If there’s one thing that you can usually depend upon, it’s Kairosoft’s ability to bring their tried-and-tested style of gameplay to a variety of subject matters. In large, they have created a pretty successful formula of management building that can be altered to simulate a variety of job types, from running your own shopping mall and building ancient pyramids to managing a football team and sailing the seven seas on a cruise liner. Heck! They’ve even managed to explore the far reaches of space. In fact, just as I was beginning to think of what they could possibly cover next, Pocket Stables comes hurtling out of the paddocks as it gallops a release onto the Nintendo Switch.
If you’re familiar with previous Kairosoft games and their accessible style of play, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. However, if you’ve never sampled their delights before, then what they offer is an addictive level of gameplay that revolves around the management, maintenance and development of a number of job-specific titles. They all run along a similar template of easy-to-use menus and options, are presented in a cutesy and easily identifiable aesthetic and hold enough addictiveness, depth and content to make them appealing to all ages. I’d even go as far to say that their extensive library of titles offer some of the best casual gaming experiences that money can buy.
This latest title within their ever-growing catalogue of games, comes in the form of running your own stables, or ranch, in order to buy, develop and train racehorses, expand upon the facilities of the ranch and attract a fan-base, or visitors, to bring a popularity to your creations and ensure a steady bankroll of funds. It works in a similar premise to their other games, with an isometric view of your ranch, simplistic menus from which you can build, hire and fire and a helpful guide who talks you through the process of setting up your business, as well as provide handy hints, tips and information regarding the day-to-day running of your establishments and any new occurrences that may have taken place.
You begin life with a small field, two stables, a ranch house and a ticket booth to welcome any visitors. From here, you can develop the land in any way you like by selecting from a menu of available buildings or amenities and placing them wherever you would like them to be situated. Your selections are limited at first, with small paddocks and pools for training purposes to attractions such as an ice-cream parlour and trees in order to make your ranch more appealing to the visiting public. However, in order to build and maintain your ranch, you need to develop a way of accruing a steady stream of funding, which can be done in a number of way.
The most important and lucrative way of ensuring monetary growth, is to bring a number of horses to train and develop into thoroughbred racehorses. You can select from a number of breeds, each one having advantages and disadvantages based on whether they prefer racing on grass or dirt, as well as a varying number of statistics such as speed and agility. Once you have acquired your horses, then you can also hire jockeys or invite them to live on your ranch, where they will help in the training and development of your livestock. For the most part, the training is performed automatically as the residents of your ranch go about their daily lives. However, you can choose to set up training programmes in order to develop certain specifics and even place monetary resources into learning new techniques and faster developments.
As you begin to develop your ranch and the horses within, you begin to attract media and public attention, which leads to a series of invitations to enter a number of races. These events come in a variety of forms, from horse classes, race lengths and running surfaces; making it an important aspect to keep a variety of horses in order to be able to enter as many races as possible. When it comes to race day, you can give your jockey a certain style of racing, or set of instructions, by which you want them to race, be it setting the pace from the off-set to staying at the rear of the pack and pushing along the final furlong to achieve a race win. Once everything is set, then the races themselves are automatically run, as you spectate on the performance of your horse and competitors, in the hope of lifting the coveted cup and taking home the prize money with which to develop your ranch further.
The more money you make, the more you can expand your ranch, purchase higher quality horses and hire more experienced jockeys. This in turn increases your fame level, attracting more visitors to your ranch and a higher media profile. These all bring certain benefits from gifted items, research into new techniques and unlocks further varieties to buildings and amenities that can be placed within your ranch. It’s a gameplay loop that runs along a tried-and-tested method and produces a satisfying level of addictiveness as you watch the fruits of your labours develop and expand before your very eyes.
However, when it comes to a comparison of other Kairosoft titles, Pocket Stables eventually presents itself as one of the weaker entries into its extensive library. It was extremely difficult to pinpoint why this was the case, although I think it’s down to a number of factors and maybe the implementation of its style into a horse-racing game not being executed particularly well. Firstly, everything just felt simpler here when compared to other titles; in some ways, it was probably too simple. Once you figure out the winning formula to achieving first place within the races, these simply became too run-of-the-mill and lost some of their anticipation and excitement. This can be countered by the fact that each horse needs to be retired every three years or so, but if you have the funds to do so, training your new horses to the same, or even better, level wasn’t difficult. I also felt that the majority of this game was spent just watching the screen and not enough interaction had been injected. Admittedly, there is a similar level of watching things unfold in other Kairosoft games, but here, it just felt that it was a little too much and for too long. These in turn, can have an impact on the addictive quality usually synonymous with Kairosoft titles.
Overall, Pocket Stable retains the same of familiarity and gameplay that is usually associated with Kairosoft. It’s easily accessible, fun to play and holds enough appeal for gamers of any age. However, it does fall slightly short of the same level of addictiveness and interaction of previous titles. That’s not to say that this is a bad game though, or broken in any way. In fact, it is a good game, especially if you’re new to its style. If you’ve played previous games within Kairosoft’s library though, then you may find this one a little weaker in comparison. Saying that though, it is still a fun game and an engaging title; especially if you have an interest in horses or running your own stable or ranch. For me though, much like a tiring racehorse, I found it to be a game that soon ran out of steam and failed to finish along the final furlong.
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.