It’s Easy to Find Good Help These Days
I’m a big fan of farming sims. I find their relaxed nature is the perfect way to decompress after a long day/week/month. Even though games such as Story of Seasons or Stardew Valley basically boil down to performing repetitive chores I’d hate to do in real life, it’s easy to slip into a zen-like state in which the real world just drifts away. Their cheery worlds are equally inviting, and it’s nice to visit a place that isn’t seconds away from being obliterated by some horrific entity. Bob’s village is one such place.
All Work and No Play
Bob Help Them isn’t a farming sim, but its mechanics are reminiscent of one. The eponymous Bob is a good guy. He might actually be a saint. He likes helping people just for the sake of helping them. He’s more than happy to gather produce, chop lumber, cook eggs, bake pies, and pet dogs, among other activities. Bob is so nice that he doesn’t even stop to ask why his fellow villagers are incapable of performing these simple tasks themselves. I think they’re taking advantage of his kindness. Who doesn’t have time to pet their dog?
Bob Help Them’s gameplay is like if someone took those basic farming sim tasks and slapped a time limit on them. In each level, a set number of villagers require a set number of objects. Their requests appear in thought bubbles above their heads. Your job is to accomplish their requests as quickly as possible. The faster you finish everything, the more likely you are to get three stars, which is the best ranking.
All actions are accomplished by pressing or holding the “A” button. The “B” button drops whatever you’re carrying. So, if you need lumber, you’ll run up to a tree with an axe by it and hold “A” until you get however much lumber you need. The process is identical for mining. For cooking ingredients or refining ore, you press “A” next to a fire pit or smelter, and the process happens automatically.
Bob the Taskmaster
The key to working quickly through each level is determining the order in which you should complete each task. Some tasks take longer to complete than others. For example, fishing takes far longer than cooking does. You have to figure out which tasks you can accomplish while other tasks are automatically occurring. Refining ore takes a fair amount of time, so you’re free to do something else while that’s happening.
The smelters, fire pits, and anvils (for refining lumber into blocks) also accept different maximum amounts of material. Smelters take four pieces of ore, fire pits take five ingredients, and anvils take six pieces of lumber. Each refining process takes a different amount of time as well.
You also need to take into account ingredient availability. You’ll never run out of what you need, but fruit, water, and animal products have their own timers, which you can see. Each produces a set amount in a set time frame. Apple trees produce ten apples in what feels like about five seconds, whereas milk takes much longer to accumulate. So, if you need 20 buckets of milk, you’ll have plenty of time to do everything else while it builds up.
You Better Work…
Bob Help Them is all about time management. The requests are never complicated, but it does take some effort to figure out how to complete them all in the most efficient way possible. The strict time limit doesn’t make the game relaxing, but I managed to slip into a zen-like state now and again. I found myself speaking instructions out loud. There was an awful lot of pie talk.
There are a few frustrating issues that mar the experience. The camera pans around the level when you start, but it only shows you the villager’s locations and what they need. It doesn’t show you where the items are located. You’re basically guaranteed to spend your first attempt just running around the level, getting a feel for it. The camera also pans so quickly that it’s sometimes difficult to see all the requests. This is especially true when it comes to pie. There are four kinds, they’re all pie-shaped, and they blend together when the camera flies by. I wish you could take a look around and then start the level.
There are also some balancing issues. Some of the later levels are simpler and easier than the earlier levels. I only missed one star, and it’s in level nine. I managed to get all three stars in level thirty-five on my first try. The menu records your best time, but it doesn’t tell you what time you have to beat to get all the stars. That would be nice to know because, for all I know, I might be missing that last star by literally a second. Slowdown also occurs in some of the larger levels. It’s not game-breaking, but it’s noticeable because you spend the entire game running back and forth.
Bob Help Them’s visual and audio production aligns with its gameplay, for better or worse. The 8-bit-ish style is inviting enough but nothing special. I do like how Bob always runs around with his hands above his head. He’s always ready to help! The same simple song plays for every level, and while it’s calm and pleasant, it doesn’t take long for it to wear out its welcome. The villagers make silly grunting sounds when you approach them, which made me snicker, but it’s kind of rude. I just chopped forty pieces of lumber for you, buddy. You could at least say thanks.
Bob the Completer
I enjoyed Bob Help Them’s wholesome nature and the action/puzzle/time management dynamic is an interesting idea. Unfortunately, the gameplay is too simplistic for its own good. Every action is performed the exact same way, and the gameplay doesn’t evolve over the course of its thirty-five levels. You’ll do the same thing in level one that you do in level thirty-five. There’s just nothing to spice up the gameplay, and the only real challenge is time management. It’s not a bad way to spend a lunch break, but it’s difficult to not want something more from it.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.