I'm not sure I can identify all of the elements of an 'excellent' time management (or multi-tasking) game, but a compelling character is sure one of them. So, what is a great character? For me, it's that magic that happens when the artwork makes you smile. When you look at the features and facial expressions, the clothes and the hair, and you say to yourself: “I want to help her.” That's the kind of feeling that came over me instantly when I met Sara, the star of Ranch Rush from Fresh Games. She's spunky, she's got that get-'er-done attitude, she's got an overwhelming job in front of her, and she needs my help. Let's dig in!

Sara learns that her boss, Jim, might have to sell his Nursery to land developers. Oh, those evil land developers! She loves her job at the Nursery so she decides to take 3 unused acres of the Nursery and make it a Farmer's Market Ranch to earn the money to help Jim with his cash flow issues. And of course, Sara does not want to be unemployed. You play as Sara harvesting fresh produce, gathering ostrich eggs, collecting honey from bees, making ketchup from fresh tomatoes, and lots more. In fact, in addition to the terrific character art that drew me in immediately, I really enjoyed the variety of enjoyable tasks. It seems so fun, I almost feel like I want to live on a farm (but I am a city girl at heart). There are lots of levels and challenges to keep your interest. I guarantee you won't get bored, which can happen in these types of games when you find yourself doing the same tasks over and over again. You get upgrades when you need them. You can earn trophies. Your profits grow with every new achievement. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Before you get started, you learn that there is an 8-week deadline. If Sara doesn't earn enough to help her boss out of a jam in 2 months, the party is over. So, you feel a sense of urgency. You plants seeds, and the crops grow quickly. You can pause the clock to purchase new items for your farm, or you can move items around. Later on, you realize that some crops grow slowly (like corn), so you have to manage your time well. I really liked the flexibility of being able to move things around and choose wherever I wanted to grow my crops. There is some strategy to how you place things. You will get things done more quickly if you are organized and place items you need to perform common tasks next to each other. As things get busy (and complicated) the layout of your farm is critically important

As each week passes, the customers become more demanding. Poor Sara is juggling so many tasks, including making jam and cheese and wool that require multiple steps you become very busy, but it is all part of the rich experience of working on a farm. And there is no easy money. Right away, obstacles keep coming up to throw a wrench in the works. Bugs eat your delicious crops, land dries up, and some of your trusted machines break down. You have to fill your customer's orders, but in order to do that, you have to have the product ready. You have to do whatever it takes to be successful. You may have to go steal honey from the bees, but if you get caught, watch out! You have your work cut out for you, but it is all part of the fun.

Ranch Rush is well tuned. You start out with relatively easy tasks that grow in difficultly gradually. You always feel challenged, but never overwhelmed. In addition to the wonderful graphics and varied and interesting gameplay, I also liked the sound, which definitely enhances the game. Terrific sound can act as a reward when you're performing tasks, and I started looking forward to hearing the moos and other animal voices as I played along. The game controls are very responsive and accurate. Unlike some iPhone games, I never had a problem with the buttons or mechanisms I needed to access to play the game. However, I did have a problem reading some of the tiny text, but that may be my age catching up with my youthful enthusiasm. That's about the only criticism I have of this near perfect iPhone game.

And if all of that isn't enough to convince you to give up your hard-earned $1.99 (a bargain) to purchase this game, Fresh Games is making it even easier. Right now if you purchase the iPhone edition of Ranch Rush, the developer is donating 20% of the full purchase price to Action Against Hunger. So, not only can you feel good about helping the fictional character Sara out of a jam, you can also provide some desperately needed comfort to hungry people in the real world.