When my editor-in-chief and possible Saturday morning cartoon villain Steve Hannley said he thought I’d be perfect to review My Western Horse 3D, I thought to myself there must be less insulting ways to fire people. Telling a grown man who reviews games that he is perfect to review an eShop shovelware title designed for little girls is like telling a surgeon he is perfect to operate on a discarded mannequin. No one is expecting this to be good, and anyone with the slightest bit of interest in it is most likely too young to read all these fancy words on mommy’s magic moving screen. Downloading the game at my age now prohibits me from living within 500 yards of a school zone and renders me unqualified from ever seeking pubic office. Regardless of what I did to offend Steve to deserve this punishment, I decided I would spite him by completely and utterly enjoying the hell out of this title regardless of how bad it was. So it is time to sit down and find out my My Western Horse 3D will win several game of the year titles over multiple years and why it is absolutely the most hardcore of all the hardcore games out there.
The game throws you into the role of a young girl obsessed with Western riding, a subject so hardcore and extreme that I hadn’t even heard of it prior to this game. According to the Western riding section of Wikipedia, “[t]hough the differences between English and Western riding appear dramatic, there are more similarities than most people think. Both styles require riders to have a solid seat, with the hips and shoulders balanced over the feet, with hands independent of the seat so as to avoid disturbing the balance of the horse and interfering with…” You know what? That description is just too hardcore for this review. Suffice to say that normal horse riding is to Western riding as driving around in a minivan with three kids is to riding a flaming motorcycle straight into the Grand Canyon. Your mom in this game sends her daughter away to train in Western riding with her sister (your aunt), a woman she hates and hasn’t talked to in years. That is like six different kinds of child neglect. Even Mortal Kombat doesn’t let you endanger children like My Western Horse 3D does.
Gameplay is divided into two equally intense segments: horse maintenance and competitions. At the start of the game, your aunt gives you a horse and tells you not to bother her, leaving you in the hands of some local boy that may or may not be homeless. He asks you what your horse’s name will be, because apparently it wasn’t already given one when it was born. Apparently, your aunt hates horses as much as she hates family members. I decided to name my horse Horsename, because I didn’t want to grow too attached to it before it inevitably died in the hands of an eight year old girl that has no prior experience taking care of horses. Every in game day you need to groom your horse and feed it and do the things that prevent your aunt from going crazy and hiding your body with all the other missing nieces and nephews she’s accumulated over the years. Essentially you need to go through a bunch of simple minigames where you chip dirt off of the horses hooves and brush it by rubbing or tapping the touch screen. I know it seems like doing the same thing every hour or so would get repetitive, but man is it so amazingly fun to have to do chores in a video game. I kept trying to find a way to mow the lawn or do the dishes, but maybe they were saving these riveting pieces of content of the inevitable sequel.
There is also a minigame here where you shovel horse crap, and I promise you this is the most authentic horse crap shoveling simulator I have ever encountered. I really felt like I was in the stall mucking out horse waste. You’re supposed to do this once an in game day or so to prevent your horse from drowning in his own filth, but I found it so utterly engaging that I would do it three or four times in a row because nobody is going to tell me how often is too often to shovel out a horse’s stall. This game gives new meaning to the phrase shovelware, and completely redefines the genre of horse waste removal. Those looking forward to Horse Poop Destroyer 3D can forget about that title entirely, because you only need one game about horse poop and I promise you it is this one.
I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, a horse grooming and poop removal simulator? There is no way this game could possibly contain any more content!” Well, you shut your dirty mouth you hopeless pessimist, because I’m about to blow your mind. You can also enter your horse in a variety of contests and compete with invisible horses you never actually see. You start off doing some simple training exercises and doing the necessary horse maintenance to earn enough brownie points to force your aunt to not hate you enough to allow you to participate in contests, and not a single word of that previous sentence was made up. You can’t even go in her office initially, and trying to do so prompts her to chase you out so she cat sit around and plot out the best way to assault the local orphanage. Earning enough brownie points opens up more complex training exercises and new competitions. Before these open up, however, you need to go to your aunt’s office when summoned and answer some completely random piece of horse related trivia that is never, ever brought up in the game. Answer it incorrectly and you get to start over again and build up your brownie points until your aunt deems you worthy enough to talk to again. It sure is great losing progress because you didn’t know some arbitrary horse fact, and this system is an excellent way to make sure Google is still working properly.
The controls are simple, and you use the gyroscope in the 3DS to follow a horseshoe on the screen or alternate tapping the left and right shoulder buttons in intense, low speed races against absolutely nobody. The competitions themselves are absolutely insane and I’d warn against anyone playing this if they have a known heart condition or are pregnant. The most exhilarating option is the beauty contest, where you slowly move your horse around a stadium and watch as numbers flash across the screen that tell you how well you’re doing. The only thing you need to do in this is clean your horse, so this basically acts as a “is your horse’s coat not a filthy mixture of poop and fly carcasses” competition, something Horsename won every single time. There are other more complex events that actually require you to do something, including the barrel race which has you using the controls to run around a predetermined path in the fastest amount of time. Later levels of this are essentially exactly the same thing, just needed to be done faster, meaning the amazing repetition that everyone loves in their games kicks in almost immediately.
The visuals are basic, and the 3D effects work well enough that they don’t even really hurt your eyes or cause any permanent damage to your retinas. You can also go into a full dress-up mode, allowing you to customize your horse and rider to make them as pretty as you could ever want. Personally, I went for the red stars in the horse’s mane and tail, but you can customize it however you want as long as what you want is stars. There are some other customizable options that you can unlock as you progress and your aunt starts to hate you less, but you are really only bedazzling your horse in one of a couple different spots. This is absolutely something you could spend hours doing, assuming you fall asleep in the middle of it and leave your DS on while you nap.
Overall this is the most amazing, most spectacular, most…you know, I can’t do this anymore, even sarcastically. This game is bad, but I feel a little bad saying it. I didn’t like it, but this clearly wasn’t made for me. It’s like someone else ordered food at a restaurant and I ran over and took a bite and was like, “Ugh this is terrible. F minus minus.” If I was a little girl obsessed with Western horse riding and also too lame to play any better games, I might get a kick out of this for like half a day. As far as horse themed shovelware goes, you could probably do worse as this is at least an entirely functional game. The game is repetitive, the gameplay is overly simplistic, and there is so little actual content here that the $30 asking price is absurd. Still, everything works and the game does a decent job integrating all the DS functionality and this is without a doubt one of the best games about Western horse racing meant for little girls I’ve ever played. Top three, for sure.