Farmville is one of the most popular Facebook games ever, and there was a fair bit of excitement in the Farmville community after the iPhone 4 announcement when Zynga announced the upcoming Farmville app for the iPhone. The app is out, and TMO has put it through its paces. The Farmville app shows that it is definitely possible for games like Farmville, which is Flash-based on Facebook, to come to the iPhone, but the experience isn’t quite the same in this case.
Zynga has packed the app with features, but one of the most important is that the farm you play on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad is the same farm you play on Facebook. This allows you to harvest, plow and plant even when you can’t get to a computer.
Zynga has made farming easy in the iPhone app
In addition to tending your farm, you can also collect from your animals, accept and send gifts, and purchase items from the Market. There are a number of gift and Market items that you can’t use within the app, such as Mystery Boxes, Arborists, and Farmhands (to name a few) , but there are also items exclusive to the iPhone app. For example, the new Snow Leopard can only be purchased from within the iPhone app and the White Apple Tree can only be gifts from the app.
Farmville’s new Snow Leopard, exclusive to the iPhone app
The app includes push notifications, so your iPhone can remind you when it’s time to harvest your crops. You can turn push notifications on or off from the Options button in the Farm Management page.
Another feature within the Farm Management page is the in-app purchase of Farmville cash or coins. It’s even a bit cheaper (just a penny, but hey…a penny’s a penny!) to purchase FV cash or coins from within the iPhone app than from the game on Facebook. The in-app purchasing process works smoothly, except for the occasional “Your farm is out-of-sync” error that most Farmville players are accustomed to by now. Even when the out-of-sync error comes up, however, it doesn’t interrupt the purchase.
Zynga’s in-app Farmville Cash purchase options
The app weighs in at only 9.7 MB to download, but it seemed to take longer to install than other apps of similar size. That, of course, could have been the network I was on, but the game is chock-full of graphics files that might take a few minutes to move into place. The first time I launched the game on my iPad and loaded my farm, it took about 5 minutes to load the farm. Initial loading is still slow on the app, but once you’ve loaded your farm once it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.
What I liked
The iPhone version of Farmville has very nice graphics and makes it easy to harvest, plow, and plant. Push notifications help prevent crop withering, and the fact that the game can be played over the 3G network makes it handy for tending your farm when you’re away from a WiFi hotspot.
Gifting within the iPhone is pretty straightforward, if a bit slow. It’s also a nice feature to be able to send exclusive gifts from the iPhone; being able to gift something that not everyone can send tends to increase your popularity in the Farmville community.
The White Apple Tree can only be sent from within the iPhone app
Zynga has captured the spirit of Farmville in the iPhone app, and keeps the various screens very similar to their counterparts in the full version of the game on Facebook.
What I didn’t like
The game’s responsiveness just isn’t there. Aside from the initial lag in loading your farm, which is understandable, the game is still fairly slow. We Rule has had its server issues, but it remains much more responsive than Farmville for the iPhone. Loading friends’ farms takes a fair bit of time, and sending/receiving gifts is extremely slow.
The app also suffers from fairly frequent crashes, even after Zynga’s recent update. I noticed that after visiting four or five neighbors to fertilize their crops, the app would just bomb out to the home screen, forcing me to relaunch the game if I wanted to keep playing.
Zynga advertises the game is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, requiring iOS 3.0 or later. The game seems to fare better with more CPU power, though, as I’ve found it runs with less crashes and delays on my iPad than my iPhone 3GS, but still crashes more often than I’d like.
The bottom line
If you’re a casual farmer in Farmville and would like the ease of tending your crops from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, Zynga’s Farmville app might suit you just fine. If you’re a more hardcore farmer, however, the app’s slow response and frequent crashes might put you off the game. That said, Zynga’s free app works beautifully if all you want to do is harvest, plow and plant. The app is proof that formerly Flash-only games can come to iOS, but the slowness and frequent crashes are disappointing.