Astro Ranch in Review – Space Cowboy!
Astro Ranch in Review – Space Cowboy!
Remember the good ol’ days of old-school console gaming? Graphics existed to make the game funner, music existed to make gaming cuter, and all shaken together, it was pure bliss. Back then fussy RPG’s, fast racers, and stickly puzzlers alike adhered to the three pillars: visuals, sounduals, and playuals, but playuals most of all. Astro Ranch is nearly a full-on throwback to those days – it looks, sounds, and mostly, plays great and is as addictive as it is absurd. It is a quasi-RPG simulation about farming and friendship and is as fun as a barrel of montkeys (play it and you'll see why this ain't a splelling mistake).
Let’s get the incredible stuff out of the way first: Astro Ranch looks and sounds oh so ‘ooh la la’ – consider it better even than Audrey Hepburn. It is colourful, cute, and addictive, and in a strictly gaming way, dead sexy. Its world is pretty small, but offers a few cool explorable areas, a handful of in-game accessories: your computer, farming tools, your shed, and even strange aliens; and everything is illustrated with character and care. The land is peppered with varying fauna and great scenery: bridges, waterfalls, rivers, and the ocean. Its music too, is the cute and chirpy side of repetitive and heaps of fun which neat sound effects.
But where Astro Ranch truly excels is its lovely gameplay. There is just so much to do. For instance: you can work your land, bring up crops and livestock, remove pests, learn the stock market, pan for gold, and even fish! What you raise, you have to sell, and it is best to keep track of which ranch items sell high and grow well in what season. Along the way, you will pick up various quests and get in good with the locals — which as a suspect crash-victim on an alien world, you will have to work at. All the while, your character (whose name doesn’t change in-game no matter what you do) takes on quests and levels up while gaining experience. You could call it a storyboard micro/macro RPG, very similar in scope to Sims 3.
To move your character around, you tap where you want to go, or hold down in a direction and s/he will follow. Right, so it doesn’t always work that well – your character will get stuck often, or have trouble dragging tools to the right area, or will keep walking though you told him/her to stop. With some frustration, the system is pretty good, but it needs cleanup. Some of these frustrations spill over into the menu system where you will purchase goods, keep up with news, and connect with Facebook friends. Some items are hard to buy, some hard to select – things really need to be polished because real fingers aren’t as tiny nor accurate as styluses are and menu arrows which reach to the very bottom of the screen are as intuitive as the Korean customs system.
It looks cute and simple, but dear me, no – gaming in the Astro Ranch is deep. There are so many things to raise and look after, and so much can go wrong. For instance, ff you are infected with a blue pest, you have to buy a blue pesticide, and livestock, fishing – everything has its own set of rules and admonitions. The purchase system allows you to only buy one item at a time which means a lot of back-and-forth gaming/carrying stuff. It can get tiring. Starting off in Astro Ranch is slow, so when you finally get on, it really is an accomplishment. The only other thing Astro Ranch really lacks is an involved online world: sure, you can share a few things via Facebook and purchase stuff online, but customisation games like this would be great with item trading, good comparos, etc..
At 2.99$, Astro Ranch is a steal – there is a lot of gaming for its <300 penny asking price. Sure, some of it is frustrating and needs to be tweaked, but Astro Ranch really is a throwback to some of the console gaming’s best moments. Forget the fact that your world is tiny – it’s richer than Samsung’s filthy Gee Sung Choi and and offers a lot more to explore, the game is packed with do-ables and attainables. RPG, rancher, macro-manager, Astro Ranch does it all.
iTunes: Astro Ranch