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Horse Life

Score: 71%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: D3
Developer: Neko Entertainment
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation/ Rhythm/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Horse Life is a game where you raise a horse, train it, and then enter it in competitions. You're put in the role of caretaker and rider. While the list is growing, there aren't too many horseback riding games. So far, my take has been to spend your money on a riding lesson instead, but I hope to see that change.

This game looks pretty good. Backgrounds are detailed and fairly impressive. That's good, since you'll be visiting the same areas repeatedly. The horse model is realistic and moves well on the small screen. Of course, there are details that could look a bit better like hair movement and pop-up scenery, but a good job is done here relative to what the DS can do with these types of 3D games. Like similar games, you can choose your horse breed here, but don't expect to get a different looking horse when you pick a different breed. There's one horse model to the game here, as seems to be the unfortunate standard with these types of games.

The music and sound do a good job here as well. The sound of your horse running and breathing strongly as it runs really gets you into the sense that you're outdoors. Background music is, as expected, not exciting nor catchy, but it's pleasant enough. The competition music and audience noise do a good job of getting you into the atmosphere, though.


So here we go, in Horse Life you are given a horse, and charged with training it and riding it in competitions. You'll have a set number of activities per day, and they each relate to each other in some way. For example, if you ride in the forest to improve your horse's fitness, it will also get dirty. You'll eventually have to spend one of your set activities on cleaning your horse. Competitions require a fit horse, but participating in them lowers your horse's fitness and cleanliness, so you'll have to start over again. I laughed a bit when I found that cleaning a horse's stall will improve their happiness. I'm pretty sure anyone who has cleaned out a stall knows what the first thing a horse wants to do in it is. . .

Steeplechase (jumping), cross-country, and dressage are the equestrian competitions you'll be able to enter. Eventually you get to see some interesting dressage moves, but it takes a long time to get to movements such as the Piaffe or the Spanish walk: some of the flashier movements you'll see. At least they are there, and you can probably learn some basic terminology by playing this game. You won't have much time to sit back and watch them though, as you'll be pointing the Stylus across the action much of the time.

You repeat the cycle of training, horse care, and competition for the rest of the game. The standard horse-game things are here: buying new outfits, buying new gear, buying treats and food for your horse. The focus seems more on winning competitions than raising the horse. Even so, I can't really tell you when the game ends. Even after I finished all the training and all the competitions, the game continued on. Well, there was that one thing with the unicorn.

Did I mention the unicorn? I'd normally leave this kind of easter egg out of a review, but this was just so out of left field it left me a little dazed. So, you go through the game with your grandpa's guidance. Normally he tells you what to do during training, gives you a "Good job," or "Try harder," and that's about it. That is, except when the old man - out of nowhere - starts talking about unicorns with you. Seriously, you're almost 90% complete with a game that has consisted of the same dry talk about training, riding, and competing with your horse, when he starts talking about imaginary animals. Then he shuts up and continues his normal horse talk for the rest of the game. Then later one day, he tells you to go search the forest for the unicorn. After you do so, you'll be allowed to start a new game with a unicorn instead of a horse. But that's it, you do the same activities with the unicorn as you do with the horse, and no one even bats an eye to the fact that you're riding around on a unicorn.


Horse Life doesn't get difficult until the later part of the game. Up until that point, it's going to be pretty hard to fail, unless the only chance you have to play your DS is while on a bumpy bus ride. The cues even become a bit predictable after a while, helping you achieve maximum scores.

During the later parts of the game, more complicated cues are introduced, but your greatest enemy will be the rider herself. I'm sorry the horse is the problem. If your horse isn't fit and happy, it doesn't perform well during trials - so you're told. But what you will actually see is your rider going kick-happy and forcing you to hover over them to slow them down. Once the rider starts throwing fits like that, it's nearly impossible to get through some training trials. You'll have to go back and work on the rider's - I'm sorry, horse's fitness, before you can continue within reason.

A little quirk with the fitness is that I've never seen the rider spontaneously slow down, only speed up. So during competitions where your horse has to remain at a full gallop the whole time, you can get by with a horse that has relatively bad levels, since the speed won't be an issue.

Game Mechanics:

Horse Life takes more than a note or two from Elite Beat Agents (titled Ouendan in Japan), which surprised me. In order to control your horse, you touch circles on the screen, which will appear at certain intervals. Sometimes you have to follow a circle as it moves along the screen, and sometimes you will simply have to tap circles within a certain time frame. It's much more fun than it sounds, and something the touch screen interface of the DS is perfect for. It's not nearly as challenging or rhythm-specific as the action in Elite Beat Agents though, so that's where the comparison ends. Really it's less about controlling the horse than just keeping a steady pace. Tapping away and following cues doesn't make the horse do anything better, it just prevents him from failing or throwing you off.

Grandpa is your guide through this game, and he doles out a lot of advice. He doles it out repeatedly. It gets to be a pain clicking through the same repeated instructions every time you want to do something. Conversations with other characters don't change very often either, so you can count on having read a good 80% of the dialogue for the game before you've gotten through the first 3 days of the game. Just, you know, keep an eye out for the crazy unicorn talk.

Horse Life is a fairly repetitive horse-riding simulation, but the control scheme gives it a fun, mini-game feel. There's nothing deeper to the game than what you see at face-value, so once again, you've got to have some interest in the equestrian theme to have any hope of enjoying this game. Still, it's one of the more enjoyable games in this genre, so it's worth checking out.

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Microsoft Xbox 360 Switchball Microsoft Xbox 360 Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

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