In Hay Day, players are presented with their in-game uncle’s run-down old farm and are tasked with bringing it into the modern age by growing crops, rearing animals and selling products. While the theme is very conventional, the execution, focus on production chains and touch-friendly interface set Hay Day apart from its numerous rivals — and on top of this, the presentation is excellent, too.
Hay Day’s biggest change to the conventional farm game formula comes in the way it is controlled. Rather than endlessly tapping on items (and, optionally, expending energy for the privilege of doing so), Hay Day instead uses a “swipe-based” interface whereby players tap on the object they would like to interact with and then swipe a tool over all of the instances they would like to do something with. For example, when harvesting crops, players simply have to tap and drag a sickle tool over all their fields to harvest them in a matter of seconds — there is no tapping and waiting for unnecessary progress bars to fill here.
Another twist on the formula comes in the way all of the farm’s elements interact with one another. Rather than all produce being treated as “cash crops,” immediately turning into money the second it is harvested, crops and animal products go into a player’s storage. The player then has a number of different options for what to do with them. They can be sold directly to characters who come visiting the player’s farm; they can be used with special buildings to create more advanced products (milk from a cow can be turned into cream, for example); they can be sold to other players; or they can be used to fulfil orders.
Orders are published on a noticeboard on the player’s farm and usually require the player to provide multiple instances of two or more products, some of which might be manufactured items. Upon fulfilling an order, players send the component items off in a delivery truck, which takes a short period of real time to deliver the items before returning with money and experience points in the back. This function effectively acts as a replacement for the linear series of “quests” usually seen in games of this type, and provides a much greater sense of freedom to the player, as there are generally several different orders to fulfil at any one time.
Trading with other players unlocks at level 7 and allows players to put items up for sale in their roadside shop. Players can set the price and choose whether or not to advertise in the local paper — if they do, their products and the price will appear in other players’ mailboxes each day, while if they don’t their products will only be available for sale to friends who visit them. This is an excellent feature, since players can not only put up crops and other produce for sale, but also tools. It helps get around the inherent illogicality of most social games whereby players can send items they don’t possess to friends in order to “help” — here, players can trade items in a much more realistic manner than usual, giving a much greater sense of realism and requiring far less suspension of disbelief.
The game monetizes primarily through its hard currency, used to speed up time-sensitive actions. Soft currency may also be acquired via in-app purchase. Purchasing coins will help the player progress quicker as the game is relatively tightfisted with the amount of money it gives out at a time, requiring the player to work for their cash rather than awarding it in vast quantities. Despite this, the game never feels unfair — it is perfectly possible to have a satisfying experience without spending any real money on the game, it will just take a bit longer.
Social integration is provided solely through Facebook connectivity. There is no means of adding friends without using Facebook, which is a blow to those who prefer to use proprietary game accounts to maintain their privacy. The game also supports Game Center but at the time of writing does not appear to include any leaderboards or achievements — though the latest update promises the possibility of “earning Achievements to build a bigger home.”
All in all, Hay Day is an admirably original take on the tired farming genre. The focus on creating production chains and trading with other players helps it feel like a far more strategic game with a vibrant online community rather than the rather self-centered approaches that other games take. It deserves to enjoy a good degree of success.
Hay Day is available now from the App Store for free. It is not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards, but shortly you’ll be able to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.
UPDATE: Supercell reached out to let us know that achievements are actually supported through GameCenter, but at this time, these only appear on iPad and on some international iPhones.