Tractor Trails Review—Keep on Tractorin’
While PlayStation Mobile hasn’t exactly gotten off to a great start in terms of game quality (with a few exceptions), it actually has a lot of quantity. It launched with about 20 games and has added about two games a week since, so it’s easy for some games to get lost in the crowd, particularly during the launch rush. Tractor Trails, a puzzle game from Origin8, is one of those titles that has been overlooked, which is a shame, as it’s a quality title, albeit not one original or exclusive to PS Mobile.
Maybe this sort of puzzle game is common on touch devices, but it’s new to me. You simply have to guide a tractor plowing a field. The catch is that it moves straight until it hits something (either the end of the field or a tree), and trees pop up immediately where the tractor moves. So you need to figure out how to plow the field in a limited number of moves, with no backtracking. Fields start off fairly simple but get more and more complex as you progress through the game. While this really doesn’t bear any relation to actual farming, it’s surprisingly fun. Probably because it bears such little resemblance to actual farming.
After finishing each level, you get rated with a number of stars, one star for running over Moley the mole (apparently he’s a masochist and likes this), one star for plowing the entire field, and one star for completing the level under the time limit. These stars are not just level goals, as they are also how you progress in the game. Ten levels are unlocked at first, and you need to accumulate stars to open up additional levels. There are 130 in all.
This is actually pretty clever. You have enough levels to play that if you can’t figure out a level, you’re not stuck at progressing in the game (unfortunately common in puzzle games). You do have to get 3 stars on most of them, which requires playing until you figure out a level, then playing it again once more just to beat the time requirement. In a way, it’s almost a memory game, since you need to remember all the moves to beat the time requirement.
The way the game unlocks is also very well done. Rather than finish one terrain and move onto the next, it has something of a staggered unlock. You unlock the next terrain, then back to the old one, and so on. Mixes things up very nicely. It has unofficial trophies/achievements, and it keeps track of all sorts of stats.
You also earn money (well, corn) that you can use to buy upgrades or cheats. For instance, letting you queue up a move (rather than waiting for the tractor to stop), going just a little bit faster when you hit a cornstalk, and even simply giving you a clue by telling you the first two moves on a level. Some of these are merely helpful, while others you really seem to need to progress in the game—queuing up moves in particular really cuts down on the level completion time, because the tractor no longer starts and stops as it changes directions, but instead keeps going.
The touch screen is very responsive—I swear, some of these PS Mobile games make me wonder if my Vita is defective, the touch is so bad. But here it works perfectly, very responsive to the touch. The interface is also really well done. You can pause the game and restart without leaving the level. All too often in puzzle games, you have to exit the level screen, go back to the level select menu, and go once more back to the level in order to restart. Even though it’s so obvious a design feature to have in a puzzle game, it’s refreshing when it’s actually in a game.
The presentation in Tractor Trails is very cute, with often amusing dialogue, that forms the tutorial, between you (Red the tractor), Moley (possibly a former Templar), and a chicken (possibly named Chuck) who rides on your back. But the cuteness extends to the animations in the game, which are excellent.
Tractor Trails is one of those rare games that is full of polish, extremely well designed, and original to play, despite its seemingly cliched setting. About the only negative I can mention about it is that it’s not exclusive to PS Mobile but rather a port, and there is some occasionally slow loading. When it loads a level, it goes from 0% to 80% really quick, then takes a while to go from there. But it’s really been my most enjoyable experience with PS Mobile so far.