It's expensive to buy and maintain a real horse, but now you can download a virtual one instead from the App Store-- What a world we live in. My Horse [Free] from NaturalMotion Games and MunkyFun is a realistic horse simulation game, which allows you to groom, feed and reward your very own horsey, without ever leaving the couch. Although the true cost of the virtual horse depends on whether you choose to invest in the optional in-app purchases.
The developers goal was to create a horse which is realistic enough for the player to form a bond with. And they've managed to successfully achieve this as the horse graphics and behavior is pretty realistic. It flicks it's tail, grazes, looks around, trots, bucks, walks backwards and neighs. There's no obvious repeated animation loops, or cartoon graphics. You're caring for a real-looking virtual horse.
After meeting and naming your beast (default name was "Beauty", but I chose "GluePot"), Dan the Stable-boy assigns you some tasks, such as "take a photo of your horse" using the in-game camera. Completing tasks or spending time with your horse earns experience (XP) points, which helps increase your overall level.
You can tap the ground to place two markers and the horse will go there, at it's own pace. If a circle appears, you can walk your horse over it to collect XP. However, most of your actions are initiated by opening your leather journal, which has separate tabs for activities, care tasks, work tasks, competing and a marketplace for shopping.
The "Activities" are interactive mini-games, based upon feeding, treating and grooming your horse and caring for the paddock. For example, to groom your horse you swipe dirt from it's body, while feeding it involves buying a recipe and measuring out the right ingredient ratios. You can also buy extra horses. There's eight breeds of horse to collect, but they are all the same generic horse frame (size, shape) with a different texture. You can't make a custom-made mean beast or Shetland pony. You can switch between your horses, but can only play one at a time.
The health and happiness of your animal decrease over time, so you have to complete care tasks to maintain your virtual pet. There's 32 different care tasks to unlock, ranging from mucking out the stall and re-fitting horse-shoes, to giving vaccinations and plaiting the mane and tail. Each task is unlocked by reaching the prerequisite level.
Once you press the button for a task, it counts down to completion, which can range from a couple of minutes to many hours, as done in games like Smurf Village [Free]. Once the countdown reaches zero, the task is completed and you receive XP, while the horse gains health and happiness points. You can use gems (acquired from IAP or from each level upgrade) to immediately complete a task without any delay.
You can assign your animal to 32 different work tasks, to earn the coins needed for care tasks and tack (horse equipment). For example, your nag can be used for riding lessons, television work, or rides at the fairground. Again, you don't actually complete these tasks on the screen, they are simply count-downs. If your horses energy-levels get too low, he won't be able to work, unless he rests or gets a yummy sugary treat.
There's a series of show jumping events to compete in, so you'll want your nag to be in good shape. Each competition has "entry requirements" such as a certain health level and training. You can either train your horse by completing a mini-game, or pay a trainer if you're impatient. As your horse moves towards a jump, a line moves across the screen and you have to tap a button so the line stops in the right color. If you're successful, the horse clears the jump, but the more you miss the mark, the worse the jump and the lower your score. You can work your way right to the world championships.
There's a market where items like stirrups, reins, saddles and boots can be purchased using coins and/or gems. You're given a few gems (1 gem per level upgrade, 3 gems for rating the app), or you can buy gems as in-app purchases. The problem is that many items such as the best colorful equipment can only be purchased with gems. Yet, It seems unlikely that players will earn enough gems, without paying for in-app purchases.
The game features a social component too, as you can visit your friends stables to look after their horses. One of the early assigned tasks is to visit a friend in your friend list, which helps promote the game, but is annoying if you want to play alone. Fortunately, there's a TouchArcade Forum for people seeking My Horse friends. Also, be warned, the + GameCenter icon doesn't invite just one friend, it adds all of your friends with My Horse from Game Center.
This universal game has two Game Center leader-boards (total XP and total coins). Unfortunately your progress doesn't sync across devices, so you can't play with your iPad horse on your iPod.
My Horse is a wonderful game for horse-lovers and is worth a free download just to check out the realistic horse. But if you're planning on playing this game for a long time, be prepared to spend some real money on gems, or accept that you probably won't be able to buy the best looking equipment, no matter how many coins you earn. But, I guess that's still cheaper than a real horse.
Hat tip to Clint.
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