|System: Wii, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: W! Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 5, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
It is very easy to dismiss My Horse and Me as just another piece of junk software for the Wii. There is definitely no shortage of modern "shovelware" titles out there, and from the look of the box, this title seemed to fit the mold. However, if you take the time to actually play My Horse and Me, you just may find some love for this title. It features some unexpectedly realistic horse riding gameplay, some pretty fun mini-games, and is surprisingly deep for a title aimed at the young horse riding sect.
But this game does not start off easily. The controls will take some getting used to, and no, I'm not talking about a fifteen minute learning curve. I'm talking about at least an hour or more of practicing. The controls are motion-based and have you pulling up on either the Wii-mote or the Nunchuk to steer the horse left or right. And while this might sound easy, the game goes for a realistic approach where precision is key. Having some former equestrian experience myself, I can appreciate their commitment to realism, but I can see where this will be a little trying for those who just want a simple horse riding game. But the good news is that there's a 12-stage training mode that will probably take that hour you'll need to master the controls. And don't even think about attempting to play the game without doing the training. Although the training mode is tucked away in the menu, you need to seek it out immediately because this game is endlessly frustrating if you can't control it.
Once you've got the hang of the controls, there are quite a few things you can do. The main mode of the game is the show jumping mode. This mode lets you compete with other horse riders by going through obstacle courses of varying difficulty. There are several initial difficulty settings ranging from beginner to pro. Within each difficulty setting there are several obstacle courses that you can play through. However, not all of these courses will be readily available; you must unlock the vast majority of the courses by placing in previous courses. This mode is pretty fun and fairly challenging as you progress through the more challenging stages. Success in this mode requires quick thinking and a sound mastery of the controls. As such, it is fairly rewarding when you progress through the more difficult courses. If you want a little bit more immediate competition, there are modes that let you play through the various courses with up to four friends. The multiplayer is not conducted simultaneously, however, each player will have their turn and then once everyone is finished you can see how everyone performed.
In addition to the show jumping mode, there is also a mini-game mode. Normally the mini-game modes in any given title are more of a quick diversion that feels tacked on the main game experience. However, in My Horse and Me, the mini-game modes feel like a second main mode. There are seven mini-games in total. Some, like "Piggy in the Bank" and "Chicken n' Corn," focus on your ability to collect items (either money or corn) and then bring them back to a central location. Other modes, like "Falling Stars" and "Butterfly Fields," challenge you to gather only a certain type of item and sort it into several different color-coded goal areas. And while these modes are pretty fun, there are a few clunkers here as well. Two of the mini-game modes, "Spot the Difference" and "Memory Lane," are a little too reminiscent of coloring book games and simply ask you to either find the differences in a given picture or recall a specific arrangement of horse gear. These modes feel a little too juvenile, even for the games supposed young audience. It should be mentioned that the gameplay does feel a little repetitive after a while, but my guess is that this game is not going to be played for marathon amounts of time. And if played in short bursts, the game retains its charm and is easily replayable.