As a fan of management simulators, I’ve not really dipped my toes into many farming games. Aside from Animal Crossing, and last year’s Bit Orchard, I mainly stick to more city based management games. As such, when Blocky Farm dropped onto my lap, I was more than up for giving it a shot. Whilst the MineCraft visual style wasn’t up my alley, it showed potential to be a relaxing little game.
The premise of the game is relatively simple, you move back to the farm which you grew up in order to run it. You’ll be greeted on entry by one of many unnamed NPCs who will guide you on your journey, and are presumably old friends of the family. After naming your farm, they’ll introduce you to the basics, including setting up a chicken coop, growing crops, and even playing with your pet of choice.
It’s all relatively simple to do too, with new structures being built from one of the menu screens and then interactions are done by clicking on the relevant place and choosing what you wish to do with it. Object-specific interactions can be a little bit iffy to do as the interface can make it a little unclear as to what is highlighted, and performing bulk actions is a little counter intuitive due to requiring you to glide over the areas you want to perform the action rather than holding and mass selecting like in most similar titles. It’s a little strange, but it also works too.
As you progress through the game, you’ll be expected to manage bigger fields, as well as sell your produce. With more and more things on the go, you’ll need to manage everything carefully by staying on top of all the things that you need to do. This is where the simple blocky visuals can be both a help and a hindrance. The simplicity of certain of everything means that you’ll rarely confuse one structure with another, but it also means that smaller items all blend together and leave you thinking just what the hell it is supposed to be.
The problems with the game, including that questionable visual style, stem from its origins as a free to play mobile title, as it really is clear from the offset that is a basic port of a phone game show. Not only does the game throw coins and stars at you as you level up from practically doing nothing, even goes as far as offering daily rewards, but the UI as a whole is so clunky due to the lack of any real changes to accommodate the transition to home consoles.
Aside from the various allusions to swiping that hilariously haven’t been altered, the game also lazily incorporates a pointer system that only really does some of the work. Whilst on the main game screen, you can use it to click on your various buildings and animals, but once you’re in any kind of menu then it switches to a combination of shoulder button and directional presses. It works some of the time, but other times doing something as simple as closing the menu can be awfully fiddly. As you can see from the video footage below, I spent minutes simply trying to work out how to get out of one of the menus – a problem that could have been solved by simply having the cursor present during both menus and gameplay. This, of course, ceases to be a problem when playing in handheld mode as thankfully they’ve kept all the touchscreen functionality of the mobile version intact, but docked mode can be borderline unplayable at times due to how clunky it can be.
To make matters worse, a lot of other gameplay mechanics from the mobile version haven’t been altered in any way and make the game feel like it was merely transferred from one device from another. Aside from the aforementioned lack of text changes, the game is chock full of chests and timers that bog the game down. Sure, management sims often have timers of sorts as you need to wait for a certain animation to finish, but here it’s just clicking on a thing and waiting for the visible timer to tick down. Whilst this approach is not inherently bad, it all adds to that mobile gaming feeling and makes that ten euro price tag much harder to swallow.
Blocky Farm is a serviceable farming game that’s spoiled by its free to play mobile origins. With mobile game mechanics and a clunky menu system on consoles that’s barely functional in docked mode, it makes the price tag hard to justify when you can play it on your phone for free. So long as you can tolerate an ad or two, of course!