Deiland: Pocket Planet Edition for Nintendo Switch came across my system by chance. I was offered the game and took it on a whim, because who doesn’t want another farming game while they’re locked inside during a pandemic. It turns out I really, really did not.
My first reaction when I loaded Deiland up was about how cute the graphics were and how soothing the music was. I thought I was settling in for a nice calm night while I dug into another binge-worthy game. Ambient crickets and rushing waterfall felt soothing and inviting and I couldn’t wait to get started. It downloaded within minutes, which should have been my first clue.
After the success of similar style games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley, I wanted to experience something a little different. You play main character Arco and start off on a tiny little planet — one you can run across multiple times a day. As the story progresses Arco learns more about who he is and where he is from. The gameplay itself is all about learning to build a sustainable life as you farm, build, harvest and battle your way through each day. Sounds simple enough, sometimes a little too simple.
I started playing Deiland: Pocket Planet hoping for the best. I’m a gamer at heart and play everything from World of Warcraft, to Mass Effect, to Horizon Zero Dawn to Stardew Valley and everything in between. There is no one genre that captures my attention, I love variety. I’m a huge fan of the ‘cuter’ games like the Animal Crossing series, so I really thought this game would be the next big thing for me. I feel like with a little more effort the game could have potential, but it truly just missed the mark for me when there are plenty of other options out there that do what this game was trying to do, but better.
The tasks assigned are almost too easy. You don’t have to tend to anything, just plant and wait, and everything is done in just minutes, whether you’re growing a tree or a carrot. You can build wells and water your crops to help them grow faster, but even then I never found it necessary because everything in the game felt incredibly instant to me. Since there is no real pause feature in the game, by the time I came back from grabbing a snack, all my crops were grown and I could repeat the process — over, and over, and over. It became extremely repetitive, since you never really have to work hard for anything in game, there was no sense of achievement.
I also found the events in the game very abrupt. I’d make my list for the day, smash rocks, cut trees, grow carrots, grow carrots, grow carrots… But then the screen would change and demand I stop what I’m doing to battle enemies across the planet, or ‘Quick, rotate the planet so meteors don’t destroy everything’, or better yet, a visitor shows up and if you don’t find them a place to land in an allotted number of seconds they’re gone and you have to wait until the next time they come by. If you miss a visitor you can’t complete some quests until the next time they come around, so it’s back to the daily grind with no progression until they return. All of this made the game feel extremely rushed to me.
When I choose a farming game, I want to relax. In Deiland: Pocket Planet everything moves so quickly, events rush by and visitors are there for such short amounts of time I feel like I need to panic to complete tasks before everything and everyone passes me by. Especially when there is no pause feature. I found myself losing interest faster than any game I’ve played before because there was no real work or reward involved. Sitting down to play each night felt like a chore rather than a fun experience and I likely won’t pick up the game again after this review.
The one part of the game I did find challenging was fishing — why is it always fishing? Place your bait near the mouth of the fish, and when it bites, press the correct button as it passes through a small bar. Simple, right? Well, Nintendo Switch is not my regular console. I’ve spent years getting used to the X, Y, B, and A of the Xbox controller, and the Nintendo Switch has all the buttons swapped. I realize this comes down to a personal issue, but even a space indicator rather than letters could solve the issue for players coming from other consoles.
Let me be clear, the game is not hard. It is very much a point and click to farm, basic experience that brings nothing exciting to the table. Even the characters that visit your planet seem poorly thought out. There is no real explanation as to why they are there, they just show up and ask you for items, you can buy and sell as you please, and they will issue quests to young Arco, who questions very little. The game lacked any depth and I couldn’t feel compelled to play it.
Probably the WORST feature for me by far were the camera controls. You spin the camera by both axis’, which is normal for many games, but in Deiland, since you’re on a very small round planet, it felt like you were constantly spinning in circles. Playing on the TV this didn’t affect me, but when I played in handheld mode I had real issues. I suppose it is an issue specifically affecting me, but on the small Switch screen the camera constantly spinning left me with headaches and motion sickness. Though this won’t be an issue for all, anyone who might suffer from similar issues may want to steer clear of the game in handheld mode.
Deiland: Pocket Planet is fine at best. It doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, but I wouldn’t say it did anything outstanding either. Though it sets an adorable and soothing scene with its graphics, music and sound, the game often felt rushed for no real reason. It felt like a poorly thought out attempt at becoming the next big thing, and unfortunately it fell very far from the mark.