Join us now as we take a step back and pay homage to the game that started the Virtual Villagers craze!
So recently, I’ve come to realize that my stress levels are a touch high. Between full time school and work, I’m a woman on the edge. Because of this, I’ve been looking for a relaxing hobby, like Zen gardening or maybe starting up a Chia Pet. With Virtual Villagers 1: A New Home, I have found that hobby.
A little while ago I did a review for The Promised Land, and it was through that review that I discovered I might have a thing for village games. So I dug around, looking for another I might enjoy, and BAM! I stumbled upon Virtual Villagers 1: A New Home.
Everything about this game is relaxing, from the island setting to the background music, which is vaguely Hawaiian and island-like without falling into the too-much-ukulele trap. I was born and raised in Hawaii (Oahu to be precise), and I have heard some terrible local knock-off music. The kind of thing that makes you think the person who wrote it had never actually heard local music, but instead just looked at a 1950s advertisement for Hawaiian tourism and went with it.
But Virtual Villagers 1: A New Home manages to make the music vague enough to give you a bit of island feel without going all hula-happy. There’s even a rainstick in there, and let me tell you: that’s nostalgia.
I also really loved how much room for customization you have with the little villagers. For each villager you can pick from five specialties, and selecting one allows the villager to gain experience in that field faster. The five skills are: farming, building, research, healing, and breeding.
Yes, breeding. Virtual Villagers 1: A New Home lets you breed your villagers by dragging a female over to a male or vice versa. Not every couple gets along right away, but keep dragging and dropping and eventually:
Baby and child villagers certainly add a layer of depth to the game, but I’m honestly a little on the line about the creepy factor. Add to that the fact that nursing moms are out of gameplay for more than 200 minutes and children don’t participate in village chores (beyond gathering rare mushrooms), and I’m honestly not sure the depth is worth the cost. But hey, I guess that’s one way to grow a village.
Another fun customization is character names, which you can change willy-nilly. Personally, I used the names as a way of keeping track of which skill I selected for each villager. I had Paula for a farmer (get the food reference?), Bill Nye for my science guy, and Bob as my builder. It’s the little things, you know?
Probably the only thing I wasn’t super wild about was introducing the villagers to new tasks. You’d drag ‘em over to a bush for food gathering, and if they couldn’t get it right, they’d shake their little heads and you’d have to drag and drop them again. Once the villager caught on, it was fine, they’d just keep on keeping on. But getting those first few headshakes was a bit annoying, especially when the villager in question was clearly failing at the task in epic proportions. For example, here’s a beach cleaning epic fail:
In all, though, Virtual Villagers 1: A New Home is one fun little game. The characters are pretty self-sustaining once they pick up a skill and, according to the game intro, the villagers will continue to do their tasks even when you’re not actively playing the game. We’re just advised to check in every now-and-again to make sure disaster hasn’t fallen.
It’s like a Chia Pet without all that watering (and no way my cats are going to eat it and puke it up later), which was exactly what I wanted. I was looking for a way to unwind and I found it: a game that lets you have a lot of customization and interactions when you want them, but also allows you to walk away or be a bit negligent if you’re not feeling the commitment. In Virtual Villagers 1: A New Home, I found my island get away. Give it a try and you might, too.
Stay tuned as I explore the next Virtual Villagers game, Virtual Villagers 2: The Lost Children.