SimFarm was the game we all played on the library computers in middle school. That is, until they deleted it because we were having too much fun. Jerks. Ever since, I’ve had SimFarm built up as this supremely entertaining game. I was happy to find a Mac version available for download.
Nostalgia, thou art a false mistress.
SimFarm is a half-assed offering from Maxis, indeed. The graphics are typical isometric perspective in a vomitous selection of greens and browns. Farm animals look like pills of various colors, crops like squares with amusing brown patterns. The type of crop is indicated in the upper left corner with an informative icon, such as a strawberry or peanut. If there’s a problem, such as grubs or drought, that’s indicated with another icon. Migrant workers swarm over your strawberry fields when it’s time to pick (which you decide), and machinery is used to harvest crops like wheat and barley. Throughout the game we are presented with a self-satisfied farmer wearing aviator specs, a baseball cap and a plaid shirt. He appears when no other graphic is appropriate. Farmer Filler, we call him. I suppose he is intended to be the sympathetic rendering of the player.
Like SimCity, there are tons of graphs and menus, almost too many. This game would more suitably be called SimRuralEconomics, since the majority of gameplay is waiting with your cursor hovering over the Sell button in order to get the crops harvested at the right time, or to sell your livestock at their fattest while at the same time micromanaging all your little tractors and silos.
The sounds are cute, but unimpressive. You get an amusing duck noise when clicking on something that produces an error, and various construction or bulldozing noises when the time is right. There’s also a MIDI soundtrack that I immediately muted.
Gameplay itself can be pretty well summed up in two words: “Who cares?” There is absolutely no human element in the game. There is no feeling of down-home farming community: no loyal wife in the kitchen; no pigtailed, nymphet daughter; no spunky son with obligatory dog. Just once I would like to see one of those little Maxis notification windows: “A traveling young man knocks at your door in the middle of the night. Your daughter makes eyes at him, but the dog doesn’t object to his presence and he looks like a good sort. Do you let him spend the night? (Yes/No)” Alas, it is not to be.
If I said SimFarm is a thoroughly forgettable game, I would be lying since it has stuck in my head since my days in middle school. SimFarm is memorable, but in a way that makes you wish you could forget it: who knows how many precious kilobytes of brain it’s taking up? Do yourself a favor; don’t enter it into your memory. Go download SimAnt, or SimTower. We’ll chalk this one up to the folly of mundane game designers, pressed for time and ideas.
And someday, we’ll learn to forgive.