Our household's latest obsession: Drive Green.
I wish I were kidding.
It started at Easter. I'd found Drive Green through the Scholastic book order at school and bought it, on a whim, for my 6-year-old's Easter basket. The description promised you could "farm the heartland with genuine John Deere!" For Nathan, that's all we really needed to know. I was certain he'd love it, less certain it wouldn't be a cheesy mess but at $15, figured it was a small gamble.
It turns out, it's kind of addictive. And very fun. Especially if you're a kid who likes to honk the horn.
You start out with a utility tractor and a chisel plow. You can earn Deere Dollars by doing jobs for local farmers, then buy more and bigger equipment and plant/spray/harvest your own crops. The more you earn, the more equipment you can buy. (We are going to temporarily suspend the cultural implications of this economic proposal.)
Nathan set up a profile (i.e., he typed in his name – you can have 10 different profiles) and took a look around his farm. House, fenced yard, machine sheds. One tractor and a tillage tool. Then he got a message that his neighbor's red tractor broke down, and he'll pay Nathan 70 Deere Dollars to work his 40 acre field. No kidding.
Nathan walked his farmer out to the shed, climbed in the tractor, hitched onto the chisel and followed the yellow arrows down the road and into the neighbor's field.
Driving is, admittedly, tricky. I thought Nathan was just messing around when he ran around in circles in the field. "Try driving straight, buddy," I told him, wisely. "I am!" he told me, irritated.
I gave it a try later on. He wasn't kidding. You press the "E" key to go forward, "D" to go backward, "S" to turn left and "F" to turn right. Not so easy as you might think. However, my husband gave it a shot and drove perfectly straight, then completed a perfect turn and headed back down the row. Show off.
Anyway. The whole point is to balance doing off-farm jobs with tending your own fields. To earn dollars for equipment, you have to work for the neighbors, while not neglecting your crops. The jobs you complete become increasingly difficult, like mowing tricky waterways and pulling stumps.
The sound effects are particularly impressive. It throttles up and down, just like a real tractor. You press "H" to honk the horn, which totally sounds real. Also, the "H" key may be worn out soon on our computer. Nathan's a big fan of the horn. You can also turn on your headlights with the "L" key, but that doesn't really make a sound. Still, fun.
The field turns brown as you make each pass with the chisel, and a little map in the corner shows you where you've been in the field, highlighting unfinished spots in red as you get to the end. This is helpful when you farm in circles. It also has an efficiency meter, which is less encouraging when you farm in circles.
In the end? Maybe the best $15 we've spent lately. But, again, addictive. I was helping finish up Nathan's field the other night when John pointed out that, um, you know, we need to get the kids to bed, and I actually said the words, "OK, just as soon as I get this field done." He – the real farmer who was over there trying to figure out PC Mars at his desk – looked at me with squinty eyes. "You've got to be kidding me."
In the end, I earned Nathan another 70 Deere Dollars. We've got to get cracking, though. It takes 250 to buy a combine.
A note: I just discovered you can download it here for $9.99. And here it is on Amazon for $8! Bummer for me, good for you.