John and Jill McCoy have finally taken their long awaited vacation to the tropics. It’s all John could ever ask for, to just lay on the beach and relax in the sun all day. But his wife has other ideas, wanting to see the sights. Ever the loving husband, John complies, just as long as Jill doesn’t indulge herself with souvenirs. She doesn’t, instead purchasing an entire island running for a suspiciously low price, and sets about running her own farm in tropical paradise!
Meanwhile, a prospector living on a nearby island does not care too much for the new neighbors, thinking that they are after the buried treasure he has claimed as rightfully his. And he might just try to do something about it.
The story of Hobby Farm is, predictably, cheesy. The writing can get a chuckle sometimes, but it’s nothing to get excited about. More than anything, it provides a reason for why new obstacles and tools open up. For instance, early on, the obsessive prospector stumbles upon some escaped criminals, and blackmails them into scaring John and Jill away. Hence, you start to get thieves showing up at night to steal your produce. To that end, the story serves its purpose, and that’s all we can ask.
There’s a Reason to Farm Here
Farming in a tropical island paradise seems like a really weird idea. But there’s no arguing with the fact that it’s very pretty. The graphics are vibrant, colorful, and full of personality. There’s a lot of movement too, not only in all the human and animal characters, but even in the plants as they sprout and grow. Never once will the screen show a second of stillness, there’s always some lively activity going on.
Sound is carried out just as well. The background music often treats you to the stereotypical muzak you’d expect to hear at a resort. It’s catchy and fits the setting. Sound effects are worked to even better effect; every action has its own unique sound to go with it. Chickens cluck as they lay eggs, goats bleat when they’re ready to be milked and machines emit metallic whines and hums as they do their thing. It all adds life to the scene, but also helps to alert you when something that needs tending to comes up.
Working All the Live Long Day
Hobby Farm is a time management game descended from the likes of Diner Dash, but considerably more expansive than that. You’ll plant seeds, water crops, feed livestock and harvest the goods that both produce, all with a series of mouse clicks. It’s seldom as easy as just going out and doing it though. If you want some goat’s milk, for instance, you need to first grab a bucket, approach the goat when it’s ready, milk it, and then put the bucket into storage. Three clicks total.
Moreover, you need to regularly refill its water trough and keep a fresh supply of food for it ready if you want it to keep producing milk. It’s a lot of steps and a lot of maintenance for just one animal and resource, and when you take other animals, and of course crops, into account, well let’s just say that you’re going to be busy.
But it’s not just harvesting crops, milking animals, and collecting eggs that you’re going to be doing. Because it turns out Jill can and will try her hand out at some base level manufacturing as well. She can produce things like jam, fruit smoothies, ice and more using the very things her farm produces. Getting these goods requires purchasing the right machine for the job, and then inserting the correct quantity of items.
For example, making a jar of jam requires four tangerines, while a smoothie will need two bits of fruit and a bucket of milk. Figuring out when to harvest, produce, and store is a huge undertaking, on top of all the other responsibilities you have to do. Meeting your quota before time runs out is no easy task in Hobby Farm.
Plotting It Out
And that’s only half the fun of Hobby Farm. The other is how you design your farm. You start out small, with just a few plots of soil to farm and one goat to milk, but as each level’s quota changes and increases, you’re going to need to expand your operation, and purchase new tools, supplies, seeds and animals. But more than that, you need to figure out how to lay everything out so that Jill can work at optimal efficiency.
The cool thing about this feature is that it helps give the farm a more personal feel. In fact, Hobby Farm can feel a bit like a hybrid between a simulation and time management game. This is especially evident once you unlock Relaxation mode, which pretty much lets you play the game without having to meet level-by-level quotas. You can just build and run the farm the way you want. Relaxation mode makes for a nice change of pace.
No Time for Innovation
If you’ve played other farm-themed time management games like My Farm Life or Ranch Rush, everything described above may sound familiar to you. Despite the high production values, Hobby Farm sadly doesn’t really bring a whole lot of new material to the table. The tropical setting and produce is about as original as this game gets. To be fair, however, Hobby Farm shows a much greater range of polish than most of the competition, a lot of more convenience, more responsive controls, and a gentler learning curve.
Hard to Keep Track
But perhaps the real issue with Hobby Farm is how utterly confusing it can get. There are a lot of things displayed on screen, little things that you’re expected to click in order to advance. While your farm is small, it’s not so bad and pretty manageable. But as it grows, you’ll need to zoom out in order to get a better view. And suddenly, things start becoming hard to see.
Finding the difference between your assorted crops, animals and seeds becomes a game in and of itself. You can zoom in and out to your heart’s content if you want, but panning around the map isn’t really much of an improvement. In the later levels, Hobby Farm really starts to feel overwhelming.
Conclusion - A Good Choice For the Time Management Fan
Hobby Farm is a pretty game that won’t demand much out of your system. Its gameplay is simple and addicting, and with a story that lasts as easily as six hours, trophies to earn, and a separate mode that can play out like a sim, it can easily occupy a lot of your time. But it can get frustrating at higher levels of play; not overly so, but enough to be noticeable. And if you’ve played other farming-based time management games out there, then it might feel a little too familiar. If you haven’t, then Hobby Farm might be just as good a title as any to get a taste.
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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