Things are kept from getting too desperate with the four mini-games at the fairgrounds in town. There’s pig chasing, cow milking, egg catching and sheep shearing that can all be undertaken for cash. If players are broke and their last crops have failed, they can still win some literal seed money to keep themselves in business.
The open-ended game play feels a little too free at times, as though the player is not working towards any specific goals. Certainly, the money that you earn can buy better equipment, bigger buildings, and more land, but these accomplishments are executed with as little fanfare as the palette swaps that you can select for your character and your farm. A trophy room in your home has markers for 36 different trophies, but there is no special graphic, message, or tone to let you know when a new one is placed on your shelf. As you earn more “reputation points,” you can buy decorative sculptures for your farm, but they offer only cosmetic changes.
The game itself isn’t breaking any new ground with the graphics, but at least it offers a visual style that is in keeping with the “American heartland” tone. It looks like an SNES game, but some of the objects on screen can flicker alarmingly, especially when riding the tractor.
Harvest in the Heartland is a forgiving sandbox that lets you play with tractors. Players can earn more land, bigger buildings, and flashier tools, but there is no driving motivation beyond love of the farming. It’s low-risk, but suffers from feeling low-reward.
John Deere: Harvest in the Heartland is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.