Facebook makes me think of Grand Central or Waterloo Station... there is so much going on at any given moment and much of it is activity by strangers or people who would be strangers anywhere but Facebook. I have 100 new Requests for Friendship, Acceptance of Gifts, Acceptance of Neighbour Offers or whatever on my page on a daily basis, a News Feed that tells me what other people are doing, with offers from their pages of Bonuses or Mystery Eggs or other Items as well as a host of game adverts in the column on the right side of the page. Many of the Games advertised on Facebook are 'Free' but many offer a free 'taste' of the game, requiring real investment if you wish to pursue the Game with any dedication.
A friend persuaded me to try a game called Tiki Island, citing her own dream to live on an island. Although I was juggling at least five other games on Facebook, I decided I would give it a try for her sake. It is a charming little game in its way, apart from one VERY annoying point: Whenever you play the game, a pop-up advertisement for ANOTHER game called Verdonia appears in the middle of your screen. I find this both annoying and rather incomprehensible. The prompt demands that you: 'Play Verdonia NOW!' Well, why would a person begin one game and, without having any chance to perform any actions yet in THAT game, wish to transfer to another game instantly?
Pop-Ups of various kinds are very much a part of most of the Facebook games and they always detract from my enjoyment of it. These games are programmed to treat a player like an idiot, but it's all marketing. You may be in the middle of an activity such as plowing or planting and quite suddenly the game will suggest that you 'take a break' to send some free gifts to friends. Is the game acting in a generous spirit to promote selfless giving? Not at all. By sending a gift to a friend, you are drawing that friend into the web of the game. If it is a friend who currently plays the game, the act of giving still isn't entirely selfless. With your Gift is a pre-written request for the Friend to send YOU a Gift in return.
Frontierville was recommended to me by a number of Harvest Moon friends as the game with the most to offer, including an option for Courtship and Marriage. I dreaded the idea of becoming involved in yet another game when I hadn't sufficient time to deal with Fantasy Kingdoms, Lovely Farm, Farmville, Farm Town and Castle Age... but once again, I was persuaded. In fact, it is the most complex of all the games I have played, apart from Castle Age. On the other hand, it is the most FRANTIC as well. The entire game is linked to various mini-games. The most frequently activated mini-game is the one that is triggered by any gain of income, experience or food. Whenever you perform any activity, whether it is clearing land, tending a Crop or feeding an Animal, you receive coins and XP and often a Food Item as well. All these pop out in the form of Items you need to collect actively by clicking on each of them. If you fail to click on them quickly enough, they vanish. I need to confirm this, but I believe that you will receive the basic reward for your action without clicking on the Items and that clicking on each will give you Bonus points. Nonetheless, it is a bit nerveracking for me, especially if you have moved to a different part of the screen to perform another task, leaving behind all of the Items from the previous action that popped onto the screen. I daresay that a lot of players find this fun. Perhaps it is the antiquity of the laptop I use, or the less-than-accurate 'mouse' it has, but I don't enjoy it very much. Furthermore, the endless prompts that appear on the screen to 'share' every small accomplishment tend to conflict with and actually impede gameplay.
I think Frontierville is worse in this respect than other games simply because there is so much going on at any given moment. In fact, there are some fundamental defects in most of these games where messages and Requests are concerned. Why is it impossible to accept ALL your Gifts at once, in the same way that one can perform actions towards a group of emails simply by filling in a box, then choosing an option such as 'Delete' or 'Save'? You could have an option either to 'Accept' or 'Reject'. The only game that sends Gifts automatically into your Gift Box is Lovely Farm. In similar fashion, why could the game not allow you to publish all of its messages to your Wall AFTER you finish playing rather than interrupting you every few moments? All of these games are in Beta still, but really...
Speaking of 'Beta' versions of games or online games in general, one wonders about the wisdom of making any 'real' investments in terms of money even for a player who has unlimited funds to spare. In games that are made for specific systems or platforms, a player can save and keep his/her progress without fearing that an outside influence will render it unusable or even non-existent. Where any online gaming experience is concerned, what control does the player have apart from the transient control exercised while the game actually is current?
I am most tempted to invest real money in some of the gorgeous items in Fantasy Kingdoms but apart from the fact that I really cannot afford to do so, I must try to remember that all of these games exist only at the whim of their creators and could be pulled from the internet at any point in time.
Once upon a time, I created a wonderful site on About.com with over four hundred pages of detailed erudite text and fantastic images. One day, About.com changed its policy. What had been a free site would become subject to charges. I did not have the sort of resources that would have allowed me to keep a site of that size on the internet so it was lost...
I have digressed badly from the topic of this post, which is to review Tiki Farm, Frontierville and Treasure Island.
Were it not for the annoying and I feel, unethical insertion of the pop-up to play Verdonia, each time you load Tiki Farm, I would enjoy the game more. It is an interesting variation on ordinary Farming Simulation games. For a start, you have to farm on a volcanic Island, although the Volcano is not an 'active' option as it is in Treasure Island. It simply is decorative and can be moved like any decoration.
The biggest difference between Tiki Farm and most of the other Farming Simulation games is the fact that Ranch Products and many other Items are VERY time-restricted. You have to feed your Cow Alfalfa (shades of Hero of Leaf Valley) in order to produce Milk but, unlike other games where the Cow will keep her Milk until you can obtain it from her, Tiki Farm Milk will spoil within five minutes or so! You therefore need to remain active in the game basically whenever you begin any activity such as fishing or obtaining Ranch Product. There are Crops that ripen in half an hour for example! The only other Farming Simulation game I have played that has Crops with a comparable growth period is Frontiersville where Clover can be planted and harvested almost in the blink of an eye.
There is a 'Lost Animal' option in Tiki Farm similar to the one in Farmville, although the Animals are far more exotic and amusing. My favourite is the Enchanted Narwhal, who will wander onto your Island. If adopted, the 'spell' will be broken and she will be restored to her natural form, which is that of a lovely Unicorn!
Free Gifts are very much a part of all the Facebook games and Tiki Farms is no exception. The difference here is in the nature of the Gifts, which are original and exotic. One that appeals to me greatly is the option to give a traditional Japanese 'Beckoning/Welcoming Cat' or Maneki. Others include Kimodo Dragons, Koalas and Bald Eagles. There is nothing mundane about Tiki Farm.
Fishing is an option in this game as well, which makes sense for a Farmer living on a small deserted island! In fact, any item that generates products regularly, whether a Dairy Cow or a Dock, is defined as a 'Workshop'. An item must be placed in order to generate product where any Workshop is concerned. If it is the Dairy Cow, the item is Alfalfa. If the Dock, you must bait the rod with a Grub. Having triggered the operation with the appropriate Item, you then must wait five minutes for the result. If you wait too long to collect the Fish, it, like the Milk, will spoil and you will lose 200 coins of income.
Both Tiki Farm and Frontiersville are more complex and potentially interesting than the other Farming Simulation games on Facebook in terms of 'helping' Neighbours. In fact, Frontierville allows you to hire Neighbours for specific tasks as well as including the usual option for the Neighbour to initiate the visit. In Tiki Farm, you can collect items as well as tending Crops (by removing insects and watering them) while visiting a Neighbour's Island. It is when one visits Neighbours in any game that one begins to see the scope of the game in terms of advanced Levels. Where Tiki Farm is concerned, there are quite a few fascinating Workshops at higher Levels.
I am not really competent to discuss Treasure Island yet, as I have not had time to play it enough to judge. It appears to require an investment in 'real' money, however, which is one reason I did not explore it further initially. There is a type of Sunscreen that is required if you wish to explore the Volcano. I do not see an option to obtain that Sunscreen without investing in the game. Apart from that, the game was rather enjoyable, combining a Treasure Hunt with Farming. You basically journey from island to island to dig for Treasures. Each Island has a different goal in terms of the Treasure Collection you can find there. It appears that you usually will not be able to complete a Set by yourself. For example, on the Island where you must find a set of five Tiki Gods, you will find only four of the five, finding one duplicate Tiki rather than finding the one that would complete your Set. You therefore must find a Neighbour to trade Tikis with you.
On your home island, you can farm. There is a Gem Tree that is rather intriguing. Gems can be used to unlock barriers and probably have other uses as well. I haven't explored the game enough to discover much. One irritating aspect to the game was that, having played it a couple of times to 'clear' three islands, I was rather upset when, loading the game again, it failed to recognise me, forced me to begin as again even to the point of making me take the tutorial...
I will play Treasure Island again if only to review it properly...
Finally, I would venture to state that Frontierville is in a different league from all the other Facebook Games. For me, the point of Facebook games is to entertain without forcing a player to invest too much time and energy into any of it. If I want to play a 'deep', detailed game, I will choose Harvest Moon or Rune Factory, not a game that I must play on my laptop. My controls are not that precise, for a start, and it is annoying when precise actions are required that I cannot perform successfully. I do not mind interacting with other players. It can be very interesting to see how other people landscape their Farms or Islands. On the other hand, when a Game tries to force me to 'spam' every individual who ever has contacted me, I rebel. Almost EVERY Facebook Game will ask if you wish to use your email lists to find new Neighbours. I never have allowed that option to be initiated. I do not consider it ethical.
I have been playing another Facebook game called 'Castle Age' but as it is an RPG rather than Farming Simulation game, I will discuss it in a separate post.