Thursday, July 05, 2007

Alice Greenfingers Review

Alice Greenfingers, developed and published by Arcade Lab.
The Good: Addictive gameplay that moves so fast you don’t get bored easily, really simple controls, ability to queue actions makes life a lot easier, can play at your own pace as crops don’t rot, informative tutorials and new items unlock at a nice pace
The Not So Good: Low resolution graphics, repetitive after a while
What say you? A fast-paced farming game with enough content to keep you quite busy: 6/8

Gardening is a popular summertime (year-round here in Florida) activity. Growing plants, pulling weeds, getting stung by bees, handling hazardous chemicals, and watching things you cared for die…I can see the appeal. As with most things, hobbies are much less dangerous in computerized form (wars, for example). In Alice Greenfingers, you are Alice who must care for her crops and make a profit from her hard work. I suppose there aren’t many career alternatives for somebody named “Greenfingers,” so it’s off to the farm we go.

Alice Greenfingers straddles the line between “retro” and “outdated” graphics, although the game tends towards the “retro” side of the equation. The game has nice detail in the characters and other objects in the game, but the game is displayed at a low resolution (640 by 480). I would like to see more of the farm to make gameplay easier; of course, that would reward people with better computers, but that’s fine with me! The game is played from an overhead perspective that makes navigating through the game easy. Alice Greenfingers looks like a small arcade game, and although the graphics features a good level of detail, they need to be rendered at a higher resolution. The audio in Alice Greenfingers is better than average. The background music is appropriate for the theme of the game, and the game features some very good effects to let you know the progress of your crops without having to constantly scour around the map. Alice Greenfingers does have gibberish accompany the various phone calls you will receive, but I suppose this is better than poor realistic voice acting. For an independent arcade budget game, Alice Greenfingers looks and sounds better than most, but there is always room for improvement.

In Alice Greenfingers, your goal is to successfully grow crops and raise animals to make boatloads of money (because farmers really bring in the big bucks). The game is single player only; competitive multiplayer would be an interesting addition. Alice Greenfingers doesn’t really have a story, but instead gradually unlocks new and improved items over time during your 30-day gardening adventure. All of the control in the game is done with the mouse, which makes Alice Greenfingers appropriate for any skill level: just click somewhere and Alice will interact with it in a proper manner depending on what you have in your hand. The basic gameplay follows a cycle: plow the ground, put down seeds, water them, wait for the plants to grow, collect them, and sell them at the farmer’s market. You’ll get the hang of this very quickly. The game eases you in, and things become quite hectic after the first fifteen minutes of gameplay. However, the game doesn’t need to be fast if you don’t want it to: fully-grown crops can be left in the ground forever, so you can tend to crops at your own pace and worry about watering them (which does incur a time limit) more. Alice Greenfingers could feature an advanced mode that would make the crops rot if they aren’t picked to make things a bit more difficult for expert players.

Once crops are collected and put into the store house, you can sell them at the market. Here, each item is given a demand rating (very low, high, average) and you adjust your prices accordingly. The game doesn’t really say what an average price is ($5? $10?), so it’s still kind of an educated guess. Alice Greenfingers deals with realistic amounts of money and since income is so low, you’ll need to pick and choose your purchases. Even when you are doing really good, you can’t afford every new item in the game. I like this, as it makes you budget your profits and only purchase things you really need. Alice Greenfingers does contain a lot of items to assist you in your gardening needs: watering cans, sprinklers, fertilizer, animals, fencing, and fifteen types of seeds, from daisies to pumpkins. Now, you may think that all of those seeds are superfluous, but it actually adds some complexity to the game. Prices fluctuate at the market so having more choices will maximize your profits. Also, each box only holds one crop type, which makes collection a bit more challenging. Alice Greenfingers would be impossible to play if you couldn’t queue the actions, and thankfully you can. You can click on objects and crops and queue up a practically infinite number of actions to keep things running smoothly and minimize down time. Since Alice Greenfingers is easy to play, you run into the problem of repetitive gameplay, especially since you are essentially doing the same actions over and over. Normally, the game is running so fast that you don’t have time to get bored; you can play the game at your own pace, but at Alice’s maximum speed the game runs at a good clip. The game unlocks new items at a good pace making you wonder which new crop or item you will get next. Alice Greenfingers is best played in fifteen to thirty minute doses, because the game does get a bit overwhelming and repetitive after a while, but that’s fine and the game saves your progress. The game is quite engaging and as challenging as you want to make it; queuing up actions and running your farm produces some chaotic gameplay. For the price, Alice Greenfingers certainly delivers enough entertainment.

Alice Greenfingers is a simple game that delivers a successful experience. While the graphics are at a lower resolution than I would like, the game still has a pleasing environment in which it play. The simple gameplay will appeal to players of all skill levels, and the manually adjustable difficulty makes it so anyone can enjoy Alice Greenfingers. It does get a bit repetitive after a while, but you can always stop for a bit and come back again later. Alice Greenfingers has enough new items that it unlocks over time to keep you interested and it slowly makes the game larger and subsequently more complicated. Alice Greenfingers is a well executed title that will appeal to those who enjoy these types of arcade games.