This is a silly little game that takes itself far too seriously.
For a game that pretends to be plot-driven it has a total lack of urgency about itself which is actually kind of nice. It gives you a series of instructions to complete ‘when you feel like it’ and turns you loose. It lets you get your feet without pressuring you overmuch… but it’s also not challenging. You learn to feel for how much time your tasks take and plan around them, you learn where everything is so you don’t waste time going back and forth and back again because you forgot to do something in one area earlier. (Eventually. The map’s not very easy to read.)
The HUD’s pretty awkward to manage too. There’s a function where if you click a certain button it’ll bring up your current attributes, and if you walk near a horse it’ll show the horse’s stats. The only problem with this is that it takes up half the screen and doesn’t show anything relevant about the yard – the horse section’s pretty good, but having the human one show how much feed you had, the overall dirtiness of the stable/horses in the stable/tasks completed for the day would actually have been useful. I can think of like six ways off the top of my head that could have been implemented better.
The minigames are dull and unrealistic in terms of actual horse activities. I won’t bicker too much about them as I realise there’s a limit to coding, but there’s a hell of a lot more involved in foal training than making it walk in a circle, and I’m BORED. It’s kind of like level grinding in terms of boring and pointless. And the less said about the breeding mechanics, the better, though I suppose for a beginner it would be more than enough. It’s certainly interesting… Let’s just say the system isn’t based on genetics as I know it and leave it at that.
The controls are clunky and unintuitive, but they’re not *broken* or anything. You’ll spend about half an hour cursing out your monitor every time they introduce something new and then you’ll get the hang of it, still mumbling occasionally about how idiotic the control scheme is. I have never before wished with such fervour that a game had been made aware of the WASD system.
It doesn’t help that the game isn’t very good at explaining what it wants you to do, though, and isn’t always that good at responding even when you are using the right combination of keystrokes, though maybe that’s just my keyboard. Protip: when the game tells you how to do something, take it with a grain of salt, and experiment, because chances are it forgot to tell you how to do B and C while vaguely instructing you on how to do A.
The soundtrack is uninspired and highly repetitive but at least not catchy enough to drive me crazy. I turned the music off and played my own for background. In another case of being somewhere in the middle of the scale the graphics aren’t cutting-edge but they aren’t hideous either. I have some issues with the horse movement models they use, but again, it’s functional. There’s *some* customisation available for your avatar and horse, but not much. Coat colours and patterns are limited and use terminology that makes my head hurt with its inaccuracy, but it’s a kid’s game, so I can cope.
And frankly when I bought this that was what I wanted. A silly game that didn’t ask too much of me while still managing to be interesting enough that I could kill a few hours when I got bored with studying. This fits the bill. It’s not amazing, but it’s playable. If you’re thinking of buying it, go watch someone playing it on youtube for half an hour or so – that will pretty much tell you if it’s what you’re after or not. If I was recommending it to someone my age, i.e. an actual adult, I’d give it a 4/10, but for a kid twelve or under it’s a 6 if they're horse-crazy. It’s not great but it’ll keep them amused for a while.