Release Date: February 5, 2008
If there were ever a game that I might be a little ill-equipped to review based on the knowledge of the subject matter, I suppose that it would be this title, My Horse and Me on the Nintendo Wii. I've been on an actual horse twice in my entire life, once when I was six, and another time when I was 13 during a vacation. A couple of things have always stuck with me from both instances, one being that horses are a heck of a lot bigger than you think when you see them on TV and in movies, and they're also just a tad bit intimidating as well.
My Horse and Me, on the other hand, is definitely geared toward a younger demographic and failed to bring up any odd anxieties that I had about my previous horse-related experiences. It's also a title that's obviously geared more toward girls than boys, not only because of the cover art but also because there are half as many boy characters to select from than there are girls. So I'm pretty far out of the intended range for this title, but I'll do my best to break down the content.
When you begin My Horse and Me, you're given the ability to select a character from a certain number of pre-made youngsters, and from there, you'll go into the menu that will get you started on the whole horse-riding experience. Keep in mind that this isn't some type of Harvest Moon-style adventure where you'll be tending to a horse in a stable or building up your experience within a farmhouse environment. Instead, this game opts to simulate the experience of riding a championship-bred horse through various courses in a setting similar to what you'd see on those high-class competitions that air on ESPN2 in the middle of a weekday. When the game begins, you're placed on a horse in a basic oval arena setup, at which point the game will do a somewhat-poor job of running you through the basic controls to get your horse moving as you collect little tokens that spell out the path that you're supposed to follow. You'll need to collect a certain number of these icons before you can move on, and even this initial gameplay segment is going to be pretty taxing for most players.
The controls are really the biggest thing at fault here, and while I like that the developers tried to mimic some type of rein movement to give you a horse-riding feel, they're not exactly ideal for making your virtual horse perform the way you might like. Really, you can point almost entirely to the controls that relate specifically to turning. To speed up or slow down the horse, you simply raise or lower both the Wiimote and Nunchuk. However, turning requires you to lift one and lower the other, depending on which way you need to turn. Sure, this sounds simple, but it felt really counterintuitive, and I had the most trouble wrapping my head around this aspect. Also, when your horse is going full tilt around the course, turning isn't too responsive anyway, and unless you're being ultra careful with your speed, it's really easy to veer off course with the horse and miss key jumps for the competition. The later courses are all but impossible to finish, especially the tighter tracks that require some type of precision that the control scheme just doesn't allow. If there were any kind of breathing room in how the game interprets your controls, then that would work out a bit better, but as it is now, My Horse and Me is nearly unplayable as you start to advance.
This makes unlocking some of the additional content massively frustrating, especially since most of the good clothing and objects you can unlock is tied strictly into the gold medals that can be won from the competitions. Good luck ever getting those gold medals, though, as most require a flawless run that's nearly impossible to achieve.
Aside from the competitions, there isn't a whole lot to see and do in My Horse and Me. There is a mini-game that involves some basic upkeep of your horse, mostly tied to the grooming side of things. However, there's no real explanation for what you're doing, or why you need to do it. You can take a brush, water or a couple of other things, run them over the horse with the Wiimote, and hope for the best. I'm not even entirely sure it's necessary, or if it's just there as some type of virtual petting game within the game, but if you're into that kind of thing, then it's there for you.
Combine the poor gameplay with the equally poor presentation and sound, and you've got a definite bad game on your hands. The character models in My Horse and Me have a really stiff look to them, and they all feel the same regardless of who you select. The crowds fail to do much in the animation department, and actually calling them a "crowd" is probably stretching the truth a bit. There's a bit of music here and there but nothing that stands out, and the announcing is mostly pre-recorded voice files that don't have much to do with what's actually occurring on the screen. There is a multiplayer option for local play, but it's just for two players in one competition, and they take turns between the courses. It's boring, and I can't imagine you'll be able to find another player who will go through the same game with you.
For horse riding aficionados or those who enjoy watching the horse competitions on TV, My Horse and Me isn't the game for you — nor is it the game for younger girls, boys or any child, adult, man or woman out there. The poor controls make the game far too frustrating to enjoy, and even if the controls weren't there, the lackluster gameplay and low-quality visuals make it seem as if the developers were just as bored with making the title as I was with playing it. Stay away from this one; it's definitely a Wii title that you could do without.
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