Shoveling out the Augean stable would be more fun than playing Horse Life Adventures.
Video games are cool for multiple reasons, but they’re especially good at offering substitutions in areas where real life fails. For example, how many kids beg their parents for a pony? Pretty much all of them. How many are disappointed because their parents can’t afford a pony, or are disallowed to keep it in the garage? Pretty much all of them. But through the magic of games, horse enthusiasts can go galloping across the rolling hills—unless they’re playing Horse Life Adventures for iOS, which lets them look at their horse and not do much else.
Horse Life Adventures is technically a horsie simulator. When you start the game, you’re given your first beast and invited to feed it, clean it, and enter it in competitions. It takes time for your horse to compete and cool down, but you can keep yourself busy with some light construction work around the farm.
Unfortunately, Horse Life Adventures has some major roadblocks that keep you from really making the farm or its horses your own. Most building/simulation games let you plunk down decorations wherever you want them (because benches belong in front of doors, everybody knows that), but Horse Life Adventures restricts decorations to specific, predetermined parts of the ranch.
More disappointing is the fact you can’t do much with your horses. You can buy additional steeds in the marketplace (the breeds change from time to time, and rare animals pop up occasionally), and you can wash, brush, or feed them—but when it comes time for actual training or competitions, your horses simply vanish until the competition is done. You don’t get to see them compete, nor do you get to participate when they’re in the show ring. Instead, you select the city you want your horse to compete in, slap on some gear to improve his or her chances at success, then presumably lean back and drink sangrias. Not a bad deal in theory, but if you love horses you want as much hands-on time as possible.
Horse Life Adventures also has technical issues galore. For some reason, it takes ages to scroll around your farm, so getting from the horse barn to the training pens is a slow, boring process. The background music is five seconds of generic guitar fare that’s looped over and over—provide your own soundtrack for this one. There also appears to be some kind of notification bug: Sometimes, when a horse is done with training or a competition, the game will continually inform you, causing your iOS device to jump and buzz like a thing possessed. The notifications continue even after you enter the game. Needless to say, turn them off.
Worst of all are the invasive ads. Free-to-play games support themselves via necessary ad revenue, but that doesn’t mean the ads have to be unfair. The adverts in Horse Life Adventures pop up with annoying frequency, and often when you’re in the middle of grooming a horse—so even if don’t want to watch a video ad for some game you don’t care about, you wind up hitting “Play” anyway. It’s a dirty trick.
Despite some cute graphics, Horse Life Adventures is a poor offering in a sub-genre that’s not celebrated for quality and depth in the first place. Go ahead and put this one out to pasture.
- Cute graphics and animation. Lots of horse breeds to collect. No Wi-Fi necessary to play.
- Minimal gameplay. Little interactivity with horses. Big technical issues.