Raise a champion in Derby Days

There are plenty of social games that ask you to take care of animals. Sometimes it’s as part of a farm, sometimes they’re simply pets for you to raise. But most of the time you’re not really raising them for any particular reason; there’s usually not much of an end goal in mind. And that’s part of what makes Derby Days stand out. While much of the gameplay mechanics will be familiar, the process of turning a fledgling racehorse into a champion is very satisfying.

As with most social games, Derby Days gives you your own virtual space to customize however you like. You can add decorations to make it look nice (and give you some much needed experience points), buildings that can be harvested for both money and food for your horses, and, of course, the horses themselves, which are the most important feature in the game. While you can spend a lot of time decorating your ranch-like property, the real goal is to build up your stable of racers.

Derby Days

Training is key to this process, as it’s how your horses earn experience and thus improve their skills. This also takes both energy and time, much like, say, harvesting crops in a farming game. You can also put your horses into different races, and as their skills increase they’ll be able to move up the ladder, challenging for more prestigious titles that are coupled with large cash bonuses. And the more they train, the better their chances at victory. You don’t actually participate in the races but you can watch them to see the drama unfold.

Watching your horse steadily improve and eventually win big races is incredibly satisfying, and it provides a nice incentive to keep on pushing through the game. Unfortunately the rest of the experience isn’t quite so well-developed.

For one, the process of harvesting food from buildings is problematic. Not only does it not make much sense in the context of the game (why, exactly, would collecting rent from a building earn you a carrot?) but it’s also unreliable, as you won’t always get feed when you do harvest a building. The result is that you’ll end up either spending a large portion of your winnings or some virtual currency in order to keep your horses fed. Adding in a farming feature, or something similar, would have made a whole lot more sense.

Derby Days

The act of acquiring new horses can also be troublesome if you plan on going solo. One of the easiest ways to get new horses is to breed animals with your friends. If no one else you know is playing, though, you’ll again be forced to either spend a huge sum of race winnings or virtual currency to increase your stable of racers.

These problems are annoying, but the core of Derby Days is still somewhat refreshing when it comes to social games. It also doesn’t hurt that it looks great, which should come as no surprise considering it comes from the developer behind Tiny Farm. Raising a race horse in Derby Days is definitely fun, unfortunately the rest of the experience feels underdeveloped.