Farm living is the life for us. Believe it or not, the Harvest Moon series is ten years old now, yet the simple and joyful acts of working the land and taking care of critters are as bewilderingly appealing now as they were a decade ago. Sure, there’ve been umpteen versions of the game since the original, but none on the PSP – until now, that is, in the form of Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon.
As you can gather, it’s a non-traditional take on the beloved franchise, but don’t let the title worry you too much - you’re not growing crops in zero-gravity geodomes or space stations. On the other hand, this is a world of robots, computers, and automation, albeit juxtaposed against the distinctly olden-time pursuit of cultivating fruits, veggies, chickens, and other farm staples.
In the Pinocchio-meets-Green Acres-in-the-future storyline, you’re a robot creation tasked with trying to learn to be human by understanding the meaning of life; simultaneously, it turns out that saving your island homeland is on the agenda as well. This island is remarkably large, and you’ll be exploring every nook and cranny - spelunking caves for magic jewels, foraging across mushroom forests, chatting up folks, and getting weekly tune-ups from your mad scientist creator.
First and foremost, there’s farm work to be done. You’ll start on a tiny swath of soil atop a ruined castle. Managing your land is hard work, and there are only so many hours in the day. Between tilling soil, smashing rocks, pulling up weeds, chopping stray lumber, and (of course) planting and watering your seeds, your days and nights will be pretty full. Believe us, it takes gobs of time and effort to transform your meager plot into an agro-empire; ADD-addled gamers should probably steer themselves away.
Story events happen slowly, mostly during your weekly maintenance meetings with Dad. In between, you’ll likely tire of some of the mundane chores you do over and over again. The text-heavy gameplay controls are clumsy, as you’ll inadvertently answer conversation questions without realizing it while furiously pressing the ‘X’ button to move them along. You’ll also quickly grow weary of the miniscule, looping soundtrack.
Yes, Innocent Life succeeds in going in a new direction for the Harvest Moon series, but isn’t as compelling nor entertaining as the best games of the franchise. It’s also not a recommended introduction for folks who haven’t played one before. Yes, video game farming is a secret pleasure of ours, and this does feed that pleasure to a degree. Innocent Life is a charming title, but doesn’t quite measure up to the lofty bar set by its predecessors.