If you want your mobile farm games to be cute and anime, then you want to play Magic Tree

Magic Tree is something you don’t see quite so often as you used to, even on iOS: a pretty straightforward farm sim. It includes some gameplay elements borrowed straight from Frontierville, like erecting buildings and following a loose sequence of events as you develop your territory, but at heart it’s not too different from the slew of half Farmville, half Harvest Moon farm game clones that spewed onto Asian social networks and mobile phones years ago. What Magic Tree has over those earlier clones is a solid localization and a far more attractive presentation.

Since Magic Tree is an iOS game, it can use 3D graphics without chugging or suffering undue slowdown. The 3D models are very simple, but charmingly designed and don’t turn the game into something that rapidly kills your battery. As the name implies, it’s a game where you can start a little farm complete with trees, livestock, and crops. While crops and livestock merely generate cash, planting trees generates special seeds that you can mix together to create magic trees. Mundane trees wither and die after four seasons, but magic trees yield impossible fruits forever.

The goal of the game, in addition to just collecting stuff, is to grow all the various types of magic trees. There’s two or three dozen, and unlocking them is going to take even the grindiest player a good long while unless they hemorrhage real money on just buying the unlocks. While you try to make a magic tree orchard, you can expand your farm by cutting down trees, add to it by erecting new buildings, and generally try to progress a loosely-written plot. You can visit friends’ farms to get various bonuses, and friending works along the mobile phone model (friend whoever you want) than the Facebook model (friends only come from your social graph).

Magic Tree offers a very strong sense of progression, though you do occasionally hit “dead periods” where it feels like you can’t do much but chop down trees as you wait for your next tree to mature. There are missions to help give structure to your farm, but this is clearly not a game where you’re supposed to find the missions blindly. There are a lot of collectibles that the missions never really point you toward, though the missions do a pretty good job of making the unusual ‘magic tree’ mechanic clear. Mainly, the missions give you a good idea of how developed your farm should be at any given point in time.

Magic Tree

Magic Tree is surprisingly enjoyable, if not especially memorable. The game’s 3D models are extremely appealing and use a cutesy anime style that stands out from run-of-the-mill FarmVille clones. The touch-based interface can be a bit mushy if you’re planted a bunch of trees or crops right next to each other, but otherwise is simple and intuitive to navigate. As if often the case for these extremely genre-typical games, it’s worth picking up if you’re curious, but not if you’re playing something else along these lines already.