Pros: Fun, easy to learn, frequent additions to gameplay
Cons: No direct communication with other players
I like farming games. I never got into Farmville on Facebook, but I’m a big fan of the Harvest Moon franchise, whose games have appeared on Nintendo and Playstation consoles since the days of the SNES. So, when I saw Hay Day available for download on the iOS platform, I was intrigued. The game is free, so you can’t beat the price.
The game is available for iPhone, iPad, and later model iPod Touches. It does require a data connection to play. My iPad is wifi only, and I may or may not frequently use my iPhone as a mobile hotspot in order to get an internet connection for the iPad so that I can play on the farm while waiting in the preschool pick up line.
Like all good farming games, Hay Day starts the player off with a humble homestead. You gain experience by producing goods and harvesting crops, and when you level up, you have the potential to unlock new farm buildings, crops, animals, additional fields, and more.
It seems like there is a machine/building for every purpose. There is a bread oven, a pie oven, and a cake oven. You have a dairy to turn milk into cream/butter/cheese, a sugar mill to turn cane into sugar, a bbq grill, a loom to turn wool into hats/sweaters, and several more machines.
Of course, if you are going to be able to use those machines, you are going to need raw materials. There are many crops that can be planted, and they are slowly unlocked as you level up. There are also animals that can be purchased: chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, and goats. If you feed your animals (make food in the feed mill), these animals will generate eggs, milk, wool, and bacon. I was very relieved to see that getting the bacon out of the pigs does not kill them. Instead, an old-timey steam machine goes around the pig and sucks the bacon right of them!
There are several sources for generating income on the farm. At first, your primary source of income is going to be fulfilling orders on your bulletin board. Local places close to your farm like the church or the kindergarten will place orders- let’s say, 5 ears of corn and 5 bowls of cream. When you have assembled an order, your truck will take the goods away and come back with coins and experience.
You can also place items for sale in your roadside stand. By doing so, you can opt to have an advertisement placed in the game newspaper showcasing your wares. There is a maximum price per item, which is useful because it prevents robber barons from price gouging. Likewise, if you are looking to buy a particular item, you can look for it in the newspaper. The paper connects game players and allows them to visit other farms, and potentially make new friends.
There are very few ways to interact with other players in the game, even those whom you have “friended”. Having friends becomes an important part of the game. When you have leveled up high enough, you can plant fruit trees/bushes that will yield fruit three times. After that, they wither, but you can place a sign on withered trees/bushes. If a friend revives your tree/bush, you can get a fourth round of fruit before it withers permanently. Also, at a higher level, you can build a dock on your property. A steamboat will stop at the dock with a large order. You can ask your friends for help by marking crates with the “help” icon. In a recent update to the game, the designers added a “help” tab that allows you to see all of your friends who need assistance with reviving trees/bushes and/or filling boat orders. Despite this, there is no way to communicate directly with other players or to leave them presents. This is a bit of a disappointment, but not a major setback. I coordinate with my mother-in-law (another avid player) via iMessage. This helps us because boats will give four hours advance notice as to what cargo they will be asking for. Since many products take several hours to make, having advance notice is helpful. This is not entirely necessary; my inability to communicate directly with my other game friends does not prevent them from being able to help me with my boat orders.
If you’re looking for friends, you can find them via your Facebook friends or through Game Center. You can also “follow” farms that you find via the newspaper, which is essentially the same as having a friend.
The game does move slowly, especially when it becomes a little more time consuming to get enough experience to level up. It can seem insurmountable to get together the money needed to build the next machine, but once you can get into a good rhythm with fulfilling bulletin orders and boat orders, the money and experience comes in quickly.
In addition to coins, the game also uses diamonds as currency. Diamonds are rare- but they are given as rewards for reaching milestones. Diamonds can be used to speed up production (not permanently), but they can also be used to unlock additional slots in the production queue- and this is permanent. In my opinion, you are much better off using your diamonds for the latter. Whatever you do, don’t spend your diamonds unlocking the mystery boxes that pop up on the farm. Diamonds can also be used to hire Tom, an adorable little waif who will bring you items at wholesale prices. This can be very helpful with filling orders or turning around a flipping and selling the goods in the roadside stand for much more than what you paid to get them.
Of course, additional coins/diamonds can be purchased from the App Store. Buying coins is a complete waste. In order to buy enough coins to purchase a 40K coin machine, you would need to spend $15 in real dollars. But $5 worth of diamonds gives you enough to hire Tom for 10 days. Tom can bring goods every 2 hours, and you can either use those goods to fill orders or to sell in your stand. Either way, you’ll generate money pretty quickly- probably more coins than what $15 worth of coins nets you. It’s hardly necessary, but I have hired Tom for 10 days when my money flow slows to a trickle.
The animation is great. It is fun and cartoony, and the little details are great. The sheep narrow their eyes and gaze around suspiciously. Hungry pigs sit on their bums and point to their mouths. Sometimes it’s fun to just sit back and watch what everyone is doing.
The control scheme is also very easy. Everything is done via swiping at tapping. It’s easy to master. My children will help out on the farm, and they are pros too. Speaking of children, this can be a fun game to play with children because of the potential for learning: counting out items, figuring out how much time something will take, and other tasks can help with mathematical and critical reasoning skills.
The developers, Supercell, are very good about keeping the game up to date. I have been playing for several months, and there have been numerous additions to the game, as well as bug fixes. They maintain an active Facebook page where they post updates several times a week.
I would absolutely recommend Hay Day. This is fun game that doesn’t require a lot of time commitment. This is one of those games where you can play for 5-10 minutes, set things up, and then put the game down. There is always a goal to achieve, or a new machine to save money for. Hay Day has held my interest longer than any other iOS game, and I would heartily recommend it to others.