If your little girl has always dreamed of owning and raising horse, and you don’t quite have the budget, and you don’t have connections to get them working at a local stable, then this might just be your lucky day. Riding Stables 3D is a pet/horse rearing simulation game available for the Nintendo 3DS that promises to take you through the life of a stable hand at a struggling stable with a quirky storyline and lots of horsie action.
Of course, promise is nice, and while Riding Stables 3D does a fairly decent job depicting life in the cutthroat world of horses, it’s not all that terrific, unless horse rearing is indeed dealing with nefarious rival stables, wading through complicated romantic relationships, and doing the same mundane tasks day after day. I’ll let real horse people tell me if this is indeed an accurate depiction of life at a stable, but regardless, it doesn’t make for a great video game.
Riding Stables initially lets you create your own custom horse (within reason) and get your feet wet with some of the minigames which are supposed to represent typical activities in a stable. When you’ve unlocked them all, there are a grand total of 11 different minigames/tasks available (also note, a couple of them require using an AR card) that represent feeding, watering, brushing, training, and other pursuits. Of course, most of these involve simply using the 3DS’s gyroscopic controls and some aren’t particularly immersive. And as with a lot of minigame compilations, some hit and some miss; some of the games aren’t explained particularly well, and a couple of the games are hard to control. One example (and a tip for developers), if you’re going to make me trace a line or a shape, please ensure it’s clearly visible. When I can’t see one of the lines of your “Z”, it screws everything else up.
While overall, it’s mostly competent, the game does commit a couple of cardinal sins. First, I get that a game about rearing horses is aimed at young girls, and the game certainly assumes that’s who’s playing it. Literally. The game actually referred to me as “she” or “her” on multiple occasions. So even though I got to input my name, I didn’t get to enter my gender and the game just assumed I was a girl. I guess it’s because the character I’m playing from a first-person perspective is a young girl, but it was still rather bizarre. Especially when apparently I had a crush on one of the young jockey boys.
The other issue, and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves with the 3DS, is that the game features significant use of gyroscopic controls. Terrific, because as soon as I tilt the 3DS left, right, up, or down, the 3D effect is ruined and you sometimes can’t see anything. You have to play a significant number of activities with the 3D slider turned off. Fortunately the 3D adds little to nothing to the experience. But still, it’s a head scratching design decision.
The story is probably one of the better parts of the game, even if it’s a little weird and convoluted, but it works. Unfortunately, the gameplay that supports the storyline involves performing the same 11 (and only 9 actually help you progress) activities repeatedly in what becomes a grind. Actually, beyond the grinding, the resource and meter management of the game is one of its strongest qualities. Horses can train to increase their experience points and mood, but it costs them in terms of hunger, thirst, and cleanliness, requiring going back to feeding, watering, and brushing to get those meters back up. This brings a few RPG elements to the game.
The GamerPops Recommendation
There are some redeeming qualities to Riding Stables 3D, but the amount of activities is a bit too small, and there’s too much grinding going on for my tastes. Little girls might enjoy it, and playing with virtual horses will be a hit with them. There are a few head-scratching design decisions, I’m not all that sure that girls will be into grinding, and the initial $30 price tag is just too high for the limited amount of activities you’ll actually get to perform. The amount of gameplay hours might come close to some semblance of value, but it’s the lack of variety of that gameplay that hurts this game the most, relying on the story and horseplay aspects to carry it, which isn’t enough.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
ESRB Rating Summary
Rating Category: E for Everyone
Content Descriptors: No Descriptors
Rating Summary: None provided.