The casual game industry has unearthed another farm / gardening game. Magic Farm – not to be confused with Magic Seeds – makes a nice entry into the world of sims and role-playing games (RPGs). Gameplay and scenery resemble both the recently released Bloom Busters and Grimm’s Hatchery, but although the game isn’t original, it offers many elements to avoid being just another clone with a new theme.
Magic Farm charms and enchants especially thanks to Robin, the dragon help mate. Robin helps a young girl with no name find her missing beloved parents. To find her parents, she needs to work on a farm to raise money for trips and trades with the townspeople. Finding her parents only takes up half of the game. The other half sends the girl on quests where she completes a variety of tasks.
The town folk guide the girl on her journey, buy plants from her, and sell items to help her. Managing the farm requires staying on top of food and water supplies, beating off monsters and bugs with a stick or whatever tool at hand, feeding plants, and gathering bloomed flowers. A level lasts for one day, so a clock appears to show how much of the day is left. The timing of a day changes – it’s not clear how this works.
Robin helps with all the tasks and, unlike other games involving a helper, does a great job of not crashing into the girl while working. He’s a pleasure to have around as company and never annoys while the two work hard cultivating the variety of beautiful plants. The two travel from farm to farm and discover new plants and more aggressive bugs and monsters.
The plants range in price. The first farm has plants priced at $20 (chamomile), $40 (cash tree) and $80 (rose) while the cheapest plant on the second farm costs over $80. Plants also evolve into two other plants that a strawberry plant starts out as a basic red strawberry and eventually changes into silver and golden strawberries. Advanced plants such as the tigerbloom ($85), fern (212), and light ($425) command higher prices, but are harder to come by.
The flowers cost more when selling them as a bouquet instead of as singles. For instance, selling three single flowers is worth $6, but selling them together as a bouquet is worth $12. The Flower Shop has a nice set up showing the flowers in inventory and the available bouquets to make. After finding the parents, the Flower Shop turns into a chore. Since making bouquets pays better, it grows old to keep moving single flowers into the matching bouquet one-by-one. Sure, you can move faster and just sell them all as individuals, but then it takes longer to raise money for whatever you need.
The game moves too slow in its first hour or so, and it takes time to build up a nest egg. Since Robin and the girl travel from farm to farm, they start from scratch when arriving on a new farm. The game has plenty of surprises along the way, and no matter how much money you have, be ready to start over. To divulge more details would spoil the fun, but rest assured that it’s the quests and surprises along the way that will eventually stir curiosity and captivate players.
The quests can take time – sometimes too long – to finish because of specific requests. For example, you may need 30 of a certain species of flower. One day, you’ll get five of them and then don’t see them again for four days. Thanks to the unpredictability of the adventure, the cumbersome tasks don’t feel as tedious.
Like traditional RPGs, Magic Farm gives the girl and Robin three skills each including trading, farming, pest control, and watering. As they both gain experience, their skills advance. This means they get faster in completing tasks, sell plants for more money, and buy plants at cheaper prices. The skill levels work like those in Virtual Villagers, where you get to choose which skills to level up. A skills bar appears on the screen, and whenever it fills up players gain a level.
While earlier versions of Magic Farm had technical glitches and other issues, the developer continues to implement suggestions from players. In the version we reviewed, for example, the developer had improved the text and item sizes to make them more readable and recognizable.
With two adventures (finding parents and going on quests) in one, Magic Farm brings a rare combination of features to the casual game genre. Overlooking the little imperfections comes easy because the game engrosses players and compels them to find out what’s next in their quests.