Ever wanted to live in a house in the country? Well, unless you are a reclusive author or JayIsGames reviewer, you will need some way to sustain yourself there. So why not a spot of vegetable farming? And all the nearby towns are just dying for a bit of fruit and veg. It's time for rising at the rooster's crow and till the fields in the resource management game Country Harvest.
With a square piece of land and a couple of seeds at your disposal, you have to meet the grocery demands of a local town. Fill the order and you move onto the next town. To meet the orders, you have to plow your field, plant the crop needed, harvest it before it goes bad and have it ready to be shipped by the time the delivery truck arrives. The better you do, the more money and experience you gain. As you level up, more crops and facilities are unlocked. The facilities let you manufacture different products (like tomato paste) or improve the speeds you and your hirelings work at. The workers, up to three people you can hire through the course of the game, help you tend larger and larger crops, as they can also plow, sow and harvest stuff.
Tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, strawberrries, sunflowers — there are over fifteen different types of fruits and vegetables you can grow. Some can also be converted to a new product, such as sunflower seeds, thread and sugar. For these you build special facilities, each of which can be upgraded two times. For extra storage you can build silos, while workshops and cabins improve the speeds of your workers. Your game type is spent juggling between directing the workers, converting goods in the facilities and shooting crows.
Analysis: Country Harvest might seem a bit bland on paper, but it's fast-paced and very addictive. It's not a farming simulator, because all you need to do is maintain some kind of rhythm and structure with your harvest cycle. The better you do the quicker you gather experience and cash, but it's not particularly hard to keep the pace going and impress the locals with fresh produce. In order to plant, you have to plow. After sowing a crop takes a certain amount of time to grow and then you have a limited time to harvest them. If a crop goes bad you can't use the piece of land for a while. Once the harvesting is done, you plow again for the next round of sowing.
What makes the game challenging is that you have to micro-manage each process. Workers can be instructed to plow, seed or harvest vast tracts of land, but only once these patches are ready for it. You can queue actions as well, but once again only if the pieces of land you target are ready for that action. So it becomes a matter of constantly swooping over the map, instructing everyone what they need to do before the harvest goes off. But this is also the height of Country Harvest's difficulty. There are no time limits (apart from the delivery truck's continual appearance) and it is not hard to get money, so you are not likely to bankrupt yourself unless you really make a mess of things, like planting corn when they need potatoes. Beat a stage and the game awards you with more cash and some farm decorations, which I never used. Who has the time if you are constantly managing things? You can gain extra experience points shooting the crows overhead, creating a mild distraction while hovering over your agricultural empire.
One thing Country Harvest sorely needs are keyboard shortcuts. Switching between workers, managing crop cycles and converting goods would have been even pacier with some handy hotkeys. Especially in later levels when things get really frantic.
It doesn't push any sort of envelope with its design or challenge, but Country Harvest still provides an entertaining time management experience. Just be ready for some tense moments towards the end of the game.