What if everything had gone to plan in Red Dead Redemption 2? If the gang had gathered enough funds to flee the country and finally settle down in Tahiti, to live the good life they’d spoken of so often while pulling off heist after failed heist? The answer to that is Liz Fiacco’s Van Der Linde Farms, a fun little farming simulator that just sucked away the past five hours of my life.
We all know what actually happens in Red Dead Redemption 2, of course: Dutch Van Der Linde, the very portrait of a desperate man corrupted by his own hubris, becomes increasingly obsessed with pulling off one last big job, culminating in the complete dismantling of the entire gang. While the group’s collective dream of escaping the United States to evade capture and prosecution for their crimes in Blackwater drives Van Der Linde’s, and Arthur Morgan’s, behavior for almost the entire game, in the end, it’s really less about retiring in an island paradise and more about Van Der Linde’s need for revenge and control. In that sense, there’s no way they would have ever made it to Tahiti, and if they had, it would have blown up in their pretty little faces. Van Der Linde is just that kind of guy.
But in this simple, single screen re-imagining of the game’s ending, however, the gang does in fact escape to Tahiti and, with their modest leftovers, starts a mango farm. From there it’s a basic money and time simulator, and you must balance the group’s morale and funds to plant more trees, make more money and keep hidden from the Pinkertons. With your first $5, you plant a mango tree, and the sapling begins to grow. Once fully matured, it will begin to bear fruit, and, for a significant portion of the morale meter, can be picked for money, which then can be used to either buy more trees or throw a party, which will replenish morale. To pick up a bit more cash, you can pull off a heist, but only sparingly before it alerts the attention of the Pinkertons, who find the farm and burn it to the ground, ending the game. Between the catchy, laidback music (the work of composer Grant Stevens) and the idyllic tropical island art style, it’s soothing, almost sleepily hypnotic, even with the stress of diminishing resources looming in the background.
It was inevitable during the course of Red Dead Redemption 2 that Van Der Linde would fall from grace. The gang was doomed as it was but with Dutch’s recklessness it was only a matter of time. Fittingly, I have yet to reach a conclusion to Van Der Linde Farms that doesn’t end in a Pinkerton raid and my farm going down in flames. Without a doubt, if Dutch had gotten his wish, he’d have messed that up too. To experience it yourself, head over to Itch.io to play this game jam gem.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.