Monday, October 5, 2009

Stay outta my garden! - a review of Magic Farm: Ultimate Flower

I decided to give this lesser-known time management game a try, and I don't regret it. Read on to find out what I thought of Magic Farm: Ultimate Flower!

What I liked

  • Lovely scenery
  • Experience-based growth
  • Buy-and-sell economics
  • Good level length
  • Adequate game length
  • Cute music

What I didn't like

  • Forced money-loss
  • Poor English


Genre

Time management / economic / roleplaying


Quick Plot

Save your missing parents by building a handful of successful farms from the ground up and employing the aid of people who can help you.



Highlights

Experience-based development

Everything you do in the game earns you experience points. In this way, the game has a roleplaying element to it. Periodically, as your experience points accrue, you are given the opportunity to upgrade one of yours, or your pet dragon's, stats. This allows you to choose what you and your dragon are most skilled in. This includes skills like fighting off pests, watering plants, and making a better profit from your plant sales.

Each flower you plant also improves with experience. As you water and harvest flowers from a plant, it will grow to a second level, and eventually a third level. The higher the level, the more valuable the flowers produced.

You also grow in your bouquet-building ability. You start at experience level 1 and grow to levels 2 and 3. Higher levels just mean less clicking and dragging. By level 3, you click on the bouquet order and it fills itself.

Music

The cute, catchy music in the game was a nice accompaniment for many hours of pro gardening. It reminds me of the music in Gunbound.

Graphics

The artwork in the game is really good. The scenes are pretty and well-drawn. All the plants look cool, and they grow in coolness as they change form into better plants. The characters you meet in town look pretty good as well. The comic-book-style art in between sections of the story is the only weak art in the game.

Time

Level length: each level counts as a "day" in the game. Some time management games have levels that feel too long. That was how I felt with Mystic Inn. But in this game, the level length is like the littlest bear's porridge - it's just right.

Game length: I've rarely played a game that's too long. But some casual games run on the short side. This game seemed to be a good length, and it stays fun right up to the end.

Time management element: Big Fish calls this a time management game. This is because you have to do a whole lot of stuff with the time you have each day. This includes:
  • watering plants
  • harvesting flowers
  • fighting off pests who come to eat your plants
  • directing your helper (a mini pet dragon)
  • refilling your water buckets from the water source
  • using the special item for each farm (statues and such)
As your farms grow, you will find yourself clicking like mad all over the place, especially in the later levels. There is a lot to track at certain times. You'll never be bored.

Economics

This is very much a money-making game. You have to work hard in your garden, and then sell the flowers you harvest. After each level, you can:
  • fill orders for bouquets, which earns you more money depending on the complexity of the bouquet.
  • buy water to refill your buckets
  • buy new upgrades for your garden
  • buy and sell plants
  • talk to people in town
Most of the game has you fulfilling requests for people in town. You bring them flowers or money and they do favors for you. This is the story element of the game, which takes you to the five different gardening locations on your quest.

My gripes

No savings: The thing that got me all rankled was the fact that the game robs you of the opportunity to save up some capital in preparation for your next farm. I would save up tons of money on my current farm before moving to the next one and then a story event would "explain" why I lost all my money. The game forces you to start fresh for each new farm (with the exception of the second farm), and it gives you no warning before you lose your hard-earned bankroll. It would have been cool to have the freedom to save (if you're willing to put in the work) and then have an easier time starting your next farm.

I also thought it would have been cool if they let you go back to all your previous farms, but once you get to the 3rd farm, the first two farms are off-limits for the rest of the game.

Poor English: The thing that bothered my wife most of all was the poor English. I don't know what country this game comes from, but the English is bad. You can (almost) always understand what they're trying to say, but it's usually choppy and awkward. While this language issue doesn't hurt the game too much, it would still be nice if these developers would get a fluent English speaker to edit the game text before the game goes on the market.


Suitable for the family?

Yes. My wife enjoyed playing it, and our kids enjoyed watching both of us play through the game. It was actually helpful to have the little ones at my side pointing out things I'd miss, like a glowing statue or a pest chomping on one of my plants. They liked all the various creatures that came to attack my gardens, from bees to crabs to lemurs. And they liked the little helper dragon named Robin. Everything in the game is colorful and bright.


The family man's final ruling

This is a fast-clicking economic time-management game that my wife and I both really enjoyed. We found that once you sit down, you want to keep playing and playing because there is constant advancement. There's always something new and better to achieve. It's fun to watch your farms grow and become successful. The friendly music
contributes to the light-hearted flower-plucking experience. Expect hours of fun with this game.

You'll like the game if...

  • you like quick-clicking time management
  • you like games with a "happy" atmosphere
  • you are a fan of gardening and flowers
  • you like business-building games

You won't like the game if...

  • you don't like fast-paced games
  • you don't like economic games


My rating:

If you want to play Magic Farm: Ultimate Flower, click below:

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