Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon
Innocent Life is a part of the Harvest Moon series of games and the first in the franchise to appear on the PSP. While I’m no expert on the series it’s clear to see that this title is a bit of a departure from past Harvest Moon games. The whimsical storyline places you in the role of a young robot boy tasked with running a farm “traditionally”. It seems that all the futuristic farming methods have upset the spirits of heart flame island and they promptly sealed off the most fertile lands. Your creator sends you off to farm on some rundown ruins in order to appease the spirits and hopefully prevent a looming disaster.
Anyone looking for an action packed game can give Innocent Life a miss. The bulk of your time will be spent plowing lands by hand, cutting weeds, planting and watering seeds or harvesting crops. It’s a strangely soothing experience, but unless you are very patient, it can become repetitive very quickly. Things have been streamlined and dumbed down considerably from past Harvest Moon games, but not always for the better. Money is very easy to come by but there’s not a lot to spend it on which isn’t very motivating. You character can’t marry or upgrade his house so all you have to spend money on is crop seeds, baskets and other farming utensils. After a season or two I had more money than I knew what to do with so after that I spent more time on exploring than farming.
The game’s meager plot only progresses every Sunday (in-game) so for the rest of the week you are pretty much left to your own devices. This means that some days you’ll be running around like crazy harvesting crops and exploring while other days you won’t have anything to do. You can improve your characters “humanity” by watching TV, cooing or interacting with the townsfolk, but even this is hardly exciting stuff. I never really saw the benefit of any of the optional activities either.
The exploration elements are fun (even more so once you get a buggy to travel with) but the island is relatively small and you’ll soon run into dead ends. There’s a lot to see and do for dedicated players, but too much of it is repetition. Each second in real-time translates to a minute in-game but even with time flying past the seasons can still drag on.
Innocent Life’s graphics are very good with a colorful palette and neat touches like the changing of seasons and weather. There’s not much interaction beyond farming and talking to people so the game has a sort of lonely, melancholic feel to it. The mellow audio also contributes to this feeling. There are some upbeat tunes when you enter town or go exploring, but most of the time you’ll be hearing slow paced, sad sounding tunes while farming. The sound effects are rather nice, especially the rain, but unfortunately there’s no speech. The controls are simple, but repeat actions like crop harvesting soon become a bore. Small niggles like only being able to buy a maximum of nine of each item at a time also starts to grate after a while.
The game also has some weird quirks that are sure to annoy players. All your equipment levels up with use but after a while you get a robot helper that can assist with tedious tasks like crop watering. The problem is if you don’t do some of these tasks you won’t level up in certain tools which will come back to haunt you in a big way at a certain plot junction! I won’t spoil anything but take my advice and make sure that by winter you can use the “Monsoon” watering can.
Overall Innocent Life is a nice mellow PSP title that can keep you playing for hours if you are not the impatient type. It’s not the best entry in the series and it takes some perseverance to actually finish, but it’s a nice change of pace and definitely something to check out.
*Review originally published 2007.