Farming isn’t considered the most exciting nor glamorous activity in the world, but the developers over at Samobee Games are looking to change that. Step forward Princess Farmer as it tries to inject a bit of glam to the farming life with some match-3 puzzling enveloped in a visual novel. Does Princess Farmer possess enough pizzazz to shine as both a puzzler and a visual novel, or is it lacking the necessary sparkle to thrive in either department?
Unfortunately, the end result sees Princess Farmer come out as a mediocre affair in most areas. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy what it has to offer though, because it does have a fair bit of a charm to boot.
Focusing on the premise of Princess Farmer, you’ll play as an ordinary bunny who just happens to stumble upon a lipstick while harvesting her garden. Little does she know, this seemingly unimportant item will change her life forever as it means she’s worthy of becoming the titular character. Soon, the mighty Mother Gaia whisks her away to a magical forest to realise her full potential, harvesting the wonderful veggies on behalf of its inhabitants. There’s trouble afoot though, as a mysterious bunny is causing mayhem and turning folk into squishy gummies. Only the Princess Farmer can save the day!
There are nine episodes to work through, featuring a mixture of interactions and match-3 puzzles. It’s all very whimsical and charming, however the conversations between the protagonist and those she meets are lacking in substance. Despite being offered dialogue choices throughout, I seldom felt engaged and couldn’t care less which of the responses was chosen. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a pleasant tale here involving someone adapting to a new way of living and being accepted in their new role, but the chatter just isn’t really interesting. Well, apart from the writing related to a character named Jasper, who’s actually amusing by using a raft of colloquialisms to confuse the Princess.
The match-3 element is slightly different to your Candy Crush Saga or Gems of War types, with the act of uprooting vegetables being the key to creating matches in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line. You manoeuvre Princess Farmer left and right across the top of a veggie-filled grid, before pulling up one vegetable at a time to manipulate that particular column. What’s quite handy is that you can carry up to five at once and it allows you to re-plant them in any column. Understanding the basics won’t be difficult for even the most casual of gamers, which ensures it’s easy to pick up and play.
Depending on the puzzle at hand, your objectives could include making as many matches as possible within a time limit, collecting a specific kind of vegetable for various creatures, smashing rocks that are blocking your grid, and more. The real variety however, comes in the form of battle style encounters and those in which the environment is against you. It’s challenging, in a good sense, having to create matching chains to survive the onslaught of a storm or knock back a stone block trying to cover up your entire grid. If it sounds too tricky for you, fear not, because as far as I can tell it’s impossible to fail and so anyone can progress.
Due to each objective only taking around a few minutes to complete, this helps to stave off any boredom that could arise and thus is ideal for people with short attention spans. Not every idea is a winner though, and it does have a penchant to cause irritation on occasion.
Firstly, the movement is quite clunky and there are times when it locks up for a few seconds, preventing any harvesting in the meantime. Furthermore, at certain points an AI partner – mostly a robot helper called BunBot – will attempt to aid in your activities, but it’s more of a nuisance than anything else. This makes it inconvenient when trying to line up matches as you’ll often get in each other’s way and go for the same veggies. I also found that when the vegetables changed into gummy form later on, the visuals make it harder to decipher which veggie is which.
Upon completion of all nine episodes, after roughly five hours of play, there is an opportunity to potentially squeeze out some replayability. That’s because of two factors: the differing playstyle options and the unlockables. Princess Farmer allows you to choose between a puzzle playstyle that’s aimed at the methodical players, an action playstyle for the fast and frenetic gamers, or a balanced playstyle. Truthfully, I noticed no difference in play and approached episodes the same way for action, hence it’s probably not a reason to replay. Although in doing so, you will at least earn more of the hearts (the in-game currency) to spend on unlocking Hare Dyes and outfits. A word of warning though, a lot of the prices are ridiculously steep and it’s going to take an age to possess enough hearts to buy everything.
On the visual front, the charm really shines through with environments looking vibrant in pixel art. Whether you’re in the forest, the gummy cave, a restaurant or a city, it’s all very pleasant on the eyes. When you throw in the additional effects, you’ll find that the magical aspect is delivered well. There’s also a great selection of background tracks, mainly chiptune, which add to the overall experience.
Evidently, Princess Farmer is a warm and welcoming match-3 game that almost anyone can pick up and play with ease. The charming nature of its world is quite enticing, but there are reasons to be cautious. You see, despite being fun and varied, the mechanics are clunky and the AI is more of a hindrance than a help. Aside from the kind-hearted message at the heart of the narrative, the dialogue is a little lacklustre and may fail to keep your attention.
There are better match-3 and visual novels on the market, but the fact that Princess Farmer combines the two may mean it is worth consideration by fans of both genres.
If you wish to get matching, you can find Princess Farmer on the Xbox Store