Riding Stables 3D
Genre: Portable Child Distractor
Developer: TREVA Entertainment
Publisher: TREVA Entertainment
Release Date: 12/20/2012
I feel bad for the PR rep that has to send out inquiries to a bunch of older, mostly male, video game reviewers to review a game that is not really the intended audience for their product. Riding Stables is obviously aimed at the young girl demographic. Not that boys don’t play game with horses in them, it’s just this game is targeted to young girls, you can tell because the story for the game automatically assumes you are female.
For the last decade or more games with horses have typically fallen into a few categories: Horse racing, Western, or Stable Simulation. That’s it. I know this because I love video games and my wife loves horses, so naturally our interests overlap with video games that feature horses. Riding Stables falls squarely into the Stable Simulation/Pet Management category, with the game broken down into mini-games to reflect what it might be like to own a horse and compete in small events. Both my wife and I played the game and while we may not be the intended demographic here are our impressions of the game. Co-Op review powers, activate!
Me: This game is target to girls, so I’m bringing in my wife. You’ve got lady parts don’t you? I mean like attached, not like in a jar or anything.
Wife: Yep *points towards lady parts areas* (she seriously did this)
Me: Alright, let’s get started.
The game starts with letting you create a horse. The model for the horse stays the same no matter which breed you choose, with a slider to make the horse a little thinner or thicker depending on your preference for the amount of junk in the trunk. Personally I was disappointed I couldn’t make a paint horse right away, that option is locked from the beginning. The horses look cartoonish and not meant to look entirely realistic, which I didn’t mind. How about you wife?
Wife: They looked like anatomically incorrect garbage, and the moved bonelessly, like they’re missing their skeletal structure. They’re weird, I did not like it. I preferred other horse models from past generations of systems better.
Me: That’s the difference between a purist and an amateur. A younger kid is unlikely going to mind the character models.
There is a story that involves competing barns, a will, and different alliances and betrayals. It’s an interesting to have an overall story in a pet sim like this even if it’s light on plot. The plot gives you excuses as to why you are taking care of certain horses, as well as giving you specific goals to try an attain.
I thought the story felt like a poor translation of another language at times, and there are spelling and grammar mistakes all over the place. You spend a lot of time managing other horses before you ever get to do events in the game. Wife?
Wife: For a game called Riding Stables, you spend an inordinate amount of time in the stable and very little time riding. Could care less about the story. Needs more time riding a horse than whatever it was going on about.
Me: The game is divided into eleven mini-games. Since there are only 11 and they’re not deep, so let’s take a look at what you’ll send most of the game doing:
Feeding – You dump oats into a trough. The game will shake the oats out of a bag, you have to hold the DS level and turn it to the left and right to distribute them.
Watering – There’s a hose, for some reason the guy holding the hose is a jerk and keeps moving and you have to tilt the 3DS forward and backwards to compensate for their inability to hold still.
Grooming – You rub down a horse with a brush, removing the dirt from it. There’s a shadow horse on the bottom screen and you mime moving the brush.
Petting – You can call the horse over to you and pet him/her. Doing well will make the horse roll over in a ridiculous way, that while adorable if you attempt to rub a horse’s stomach in real life it might lead to a horse murdering you with a hoof to the face.
Leading – Select a harness and move the 3DS in a way that will keep the horse on the screen until the time runs out.
Playing – You throw a ball (or Frisbee, or other toy) toward a cone and the horse will fetch it. You tap the screen to fill an on screen meter for how hard you want to throw it.
Teaching – Teach the horse tricks. This takes a page from Horse Life from the 3DS and involves a simple rhythm game that is meant to sort of reflect the movements of the horse.
Then there are the course events:
Jumping – The horse is on its own and you swipe the stylus in the indicated direction on the bottom of the screen. Do well, the horse makes it. Do poorly, it’s glue factory time.
Obstacle Course – Jumping, but while your character is on the horse from a first person perspective, you get to ride the horse! You tilt up and down to speed up and slow down the horse, each jump has a specific speed it wants you to aim for, and then when in a glowing circle before the jump you press A and jump it.
Archery – Riding around in first person again, only this time the riding is automatic and you move the 3DS around to aim a crosshairs at targets.
It says there’s an 11th mini-game, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what that might be. Maybe it’s the invisible bond you develop with the horse. Who knows?
As a tech demo, Riding Stables is a great way to show off the 3DS. The 3D effect works well, and most of the minigames involve some combo of touch screen, mic, controls and gyroscopic movement. The archery one is even kind of fun.
As minigames, they’re kind of terrible though. Most are short, and you’ll have to repeat the Feeding/Watering/Grooming activities often. They’re so simple that they are not fun to repeat over and over again. These are typical chores for taking care of a pet, and if they’re meant to feel like chores, then Riding Stables has succeeded. Every single minigame is very simplistic and though the game ups the difficulty for the timing of some of them, they are never hard to get an A+ grade in unless there’s an earthquake or you have a seizure. The fact that there is so much movement required for these minigames also makes the 3D effect a literal headache to have on when playing. Play with the 3D on at your own risk.
What’d you think wife?
Wife: Needs more riding. Seems weird that of all the fun things that they could do with a game of this type with a horse, cross country riding, breaking a horse in, dressage, and so on that there are only two events which you ride and one is archery, which isn’t something you will see typically at a horse show. Don’t understand the point of feeding and watering, they’re not fun.
Me: The game also supports Streetpass multiplayer in terms of jumping contests where you can win prizes for beating another player. This all takes place while not playing the game. There are unlockable horse types, toys, halters and more, though most are just aesthetic changes that don’t change anything in the game. The ball and Frisbee are identical for how they’re thrown, etc.
So, wife, if we had a little girl, would you buy the game for her?
Wife: Hell no, I’d make you buy it. Or make you buy a real pony. Get me a pony.
Me: That’s not the point! Do think it would be a good game for a kid?
Wife: Mmmm. Yeah. I guess.
Me: I’d feel the same. While it certainly isn’t a challenge for adults, and it may not satisfy the horse purist or the hardcore gamer, the audience it is intended for would be more forgiving about the grammar, spelling, repetition and lack of difficulty. As an adult I don’t care for it, and I wouldn’t spend $29.99 on it even if I was buying it for a kid. Maybe $20, but the child would have to whine about it a lot.
Short Attention Span Summary
It’s a Pet/Stable Simulation with a goofy story and a focus on easy to play minigames. It’s a decent title for children, but not a title that older gamers would enjoy.