Horse Life DS Review

Have you ever wanted to own a horse? That’s not really a question I’ve ever had to ask myself until today. You see, right now I am a 23 year old male, so back in the day I never really went through the phase of wanting a pony. However, I do own a DS, and I bring it with me most places to pass the time. Today was just one of those days, as I was on a two hour journey on the train, and with most of my top choice DS games completed or played to absolute death I decided to bring my horse on the train with me, no not my real horse, it’s already too crowed on there. I am of course talking about Horse Life, a game which I will honestly admit was a whole lot better than I expected.

Horse Life is a simple game, with an instruction book so small it literally fell out of the box as soon as I opened it. However, simplicity is not a bad thing, certainly not in this case, as even though the game is easy to access it boasts enough depth to be fun to play. Horse Life is also most certainly a game for people that know about and love horses, as right from the get go it started using words I’m not familiar with. The game kicks off in typical Virtual Pet form, asking you to enter your name, and asking if you are a girl or a boy. From there, you’re asked you to select from three breeds – Selle Francis, Thoroughbred English, and Thoroughbred Arabian – pick a colour, and then a stocking for the horse. After stumbling though this, and picking what I wanted, I was then informed of the birth of my colt and shown to the stable.

Once in the stable I was shown the new born, lying in straw beside the mare, and watched as he struggled to stand up. At this point I first noticed the game’s animation to be better than I expected as the colt both moved and looked better than I expected him to. After this I was asked to name him, and with my mind blank I resorted to calling my new white Thoroughbred English colt Reggie, as that always seems to work in an emergency. Right after this the screen darkens, and two years have gone by. Apparently, Reggie is now a horse a ready to be trained!

This is the main part of the game, letting you start off from the bottom and train your horse up to be an overall champion. In a change from most other games of it’s type Horse Life lets you do five activities per game day, so technically you can do as much you want for as long as you want as you are not limited to working in real life days. You start of by seeing your horse in the pasture, where you can call him over to the fence by whistling or shouting into the DS mic, although not too loud or you will scare him apparently! Once he responds you can start to interact by petting him using the stylus, or picking some apples to feed him, basically getting you accustomed to the controls should you have no experience with them. You can also interact with your horse when he is in the stables, letting you brush him, wash him with a soapy sponge, and directing a hose with the stylus to spray water on him. When you’re brushing him you are only allowed to brush the hair in one way, keeping the whole thing realistic. You can also ‘muck out’ the stables should they get dirty, using the stylus to move and replace the straw. Also, you can keep track of your horse’s cleanliness, happiness, prestige, and fitness on a graph which is displayed after every activity.

When riding your horse the game does not offer you direct control, instead it puts dots and lines up on the screen, quite similar to Elite Beat Agents, which you must hit and follow with your stylus to make the horse do specific tasks. While in training you will be set specific tasks such as to make your horse trot, stop, turn 90 degrees, trot in a circle, jump fences, and many more. You get to perform each of these tasks separately, and can end up winning a diploma if you get them all correct. Why would you do this? Well, these diplomas are needed to get access to competitions, such as dressage events. In these events you are tasked with controlling your horse, and doing specific movements you learned for the duration of a two minute long sequence. When finished, you are then scored, given money, and prestige points depending on how well you performed.

This money can then be used in the in-game shop, ran by the curly haired guy called Quieten. This shop adds to the games lifespan greatly offering a collection of things to buy such saddles, new kinds of food, shampoo, brushes, and new clothes for your rider. Of course, to get more money to buy all this you will need to get into the more advanced diplomas, which will give you access to the harder competitions, which offer greater prestige and cash upon completion. However, if you work your horse too hard he will end up not performing well, signalled by parts of the graphs dropping, so it is best to mix things up, keep him clean, go for walks in the forests, and other activities to keep him in the best shape for competitions.

So, after all that, I guess I should end this review with a summary, which I will admit is an easier task than with most. When all is said and done I know the vast majority of people that will take the time to read this review are not going be the audience the game appeal to. In fact, I’m not even the audience the game appeals to. Regardless, I had fun with the game, a lot of fun, and rather surprisingly to me it easily whiled away the hours of a long journey better than I expected.

Horse Life is aimed squarely at the new bread of gamers Nintendo are embracing, and is a rather good example is your typical Tamagotchi style game. It may not be up to the level of Nintendogs, but if your love of horses is equal to you love of dogs, and you loved Nintendo’s effort, then you will most likely love this take on the genre. Of course, as with all these games you will no doubt get board of you virtual pet, so it is up to your personal taste how quick that will happen, and as a result how much value for money Horse Life will be.

Surprisingly entertaining, yeah that’s about the best way to sum this one up.

7 out of 10