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Harvest Moon: Innocent Life

For: PSP

Top of the crops?

Product: Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon | Developer: Marvelous Entertainment | Publisher: Rising Star | Format: PSP | Genre: RPG, Simulation, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
by Ed Fear
Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon PSP, thumbnail 1
If there's one thing we can be certain of in this life, it's that times change. The way we live and the society we live in is constantly undergoing tiny little adjustments, the net effect of which is only visible when we stop and take a moment to look back and see where we once were.

How did we live without mobile phones? The internet? Was there really life before there were enough channels to guarantee that there's an episode of Friends on at any given time?

When faced with making a version of their evergreen farm-'em-up for the technologically advanced PSP, it's understandable that the Harvest Moon people have similarly updated their scenario; it's a space-age farming game for a space-age gadget.

Yet while such a concept may stick in the throats of traditionalist Harvest Moon-ers, it's for entirely different reasons that this field might have been better left lying fallow.

Actually, for all the talk of a futuristic Harvest Moon, there's very little that affects anything deeper than surface appearances. Heartflame Island is a place where traditional farming has long been replaced by Auto Farms, large greenhouses that automate food growth, from seeding to harvesting. But Dr Hope, the island's obligatory scientific tinkerer, has decided that the best way to teach his latest creation – a robotic young boy – the value of human interaction is to have him farm in the traditional manner.

And so, given a handful of seeds and some freshly hoed land, you're left to tend to your farm and learn the value of hard work.

Crop farming boils down to a few basic actions: ploughing fields, planting seeds and watering crops, each one performed with a tap of the triangle button. Providing you've taken good care of your sproutlings, several game-days later you'll have fresh produce to ship off to provide much-needed money, which in turn can be reinvested in new seeds and tools.

It all looks good: While Innocent Life might not push as many polygons as some of its contemporaries, it nevertheless always manages to appear endearing. Flowers bloom brightly, cherry blossom falls from the trees, and picture-postcard vistas hover tantalisingly over the horizon.

Similarly impressive are the characters, whose animated movements manage to convey an illusion of emotion, despite botox-static faces and stiff dialogue that's been translated without much care for delivery.

Sadly, there are several things that stop Innocent Life from blossoming fully. Although you might expect the pace to be leisurely for this kind of game, just a few minutes of play will plant the fear that there isn't quite enough to do. While at first your days are understandably short – given that for the first week you only have a single vegetable patch to tend to – it soon becomes apparent that you'll rarely ever have enough to do to fill the days.

Sure, you can plant so many crops that your life is packed with watering and harvesting, but you can't escape the monotony. Move an inch, press Triangle, move another inch, press Triangle, move a little more, press Triangle. Run to the well, press Triangle to fill up the watering can, run back, press Triangle. Press Triangle to pick up produce that's ready for shipment, run to shipping pod, press Triangle to drop. Run back, repeat countless times. However boring this paragraph was to read, it was equally as boring to experience.

Other Harvest Moon games ease this drudgery with advanced time-saving tools, livestock to care for and a large environment to explore. Innocent Life is not entirely different, but a misplaced logic sees the game locking them all away, and it takes far too long to reveal them. Even then, Innocent Life still lacks some of the features that make the other Harvest Moon games so endearing, such as wooing a bride from the village.

So while there's actually more to be getting on with in Innocent Life than initial impressions suggest, the perseverance required to reach anything especially interesting will be enough to put off all but the most determined farm-hand hopefuls. Which is a shame because, once you eventually get there, there is some fun to be had.

While it's exciting to see an old favourite on PSP, granddaddies of gaming who remember when all this was fields (and who have experienced Harvest Moon games the way they're meant to be) might do better to look elsewhere. Maybe progress isn't always such a good thing, after all.
 
Harvest Moon: Innocent Life
Reviewer photo
Ed Fear | 8 May 2007
A futuristic re-skin can't hide the flaws from appearing in one of this usually reliable series' weakest titles. Budding, but no full bloom
 
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