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Harvest Moon: Mad Dash

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Harvest Moon: Mad Dash Game Poster Image
Solo/co-op puzzler emphasizes speed over strategy.

Parents say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Makes farming seem less like a chore and more like fun. Cooperative play encourages communication and creates opportunity for a friendly social gaming experience.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The farmers don't speak or reveal their motives for doing anything, but they seem like a happy and satisfied bunch, glad to be out working the fields.

Ease of Play

Controls for movement, placement, and harvesting are simple. The difficulty comes down to whether players keep calm and continue making smart decisions as time grows shorter and shorter.

Violence & Scariness

The player's character can be struck and stunned by a wild boar that runs across the screen.

Language
Consumerism

Latest chapter in the Harvest Moon franchise.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is a farm-themed puzzle game for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Players devote their time to farm tasks, such as organizing and harvesting fields of crops, feeding cows and collecting their milk, and catching fish. There's no story, and the farmers don't talk, but the action makes farming seem fun and rewarding, and the farmers seem to be having a good time (except, perhaps, when they get struck and briefly stunned by a wild boar that occasionally runs across the field). Plus, cooperative play encourages communication and creates opportunity for social gaming experiences. It's an easy game to pick up, and the learning curve is low through the first 20 or so levels, but eventually players will need to be able to work quickly enough to beat a much tougher timer. This is also the latest game in the Harvest Moon franchise. 

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What's it about?

HARVEST MOON: MAD DASH is a change of pace for Natsume's normally relaxing farm simulation series. Rather than allowing players to work at their own speed, doing what they like when they like, this game is broken into a series of discrete, timed puzzles, each of which takes place on a small field. Players are provided a series of goals that typically involve harvesting a certain number of vegetables, collecting milk, or catching fish. The availability of these resources can be sped up by doing things like picking up and placing matching crop tiles next to each other or by moving hay closer to cows so that they eat faster and produce more milk. As players harvest stuff, they gradually fill up a power gauge that automatically activates when full and renders all resources ready to harvest, regardless of their stage of growth. But players must also be wary of various hazards, such as a wild boar that occasionally dashes across the field to ruin any crops in its path and stun farmers in its way. Players can farm alone or work cooperatively with others in tabletop and TV modes. Completing stages makes the hub world flourish, with fields full of crops in bloom and bustling villages springing up around them.

Is it any good?

If your love of this farming simulator stems from its chill vibe, then this might not be the game you were hoping for. Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is anything but relaxed. Its time-focused levels -- many of which last just a minute or so -- are more likely to induce stress than a feeling of zen. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it stands in heavy contrast to what has made Natsume's series so popular in the past. The good news is that the play mechanics are more or less solid. The controls are simple and responsive, and tasks are intuitive. The challenge comes in figuring out how to get around the field effectively (obstacles such as rocks, barrels, and fences can impede your path), and figuring out what your next move will be before you finish your current one so that you waste as little time as possible. There's never a moment that you shouldn't be doing something, and usually you should be doing at least two things: moving and planning. If you're playing with a partner, add communicating to the mix, because multitasking is a very real thing in this game.

Assuming you're cool with the rapid pace -- it's pretty forgiving to start, so no need to be too intimidated -- then it's not a terrible puzzler. That said, it's terribly expensive for the type of puzzle game it is. This is the sort of game that people download and play for free on phones and tablets, perhaps spending a couple of dollars here or there for power-ups and extra lives. Harvest Moon: Mad Dash's $30 launch price is difficult to justify, especially since it's not designed to be augmented by regular free downloadable content, as many mobile puzzle games are. Our advice: Wait for a (significant) price drop.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Harvest Moon: Mad Dash's levels are short and fast-paced, and it's easy to keep thinking you're just going to play one more before taking a break. How many levels does it take for you to get your fill?

  • Most jobs involve cooperating with other people, each person completing smaller tasks that contribute to a larger goal. So what sort of skills and traits help us become effective collaborative workers?

Game details

Themes & Topics

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