Review by Eric43

Reviewed: 11/19/07

Those seeking the simple life will get anything but that

Howdy gamers, have you ever wanted to be a farmer? While many never see farming as a real “entertaining” activity, it’s all you ever do in the aptly named Maxis classic, SimFarm. It is a 2-D, tile-based simulation game that allows you to own your own farm, grow and sell crops and livestock, and make tons of money. Despite this game’s classic status, it does have some epic flaws that make the game more broken than it should be.

The purpose of this game is similar to that of the benchmark of all Maxis classics, SimCity. You are given top-down look over a wide patch of land and must drop fields of different types of crops to raise and sell for cash. You can also build silos for storing harvested crops, barns and sheds for storing livestock, machinery, and seeds, and irrigation canals for keeping plants watered. As a “tease” to SimCity, there’s a town on each map that will buy your goods and grow along with your farm automatically. At first, you are restricted to a small patch of land, but if you successfully make money, then you can afford to buy more land and expand your income ten-fold.

As your career as a farmer, you’re basically doing the same-old things over and over again. Before you start your farm, you can choose from different regions. The climate will have an effect on what types of crops you should grow. You plant a field or two, let it grow, and harvest it. Depending on how well it matures, you’ll earn cash for your crops. Different types of crops can be grown, such as corn, lettuce, tomatoes, rice, potatoes, wheat, strawberries, apples, oranges, cotton, and tobacco. They each have different growth cycles and respond to different climates. Adverse effects can harm your crops’ growth and your income as well. Weeds, pests, disease, lack of nutrition, over/under-hydration, and weather will wreck a field if you don’t respond quickly enough. You can use a wide variety of sprays, fertilizer, and irrigation canals to zap away any problems for a small cost.

The interface allows you to build roads, fences, fields, and whatnot. What I don’t get is how there’s a separated ‘Buy’ button on the task menu that allows you to drop buildings and animals into the location of your choice. Also, next to the Buy button is the ‘Sell’ button which allows you to sell your goods at any time apparently to take advantage of a “stock market” though the longer you wait, the more your crops spoil and lose value. Why Maxis couldn’t just pile a bunch of options into the dragging toolbar and sell crops automatically is beyond me. The interface is rather clunky and hard to use but you'll get use to it if you play for a long time.

In general, this game requires plenty of mindless clicking to keep your well-oiled farming machine running. You'll be using a query menu frequently to check up on the status as well as the schedule of any of your fields. You can drop fertilizer, sprays, seeds, and harvest dates into the schedule, though you may find yourself doing this a lot, especially since you'll have to change crops every now and then to compensate for the fall/winter temperatures. It gets on your nerves and there's no way to set an automatic yearly schedule either.

You can plan for the future by buying up additional machinery and seeds and storing them in your barns and sheds. If you don’t choose to store up your own supplies, you automatically buy/rent the goods from town at the cost of more money spent in the long term. For machinery, it’s an absolute necessity to buy all sorts of junk, such as the trailer, the harvester, the truck, etc. When you spray or harvest a crop and rent the machinery, they from town come to your aid, but their pathfinding is terrible and they drive offroad all over the place, costing you a ton of unnecessary money due to “wear-and-tear.”

You can grow livestock too. It’s as simple as dropping a few sheep, pigs, cows, and horses in a pen, providing them with hay and water, and letting them grow. When they get old enough, you can sell them for a decent profit. On rare occasions, they can bust through fences and eat your crops, though you can replace the fences with irrigation canals, which are pretty much identical to fences except they don’t break. Figures that fences would be made “useless” in a silly game such as this.

This game does have one shining feature—the crop duster. If your town gets big enough, you can buy your own plane and spray pesticide all over your fields. It’s too bad that the controls for the plane are impossible to understand and you’ll crash almost every time you fly that darn thing.

The real drawback to the game is it’s just incredibly difficult and inconsistent. For most crops, they won’t grow at all even if you tend to their every need. You need to make a ton of money to overcome your taxes, and most farms will just falter in the first few years. Also, some crops are just overall “better” than others. If you want to grow corn, you pretty much have to spend half the year swapping out with other crops, spending a lot of time in the query menu. On the other hand, strawberries grow well during the whole year in a cold climate and sell for a ton of money. In other words, if SimFarm followed real-life, then there’d be no corn farmers whatsoever. You just don't have a whole lot of freedom in this game like you'd expect out of a Maxis game.

The game’s graphics are very old but just don’t have any oomph to them, especially following the excellent SimCity. While the fields have different looks to them, it’s just a bunch of matted, ground up dirt to me. The livestock and the cars look like a bunch of ants. The terrain always consists of a bland green field which never changes no matter what climate you are in. As said previously, the interface has all sorts of buttons all over the place. There’s plenty of bells and whistles in the form of graphs and charts to view, although it’s hard to make out most of them, plus most of them are useless anyway.

SimFarm is fun purely because it’s a different take on building cities. While that’s a good thing for the first few farms, it just becomes a sloppy, buggy mess over long periods of play. You can expand your farm to fit the entire map, but you wouldn't want to because the game would drive you nuts beforehand. Only worth playing in stints at a time.

Presentation: 7/10 – You grow a farm. Menus make the game a bit more tedious than it should be.
Gameplay: 5/10 – Kind of fun for the first hour or two but nagging micro-management and asinine difficultly will wither the fun away quickly.
Graphics: 5/10 – Just a bunch of bland-looking sprites.
Sound: 1/10 – No real sound whatsoever.
Replay Value: 5/10 – Some variety between raising different crops, but it doesn’t last very long before you go play Minesweeper or something else instead.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Product Release: SimFarm (US, 12/31/93)

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