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Horse & Pony: My Stud Farm

For: Mobile

Hold your horses! I mean literally...

Product: Horse and Pony: My Stud Farm | Publisher: HandyGames | Format: Mobile | Genre: Simulation, Virtual Pet/ Toy | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 173KB | Reviewed on: N70 other handsets | Version: Europe
Horse and Pony: My Stud Farm Mobile, thumbnail 1
You wait ages for a horse game, then two trot along at once.

Gameloft's Pippa Funnell Horse Riding Academy was a decent attempt at an equine sim, albeit one that didn't last very long. Now HandyGames has stepped up with its own horsey title, based on a popular range of German PC and console games.

The two games are good news for the mobile games industry, showing that publishers are keen to appeal to new groups of gamers (that is, girls), but which one's best? Because here the whinny takes it all. Or something.

Horse & Pony follows a different tack to Gameloft's game. You're not a fresh-faced equestrian student: instead, you run your own stud farm. Your aim is to breed a bunch of champion nags by feeding them, grooming then, training them up and then entering them in competitions.

Bizarrely, it works a lot like HandyGames' existing Porn Manager game, with the same blend of wandering around a cartoony environment, choosing what to do, and watching quick animations showing your actions. (It must be an interesting pitch to the mobile operators: "It's like Porn Manager, except with horses, and aimed at teenage girls...")

Anyway, you spend the game pootling between your stables, warehouse, training yard and pasture, ensuring your horses are sufficiently well-fed and groomed.

The training yard can be used to school up your nags in a series of skills, from racing and vaulting through to polo, dressage and formation riding. Meanwhile, you have to keep an eye on ratings like sociability and health to make sure they're in tip-top condition.

All this food and training costs money, of course, so you'll need to earn a few bob by entering your horses in competitions based around their skills. The tournaments can be local through to international level, and provide the all-important source of income for your farm – aided by other people's horses coming to visit.

Finally, of course, this is a stud farm you're running, so you have to breed new horses – although understandably this process isn't dealt with in quite the same way as Porn Manager...

There's bags of depth to Horse & Pony, and you do get caught up in the intricacies of breeding that perfect polo champion. However, the game is frustrating in the lack of stuff to actually do with your horse.

See, while Pippa Funnell Horse Riding Academy was based entirely around riding your horse, the only time you get on the saddle in Horse & Pony is for a basic exercise minigame that involves galloping in a straight line and jumping the occasional obstacle.

When you train one of your horses, it just stays in the training paddock for two days. Register it for a tournament, and it disappears for three days, before coming back with a message saying how well it did. Both of these sections would be an ideal opportunity for some cool mini-games. And even if the lack of any is down to space restrictions on mobile, it still makes for a less satisfying experience.

There's also a question over whether Horse & Pony's target audience want to play a stud-farm management game, as opposed to just ride horses as in Gameloft's rival. Finally, the instructions and tutorial could do a better job of explaining the relatively complex game workings.

Horse & Pony isn't, well, pony, but it could be much more of a thoroughbred. Still, if the ups and downs of the equine breeding world (easy at the back there) appeal, there's enough in here to make it worth a whirl.
Horse & Pony: My Stud Farm
Reviewer photo
Stuart Dredge | 6 February 2007
An involving strategic take on the world of breeding horses, let down by a lack of action
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