With the rapid urbanization of the world and industrialization of farm life, it’s worth wondering if kids today get the bulk of their farming knowledge from games like Zynga’s FarmVille. Imagine a world where entire generations grow up believing food is harvested by dragging your finger across it after it’s incubated for a few minutes. Bizarre.
But teaching kids about the reality of farm work is best left to the good men and women that till our fields and thresh our wheat. Our job here at Gamezebo is to tell you which mobile games are worth downloading and playing. So what about the latest excursion to the digital farm, FarmVille: Harvest Swap? Is it worth downloading and playing?
Yes and no. The core game adds some decent twists to the well-worn match-three puzzle formula, but the free-to-play trappings are stuffed down your throat like pork pie at a county fair.
FarmVille: Harvest Swap takes place on the fields of FarmVille. Each level puts you boots-first on a grid dotted with tasty-looking vegetables and fruits. You match up three of the same food item to make them disappear, which adds to your score (or detracts from the total number of fruits or vegetables you need to collect in order to progress).
While a match of three is sufficient to make the veggies disappear, it’s preferable to make a match of four or more. Doing so lets you create super-charged items that blast or explode, taking out everything around them. And, as can be expected from most match-three games, you have power-ups at your disposal that let you eliminate one stubborn veggie, clear the board of a specific item, and more.
FarmVille: Harvest Swap brings two neat twists to the harvest table. One is the addition of boxes, which you “make” by matching up four items in a square shape. You can then harvest nearby items by drawing a line and linking them to your box.
Another (adorable) addition is bunnies. When you match up a certain number of carrots in select levels, bunnies will peek out of their holes and munch on the surrounding grass to shorten it and let your game board expand, making matches easier.
Unfortunately, FarmVille: Harvest Swap offers more frustrating obstacles than clever gimmicks. The minute the rooster crows, the game is out to get you.
Much of the time, the goals you need to meet in order to finish a level are insanely high. For instance, you’re often expected to collect very large numbers of fruit and vegetables within a very limited number of turns. Or you have to reach a lofty high score even when the board is blatantly engineered to keep you from doing so.
When a board is so cramped that the “No more moves, shuffling” message appears multiple times in a single level, you begin to get the feeling that the game is shoving its empty palm out at you in hopes of getting you to pay whatever it takes to finally graduate the level you’ve been stuck on for the last ten turns.
(And if there’s any doubt about the message being communicated, keep in mind the game pitches a “Starter Pack” when you fail. For a set price, you can get a handful of gems, a few power-ups, and infinite lives for 24 hours! Oh boy!)
FarmVille: Harvest Swap’s good ideas are unfortunately buried deep beneath a frustrating number of restrictions that barely let you squeak out a single star in the majority of its levels. You’re better off seeking the bounty of nature (and match-three puzzle fun) elsewhere.