-sized pieces. Technically, one can play Pocket Harvest forever and ever, since this paid game isn’t governed by energy or other consumables that you need other players to give you. What it lacks in social features, however, it makes up for in engagement.
There are two forms of currency in the game: cash and research points. Cash is used to buy crops, build stuff, and hire workers, to name a few things. Research points go into upgrading fields and buying game-changing items, such as gloves that can help your workers harvest crops more quickly.
The better and more numerous your fields are, the more crops you can harvest, and the more money you make. The more money you make, the more you can invest in your farm. And boy, how many ways there are to invest in it. It’s great that Kairosoft chose not to make a hardcore farming game, but allowed for elements like tourism, contests, and investments to slip in. To name everything you can do outside of tilling the soil would probably make this review very long, but in a nutshell: these side projects break up the monotony of watching your workers and waiting for the harvest to cash in, and they’re very much welcome.
It’s got a great art style
Truth be told, Pocket Harvest looks exactly like any other Kairosoft game. They use the same pixel art, the game runs vertically on your phone screen, and the expressions and indicators of your workers remain the same, albeit coloured differently. But this pixel art style hasn’t gotten old.
If anything, the depth of the game is enough to allow for a less-than-HD art style. Because Pocket Harvest already gives you so much to do, the focus is more on what you can do and less on what you’re looking at. However that’s not to say they haven’t paid attention to detail. The seasons come and go in Pocket Harvest, and that’s reflected in the appearance of your farm. The land is brown and waning in autumn, powdery white in winter, and bright, fresh green in spring and summer. Little touches like snowmen on unused land in winter add character to the game. I like best how in spite of a lack of graphical fidelity, Kairosoft has still managed to make Pocket Harvest’s characters into adorable and instantly-recognizable ones, as they have done so with all their other games.
Game menus are expectedly well laid out and clear, and while I feel the main menu could do with better integration with the game as opposed to simply dropping down on command, it gets the job done. I wish Kairosoft would get rid of the clunky directional-button interface tucked into the bottom of the screen, though. Since all their games are for smartphones, it makes no sense to have buttons on screen when you can scroll and navigate with your fingers.
The main problem with Pocket Harvest
It’s not so much the game as its focus. Harvest Moon and Farmville put you in the shoes of the farmer. You’re the one who goes forth tilling the soil, planting seeds, watering them and harvesting them. And because you were directly involved and got your hands dirty, you developed a special connection to the virtual land you cared for so deeply.
In Pocket Harvest, you’re watching a fertile land from above. You’re a god in that arena, but you can’t go down and connect with the land. It’s your minions who do it. You just make decisions, but you never get to go down and plant a seed. But planting seeds is what you wanted to do in the first place, or you wouldn’t have bought a farming simulation game.
While Pocket Harvest successfully follows in the footsteps of the games preceding it, I feel like it could have helped players develop a better connection with their farms by letting them get down and dirty in the soil… but then it wouldn’t have been a Kairosoft game, would it?
Anyway, I’m still going to play it.