Harvest Island says that it is a horror farming sim where you’ll be tending to a farm and exploring the deep mysteries of the island. With Gods to please and secrets to discover, the allure of this unconventional farming game should set it aside from all other farming titles. And it does, but not in the way you’d expect it to. This game isn’t really anything like it said it would be, but is it still a good game?
Is Harvest Island a good game?
It is tricky to unravel why Harvest Island is a good game without discussing why it is a bad game, and even why it is simply a mediocre game. There is certainly an audience out there for it — myself included — but the game won’t attract this audience without a marketing shift.
I have grown to enjoy the mysteries and story that the game tells but was initially very disappointed considering what I was expecting from the game. This disappointment is what will turn many players away from the game, and that’s fine, but you should know what you’re in for before playing Harvest Island. It is not what the description says it is.
So, let’s discuss why the game is bad, okay, and good, and get into the spoiler-free details so you can decide if it’s a game worth buying and playing.
Why Harvest Island is a bad game
Let’s start with the simple fact that Harvest Island says it is a “horror farming sim,” only for that not to really be true. It is not a scary horror game but merely has ominous and disturbing moments and a mysterious story. This is a long shot from attaching the horror label, so horror fans will be disappointed.
Also, it isn’t really a farming sim. Sure, it has a farm, animals, and crops, but the systems are so incredibly basic that it isn’t simulating anything. The only thing that is really a farming mechanic is having to water your crops daily for them to grow. But there is no punishment or cost for neglecting your farming duties for days on end. Your animals get on just fine; you’ll only interact with them to get their produce if you need it.
Considering that Harvest Island isn’t scary and has extremely basic farming features, it is safe to say that it’s a bad game. Right?
Well, people who come into the game expecting either a good farming or good horror game will be disappointed, and this is due to how the game markets itself. You should not play Harvest Island if either of these is why you would want to play it. You will be let down.
However, if you enter with the correct expectations, you could really enjoy your time with Harvest Island.
Why Harvest Island is an okay game
When it comes to the mere gameplay with no expectations, you may have a pleasant time playing Harvest Island. The mechanics aren’t bad, although you may find them repetitive. Thankfully, there are some pleasant elements that may offset this for you.
The art style and music are strong points of the game. I know a well-produced game doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “good,” but it is worth noting that these two things are very well done and enjoyable, which is impressive for one developer. I loved exploring the environments and have yet to get bored of the music.
There are some good mechanics that allow the game to be less one-dimensional, such as the tide coming in and out, revealing new paths and new items to collect. At night, different creatures come out, and different fish become available to potentially catch. These features, commingled with the music and art, make the world seem alive. Also, the God Statues are pretty fun, allowing you to interact with the Gods for items and even farm animals.
There are some pretty cool mechanics, but most of what makes the game seem appealing is merely a thematic overcoat.
It all does little to change the actual gameplay, which is still simply “I need to build this thing, so I need to get a whole bunch of items in the same locations” and “I need to keep offering things to the Gods, so I need to get a whole bunch of items in the same locations.” This is literally the gameplay, and you’ll be running back and forth to the forest, to the beach, to the caves to collect resources upon resources.
Even interacting with the animals becomes a chore. Yes, the animals are cute, and you can pet them and give them treats, but this is only done so you can get them to produce more items for you, as they’ll love you. You’ll soon find yourself spamming through all interactions to get them to love you, and then you’ll never have to do them again.
With you having an energy bar, you either need to keep lots of food or need to keep returning to the farm to sleep. This does get in the way as a minor inconvenience. Also, it is worth noting that there are some graphical glitches that may appear every now and then, but it’s a minor issue and will disappear or be inconsequential.
So, mechanically, you may have a decent time exploring, gathering resources, and building up the farm to allow you to gather more resources, if that’s your thing. But it’s understandable if you’d rather not go through the same gameplay loop over and over again.
Despite all of the above, allow me to tell you why I think Harvest Island is actually a good game — at least, if you’re like-minded.
Why Harvest Island is a good game
We have discussed why Harvest Island is not a farming sim, not a horror, and has mediocre gameplay mechanics. So, what is it really, and how can it be enjoyable?
Think of Harvest Island as an ominous story-driven experience, with farming-themed gameplay. You should play this game merely to watch the interactions between characters — and to immerse yourself in the secrets and mysteries as they play out.
Sure, the dialogue can be a little laborious at times, but it didn’t really impede my experience. If you are to play the game properly, then you need to be walking everywhere and revisiting areas regularly to allow the environmental storytelling to take place.
Harvest Island is so pleasant, and the repetitive tasks get you so hooked into a routine, that when something ominous or disturbing happens, it can really grip you. I mean, you may actually feel tense if you’ve taken to the characters and the world properly.
This is why I’ve enjoyed my time with Harvest Island. I enjoy the characters and story — it’s worth overlooking the repetitive gameplay to keep allowing the story to play out. If you can see yourself getting hooked on this super strange and mysterious story, it may be worth splashing out some cash on it.
With this lens, the unique mechanics become more appreciated, and it doesn’t matter that the farming is basic and that the horror isn’t scary, as that’s not what you’re there for. In fact, it becomes a strength that farming is so basic, otherwise, it would get in the way of why I’m really playing the game.
So… is Harvest Island a good game?
All in all, I can’t rate the game too highly because objectively, it’s not a great game, and it is a marketing failure that will lead to a lot of disappointment and frustration. But I really enjoy the story YoBob has going on here — it has me invested and I will be seeing it to its conclusion!
Whether this is worth the price tag is up to you, as there are objectively superior experiences out there for around this price.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of Harvest Island. For guides to help you with your Harvest Island adventure, look no further than PC Invasion.