SimFarm. (simulation game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Sheldon Leemon
Maxis bills SimFarm as SimCity's country cousin, and there's an obvious family resemblance. SimFarm has colorful overhead-perspective graphics, mouse-operated tools for hands-on fun, and lots of information screens for feedback. It does not, however, quite live up to the reputation of its illustrious relative. As carefully crafted and engaging as it might be, SimFarm lacks some of the magic that made SimCity an instant hit.
In SimFarm, you start out with a plot of land and some cash. You can buy a variety of farm tools, such as tractors, planters, sprayers, and harvesters; structures like barns, silos, sheds, and water towers; and livestock such as pigs, sheep, cows, and horses. The real action, however, is in planting, tending, and selling cash crops. There are 24 different kinds of crops that you can raise, from mundane grains like wheat and oats to vegetable crops like lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. You can also plant apple and orange trees, or even flowers. You decide what to plant based on weather conditions, hardiness of the crop, and market prices.
Once the seed is planted, you must make sure the crop gets the right amount of water (by building irrigation and drainage ditches), and you must spray periodically to combat weeds, insects, and fungus blight. If the weather cooperates and you bring in a good harvest, you can sell it immediately or store it until the price is right. The sophisticated farmer can even buy futures to lock in the price before the harvest. Of course, there may not be a harvest at all, thanks to disasters such as locusts, drought, flooding, frost, and windstorms. If your crop is wiped out, you may find yourself going to the bank to scrape up enough capital to try again. That adds interest payments to the list of potential calamities.
SimFarm lets you try farming in any area of the U.S. or in your own custom-tailored environment. It also includes a number of preconstructed farm scenarios for you to run. There's a lot to do and try in this open-ended simulation. As with other Maxis products, there's no real game goal here, except to expand your operation. My children (aged 10 and 12) were totally fascinated with the operation of the farm and with tending the animals. It seems to me that SimFarm doesn't give you the feeling you get with SimCity that the game has a life of its own--it's a bit more simplistic.