by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Innocent Life & r & & r & Rated Everyone; PSP & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & was standing in the middle of my garden surrounded by tomato plants when a friend arrived for lunch. The garden was a riot of green leaves and red fruits, punctuated intermittently by spindly yellow flowers. I bent down and picked a plump, puckered globe, holding it aloft, glowing ruby orange, before tucking it into my pack and flicking off the PSP's power button. The waiter helped my friend sit down and the garden went black. I set it aside on the table.

As a Harvest Moon game, Innocent Life is plotted around an agricultural routine of growing, nurturing and harvesting. For several of the series' best titles (Friends of Mineral Town, Harvest Moon DS) this low-key action has been brought to handheld systems, letting me farm and ranch my day away in small chunks whenever and wherever I get the chance.

By designing Innocent Life exclusively for the PSP, the game's designers have tapped into the most powerful handheld graphics system available and used it to its full potential. Grass shines in dozens of shades of green. Three-dimensional forests are filled with large, moist mushrooms. My farm itself is perched on a cliff overhanging thousands of hovering cherry blossoms in dozens of degrees of focus.

No Harvest Moon game has ever had a graphic treatment this lavish, and it serves to underline Innocent Life's accordingly rich scenario. Normally Harvest Moon games begin with the inheritance of a farm and a vague set of instructions from a nearby laborer. This time, I'm set down on the farm as a robot. My purpose is to reinvigorate traditional farming methods in a world that has grown dependent on "autofarming." I am an activist robot farmer.

After an incredibly long, slow and cryptically sweet intro (with messages such as "Love increased! 6--7"), the farming begins and never lets up. Unlike every other game in the Harvest Moon series, Innocent Life fails to use the cycles of agriculture to draw me into the rural communities. This is the first Harvest Moon game without relationships developing between the game's characters and me, and its absence is as good as removing the Harvest Moon name. Before long I became tired of farming and mining. Though the setting and the story of the game beguiled me, it lacked a sense of life.

THE GOOD: Innocent Life maintains most of the childlike look and detail-filled design of the Harvest Moon games, but places it all on the PSP's wide video screen in vibrating colors. The three-dimensional scenes and settings are some of the most lavish that have yet found their way to the PSP.

THE BAD: The gorgeous landscapes of Innocent Life are filled with some of the most boring people ever created for a videogame. Try as I might, I can't stalk them and learn their habits. They don't want my gifts of food or gemstones. They simply parade through the game as set dressing, occasionally acting out a pre-scheduled scene and otherwise leaving me to lead my innocent life in isolation.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Lovely but lonely, Innocent Life is the least-friendly farming game in the Harvest Moon franchise.??

2/5 Stars

Winter Market at the Pavilion @ Pavilion at Riverfront

Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22
  • or