A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this virtual pet simulation is generally a lovable game, especially for horse lovers. The game teaches about how to take care of a horse. But some of the touch screen controls require harder touches than others to execute gameplay. And sometimes when two horses are near each other, one seems to slide the other over as if the horse were on ball bearings.
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What's it about?
There are literally dozens of virtual pet games on the market for both the Wii and the DS. In fact, Ubisoft's Petz series alone features everything from monkeys to horses. In PETZ HORSESHOE RANCH, you're transported to a country horse farm where you can adopt up to three horses to pet, love, play, feed, and breed (no, you won't see them actually breed).
Most gameplay is accomplished via the DS touch screen, including everything from petting to getting food to taking pictures of your horse. The D-pad changes the camera views. Opening virtual doors allows you to move from staple to kitchen to arena, where you'll enter your horses in various challenges. You'll earn awards along the way, everything from t-shirts to balls. If you have a cheat code, there's a place to enter it as well.
Is it any good?
The good news is that there's a lot to do in Horseshoe Ranch. Simply petting your horse changes his mood and helps you to level up. You can take your horse to an arena and engage in challenges like jumping for which you'll get a small prize upon completion. You can dress your pet in outfits, although this addition makes your horse cartoon-y. If you have something to do like homework, you can let your pal play in the pasture with one of the other horses and with one of the toys you've won. There are about a dozen breeds, including the giant Clydesdales (originally from Scotland)and these breeds can be mixed to create new breeds.
But all is not perfect at the ranch. The graphics aren't as finely tuned as in other simulations. When a horse gets too close to another horse, one horse moves along the ground as if the equine had ball bearing horseshoes. Once, one of my horses disappeared. He moved from the stable into the kitchen because he was hungry; but I didn't see him leave, nor was I alerted to his departure. Petz Horseshoe Ranch is a decent game, but it could have used a little more time in development to tweak the bugs.
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