Review: On the Farm

(Un underrated gem, heartfelt and deeply touching: On the Farm - Details (

The lonely windmill.

It’s been ages since you went to visit your grandparents on their old farm. Old, as in barren and empty. Old age and debts forced them to sell the cows and leave the fields unplanted.
Your tired mom drops you off rather hurriedly, right when your grandmother angrily slams the porch door on her husband. Hmm… A bit of tension there?

Although you were anxious in the car about spending so much time on a farm without electricity (which means no TV), you’re warmly welcomed and quickly default to kid-on-a-farm mode: explore and have fun.

Your grandparents are not the hovering caretaker type. They go about their business and trust you to enjoy yourself in the wild outdoors and have adventures.
As NPCs, they’re not very talkative, replying to questions with short and to-the-point answers. Nonetheless, they are loving and helpful when you ask them questions, providing some backstory about the farm’s history, some glimpses into your mom’s childhood, and sparse clues about the obstacles you encounter.

On the Farm is mostly finegrained, almost simulationist in its implementation, with deep and heartfelt descriptions of locations down to a detailed scenery level. Further into the adventure, when the player is presumably more concerned with advancing the plot and finding a direct route to solving the puzzles, the detailed implementation falls through a bit. In later stages of the game, there is more undescribed scenery, a comparative lack of reasonable synonyms and alternate commands. For the player wishing to stay in the role of an inquisitive kid exploring the surroundings, this breaks the illusion somewhat.

The farm environment is mundane, realistic and down-to-earth, don’t expect any strange contraptions or magic. (With one exception to be found in a meta-command: (XYZZY brings up a list of locations, allowing you to transport directly to any you have already visited.)
This allows for a brilliant multiple use of the everyday objects you find on the farm. They serve to help your grandparents with little tasks and chores, plus most of them will be necessary in unexpected ways to solve the steps toward the solution of the overarching puzzle.

The game-side of the story consists of an engaging chain of not-too-hard puzzles which do require some thoughtful applications of those everyday objects. The end-goal is quite obvious from the get-go: talking to grandma and grandpa will point you in the right direction, and many clues are scattered throughout the house and the outdoors. These clues are directly linked with the story, allowing you to recreate your mom’s childhood and your grandparents’ life from small bits and incomplete hints.

On the Farm presents two interwoven layers of atmosphere.
There is a melancholy, a still sadness. Here are your grandparents, here are an old woman and an old man, living the remainder of their life on an old, unused and almost empty farm. A feeling of loss and ending.
And here you are, a ten-year-old kid running around and exploring, having an adventure. Bringing young life and joy and action to this place.

These two sides come together in an understated heartwarming endnote.