Let's not procrastinate here. Your time is valuable, and I'm not going to make you wade through four paragraphs of concept nonsense this morning before actually telling you anything about this little mystery of a game - due to its numerous name-changes and constantly shifting release date, it's already gotten everybody confused enough. So, the facts: Innocent Life is the first Harvest Moon game not to be developed by Marvelous Interactive, and it bears no relation to the previous games in the series. It's a diversion, if you will. As you'll know if you read our Harvest Moon interview the other week, its development was handed over to a tiny, completely unknown development studio called ArtePiazza in an effort to create more innovation and variety within the series.
And in that, it has certainly succeeded - Innocent Life is a completely different Harvest Moon (and if you're already into the series there is a fair chance that you won't like it at all - but we'll get to that later). You play a child robot, tending a forgotten farm on an island whose inhabitants have long relied on technology for their living. Your rural existence is juxtaposed with a shiny, hi-tech town five minutes down the road and as the game progresses, you accumulate a selection of futuristic gadgetry to help with your agricultural endeavours. The result is that the farming, over time, becomes more and more secondary to exploration of the island and progression of the story; it's a bit like Harvest Moon mixed with Lost in Blue. There are no expansions to buy, no potential wives to woo - hell, after you get a robot helper, there aren't even any plants to water. The farming is more a part of the setting and context as opposed to the sole focus of the gameplay, as it always was before.
The question is, of course, if you aren't spending all of your time farming in a Harvest Moon game, then what the devil are you doing? And the unfortunate answer, for the entirety of the early stages of the game and often thereafter, is: nothing much. Innocent Life gifts you with an inordinate amount of time. You could fill your entire starting plot of land with plants and it would still only take about two hours to do your daily chores - and as you unlock more and more farmland, you gain access to robotic helpers and automatic crop harvesting systems to compensate. The result is that you very rarely have anything much to do on the farm, which theoretically gives you the time to explore the surprisingly large island and find caves to loot for tools and jewels to expand your all-but-redundant farming capabilities.