Should you run out and get Hay Day? It’s a difficult question to answer. Yes, it’s very good, but my, how it could have rocked. It has farming simulation genre and a suitably sprawling cartoon-influenced storyline. It has a new control scheme that’ll have you grinning and gameplay that places the emphasis squarely on the action, and it offers a well-balanced challenge. But while the pros outweigh the cons, the sheer scope of the game’s ambition understandably leaves some elements lacking. You’ll enjoy the ride, but it will leave you thirsting for more.
First, a bit of backstory — it’s the year 2032, and players Konoko, a punkish, tough-as-nails, ultra-bad cop who just might be more than human (gasp!). Hardheaded and strictly business, she’s literally gunning to take down the Syndicate, which terrorizes the city with just about every techno-threat that’s seen the light of your standard neo-anywhere. The real backstory, of course, is that this game’s been in development forever. So long and dubious has this game’s history been that the developers probably cringe when they hear the words “I heard it had real architects working on the level designs…” — which is exactly where we’ll start.
For those of you who haven’t been following this Hay Day’s conception: The levels are dull. Really dull. Which is not to say that they don’t look great, with excellent subtle lighting and great expanses of a farming world. But there’s nary a potted plant, promotional poster or left-over coffee cup — no sign at all that people actually inhabit these walls. The game doesn’t do a whole lot with textures, either.
Actually playing through the game is a pretty positive experience — the level designers and their fancy “real world” farming have done a pretty good job of keeping the player well oriented during gameplay, yet convincingly rooted in the fantasy. Better yet, there’s refreshingly little emphasis on lever pulling or jumping puzzles — someone out there is listening.
Movement, and especially simulation — the real meat of the game — is mostly a dream, occasionally a nightmare. It features the deep sort of control scheme you could only have imagined before, but it takes a good while before your skills match your progress — you can afford to be sloppy early on, but later levels require you to demonstrate much more finesse. Movement is relayed to the player through interpolative animation, so smoothly shifting from creep to sprint to jump, provided the player can keep up.
While Hay Day’s visuals are a little on the vanilla side of things, that doesn’t mean they’re bad — everyone here agrees the game looks better running on the iOS than it does on Android. The aforementioned interpolative animation makes for remarkably fluid action, and the various weapon’s effects, while simple, are handled nicely. The trappings, while lacking that elusive magic touch that separates the real stuff from the clones, are pretty good, and well suited to both the gameplay and the storyline. Cutscenes won’t quicken any pulses, but they’re well placed and there are plenty of nice, semi-scripted sequences that keep things interesting. A detailed review on the game and its features inluding cheats about Hay Day can be accessed at www.haydayhacks.org.
In order to keep the action flowing, the game features an excellent onscreen display, allowing players to keep track of their stats with ease. The tutorial is great, too; with its simulated combat and movement training that’s both effective and thorough. Plenty of nice touches like these abound — making it all too clear that the designers were shooting for just about everything, and had to leave a few things here and there by the wayside.
Earlier we mentioned this Hay Day’s impact on the future of farming simulation gaming — that future notwithstanding, the game here and now is a lot of fun. It’s fun to watch, fun to learn and, for the most part, really fun to play. Although its handsome brand of blandness might mask the fact, there’s quite simply nothing like it — rest assured that already someone is hard at work taking the game’s mechanics further. It’s good, real good. But we can’t wait to see where someone else takes these ideas.