Should you pass on Pocket Stables? I vote neigh!
In Kairosoft’s newest title, you can experience horses in all their glory. You’ll build a ranch, raise horses, and enter races, with the goal of raising a Triple Crown champion. Of course, raising a Triple Crown champion is difficult, as there’s been no American Triple Crown winner in over 35 years! Pocket Stables will show you that winning one race is hard enough, but winning the three biggest races will require patience, planning, and some luck. Good thing it’s a whole lot of fun.
Pocket Stables starts off with a mostly empty ranch. You’re in charge of populating the ranch with horses, buildings, jockeys, and visitors. Ranch management is the first part of the game you’ll experience and it quickly proves to be the easiest. You’re given a stable, living quarters, and some roads for free, but you’ll soon be asked to get your hands on some horses. While the initial selection is small, each horse has its own set of stats that influence how it’s best fit to race. The game doesn’t have much of a tutorial, so you’ll have to learn about the stats as you go, but it’s a rather simple process.
As you start to enter races and the ranch starts to grow, you can hire full-time jockeys, who train with horses and come with their own stats. From there, you’ll be encouraged to build training structures and other ranch buildings. As horses win races, your ranch’s popularity increases and people will visit, spending money in the process. Ranch costs aren’t too high, and it’s easy to turn a monthly profit, especially after winning a couple races.
Training and horse/jockey management is where things get tricky. There are two ways horses can train. Every month, horses will go through their automated training. Each horse’s training preferences can be customized, along with assigning a jockey to work with them. Horses will level up certain stats during those sessions, and their fatigue level won’t take much of a hit. You can also spend a bit of money and give horses a direct stat boost through special training. These sessions raise stats quicker, but add to the animal’s fatigue. Managing fatigue can be frustrating, especially since racing will cause a drastic increase, but certain items and training sessions can help slowly lower it.
The ultimate goal in Pocket Stables is to enter and win races. Races are one of the most hands-off areas of the game, but manage to be one of the most fun. Horses are assigned a class based on the races they’ve won and they can only enter races for their class. You sign up for races a month in advance, select an eligible horse, and choose a jockey (either your own or an outsider). Once the day of the race arrives, you’re sent to the track. At the track, there’s only one more level of customization: how to run the race. There are a few strategies, such as taking an early lead or making a late push, and the best method depends on the horse and jockey. With how interactive the game is, it’s disappointing that races are mostly hands-off. However, the feeling of excitement as your horse finally wins a race more than makes up for it.
As you win races, the ranch’s popularity will skyrocket, new challenges will open up, and more features will become available. Much of the game is what we’ve come to expect from Kairosoft. Pocket Stables starts off slow, but eventually grows into a detailed and engrossing experience that rivals some of the best Kairosoft has offered. The graphics and music are all typical of the company, as is the menu system. Players who have grown tired of the Kairosoft formula may not get much enjoyment out of Pocket Stables. Those constantly waiting for more will not be disappointed. The game is easy to learn and hard to master, but effort is where all the fun is.