Have you ever dreamt of owning your own horse, or stud farm even, but haven’t got the space or finances to do so? Or, do you already own a horse yet dream that could stay with your majestic steed all of the time, even when you have to go home? Well, now your dreams or aspirations can come true with My Riding Stables – Life with Horses as it gallops a release onto the Nintendo Switch.
Developed by Independent Arts Software and published through Markt+Technik Verlag GmbH, this arcade/simulator tasks you with renovating a run down stud farm, caring for horses, working in the stables and breeding foals in order to make your farm the biggest and most profitable business in the area near the old mill. You begin the game by choosing your avatar, its gender, dress style and name, before picking your first horse to love and care for. Again, your steed is fully customizable, choosing colours, patterns, size and name. Once done, you are then presented with your farm, although many areas are shut down through years of neglect and it’s now up to you to return it to its former glory by completing a number of tasks, such as breeding foals, caring for and racing your horses and making a steady income in order to carry out the repairs needed to expand.
Part simulation and part business orientated, you work between tending for your breeds and working on the farm. However, with only so many hours in a day, you need to manage your time effectively to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. From the outset, it’s easy to see that this isn’t a game that can be rushed, but works in a more casual setting as you slowly progress to bring your stud farm back to life. There are all manner of jobs to be done, or tasks to be unlocked such as opening a riding arena, guest house, treatment centre and breeding stable. As well as this, you need to care for your horse, or horses, by grooming them with curry combs, massaging their tired muscles, showering them, cleaning their hooves, feeding them and generally looking after their well-being so that they don’t fall ill.
It all produces a level of depth that makes sure that there is always something going on, or that you always have a job at hand to tend to. As you progress, you can begin to train your horse in the fields, putting them through their paces on practice tracks before entering them in the local races, or selling them to make money for your farms renovation. In terms of its mechanics, everything works quite well. Depending on your rank, you are given a set of instructions that, upon their completion, advances you a level as well as present a further set of tasks. These can range from building a trust with your horse, cleaning them, opening up certain buildings and raising a certain amount of cash. However, one thing that I will say, is that although these tasks are presented to you, how to set about achieving them can sometimes be a bit of mystery, as the game doesn’t really tell you how to complete your objectives, or what you have to do or where to go to fulfil them.
As well as a stable for your horse, you also have a house in which you can not only sleep, but also gain access to a library which houses a number of books that acts as a tutorial of sorts; you can even buy more in-depth publications should you require more technical information on looking after your farm and the horses within. There’s certainly enough content here to keep you going for a long time; and I’m not talking hours or days, but for weeks and even months. There are so many possibilities and options available here, like the ability to create over one hundred combinations of breeds or a series of different races that you can enter your horses into, as well as the day-to-day life of running the farm.
However, this can also lead to some repetition, as you can’t escape the routine of tending to your horses, especially when you begin to own a number of them and the hours of the day tick by. It’s in this respect that this game needs to be played in a slow manner and not rushed through as if it was the end of the world. With so much going on, this is easily a game that should satisfy most horse-lovers out there, whether they be young or old. However, with so many options, younger players may possibly need a helping hand; although its also entirely possible that you could run the farm together, with younger players tending to the horses, whilst the adult deals with the business side of things.
Despite containing a wealth of options and tasks to keep you busy, the gameplay and mechanics of this title don’t quite match the level of depth available here. Yes, you can saddle up and take your horse for a ride, even racing it within the fields and jumping over gates. Yes, you can train your horse in a number of disciplines or just enjoy a nice open ride around the countryside. However, the controls required to do so can be a little clunky at the best of times and down-right frustrating at the worst. Walking around your farm, or riding your horse is all bound to the left thumb-stick, which is okay in itself, but at times when I wanted to turn left, my character would turn right and vice versa and there is no camera control whatsoever, leaving the right thumb-stick all but redundant.
Different locations, such as building, fields or races, are highlighted by a circle that sits at the entrance to whatever facility you need to visit or activity you need to partake in; which works well enough, but again, wrestling with controls can take some time, especially within the mechanics of riding your horse. As you guide them around fields, or race courses, a quick instruction guides you on what control scheme you need to utilise in order to make your horse jump or turn on the track. However, they flash up so quick and are so unclear in their execution, that it took me around twenty to thirty minutes to get my horse to jump; although once you figure them out, they do work quite well, even implementing some motion controls, even though they mimic a steering wheel more than guiding a horse.
Overall, My Riding Stables – Life with Horses isn’t a bad game, it just contains too many frustrating mechanics to make it an enjoyable experience. A lot of what it does right is quite fun, things like grooming and washing your horse feels reminiscent of caring for your pups in Nintendogs, but other factors such as controls and instructional information are down-right poor in their implementation. However, if you love horses and the appeal of this game is high to you, then you’ll get a lot of joy from it; just be prepared for some frustrations though and that applies to you whether you’re a younger or older player. The real satisfaction though, comes from completing your tasks and watching your farm grow with you, training your thoroughbred to become unbeatable in races and tending to your horse in a development of trust that shows that you’re doing your job right. It contains a certain charm and one that is easy to fall in love with, but don’t expect to gallop away with this game, as it plays at more of a canter with elements that produce a neigh, rather than a yay.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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