It is hard to count how many farming games have already been developed for the casual market, and Tropical Farm by Alawar is the next in line to compete for the player’s attention. While there are not many flaws to be found here, the game still feels like playing more of the same old, and a few more innovations and twists would surely have been welcome.
The story, howeer, is actually quite original. Right in the beginning you learn that a dangerous tornado has destroyed the Greenfield Islands. The government then quickly decides to hold a contest, in which each contestant acquires one island. The winner of this contest will be able to lease his or her island for fifty more years, which is of course a nice reward. By accident, the player has just discovered a new formula which enables plants to grow in five seconds. Now that is what I call positive karma.
Apart from the story, Tropical Farm unfortunately lacks real innovation or charming uniqueness. We have seen most of the features in a dozen similar games, so that it feels like a mixture between Ranch Rush and Farm Frenzy. You will plant wheat, pineapples, bananas, corn or grapes, and care for animals such as ostrichs, bees, and peacocks. The further you proceed, the more complicated production of the goods you are trading will become. While the sale of ordinary grapes only requires one production step, that of grape juice requires two, and wine even three production steps.
The cultivation of seeds offers nothing new. You simply have to plant them, occasionally water and weed them, and after only five seconds you are able to harvest the ripe fruits. In contrast to other titles, however, plants never die, and the cost per seed is exactly what you get when you sell one fruit. Your main goal each day consists of various orders, and later on you will also get additional orders throughout a level. Here it is important to say that you are only paid for products that are actually ordered. This may sound trivial, but it has the consequence that the player really has to plan ahead how many seeds or animals to buy to fulfill all orders quickly enough, but to still make a profit at the same time.
A nice touch of Tropical Farm is the beautiful and interactive depiction of the island. After each level you can construct a new building to increase trade and growth, such as mansions, supermarkets, a school, or a pet shop. While those buildings are without real consequences for the actual gameplay, they’re still a nice feature and a sort of bonus reward.
On top of that you are also able to upgrade five different skills of your farmer to three stars. It is certainly not for free to do so, but as long as you finish the levels in expert time, you will always be able to afford it. Those two features plus the occasional new animal or seed provide a lot of distraction for the first half of the game, but after that the buildings become repetitive, new animals or seeds are introduced rarely, and your skills have already been upgraded to the maximum, so that the second half of an already short game is a bit boring and still much too easy for experienced farming game players.
Besides the lack of innovation and new features, the easy difficulty of Tropical Farm is the second point of criticism. If a game offers only one mode and is quite short in terms of levels, it should be at least somewhat challenging, and Tropical Farm completely fails in that respect. If you carefully plan in which order you want to harvest the ordered products, and keep a cool head concerning new incoming orders, you will rarely ever fail to finish any level in expert time at first try. Fortunately the game at least demands the players constant attention, and for the time being it is definitely entertaining.
The graphics and animations of Tropical Farm are really gorgeous, except for the slightly weird face of your farmer. The animals look particularly the adorable and are reminiscent of those in the Farm Frenzy series. Another aspect the game excels in are the intuitive controls. A large majority of your clicks are registered immediately, and the chaining of actions, though not offering any bonuses, works perfectly, too.
All in all, people who have generally enjoyed every other farming game so far will definitely have a nice time with Tropical Farm, too. While its length is not absolutely satisfying, and changes compared to similar titles are rare enough to cause déjà vu, the game is still pretty solid and scores in enough important aspects to recommend it.